EQ2 and WAR: First impressions of a WoW Tourist

Guest article by David X Messer. I talked him into trying EQ2; he talked himself into trying WAR.

This lunchtime, I bought myself a packet of Seabrook Salt and Vinegar crisps. For those of you unfamiliar with said fried potato chips, there are but two things you need to know and remember.

Thing the first is that if, like me, you like your Salt and Vinegar crisps to be of the cheek suckingly sour variety, then these are the crisps for you. The second thing you need to know and remember is that the salt settles at the bottom of the packet.

Should you remember point the second from the last time you bought a packet then it's a simple matter of shaking the packet to mix things up half way through. This is all well and good if you can remember these two simple things. However. Every so often you forget point the second and what awaits you at the bottom of the packet.

And that perfectly describes where I am with World of Warcraft right now. I forgot to shake the packet and it'll be a long time before I pick up and play WoW again. At this point any sensible person would be doing something else with their time. Not trying out a couple of other MMOs while I try and forget the memory of what it feels like to have a mouth full of salt.

So off I went skipping along on my merry way to download the trial installers for EQ2 and WAR. The birds chirped, the sun shone, I stood at platform 9 3/4 to wait for the express to MMO Land. Only to find the train express was canceled. Further down the line, some vandals had turned the Hogwarts express into a burnt-out wreck, carnage and mayhem ensuing. If you're wondering what on earth that has to do with anything even remotely game orientated, let me explain.

Sometime in the dim (and now very distant past) of 8-bit home computing, the major game labels of the time provided demos on the covers of magazines (on cassette tapes, no less). If your system was particularly spoddy (as mine was) then major games labels wouldn't go anywhere near you with Someone Else's franchise. So instead of being able to avail yourself of that months talk of the school playground you'd have to instead comfort yourself with similarly spoddy magazines for your system. These magazines didn't come with cover mounted cassette tapes. No, that would be far too 'common'. Instead they'd print pages of code which you had to type in yourself. Sometimes these listings would run to hundreds of lines and you'd find yourself poring over the keyboard late into the night with nothing more than the promise of some hastily put together airbrushed fantasy art that the magazine had used to accompany the listing. Of course, assuming you ever got the damn thing to work, they frequently contained misprints, and the actual game you ended up with bore no relation at all to said artwork.

Online installers aren't a million miles away from this concept.

Fileplanet hosts the EQ2 trial installer. Of course, it's not that simple. I first had to sign up for a free Fileplanet account. I downloaded the 3GB installer and took it home, expecting to spend Friday evening in the clutches of a game some people refer to as 'Evercrack' (the mirth!) and I fully expected not to emerge until Monday morning.

Not so. Instead what I got appeared to be nothing more than some basic files, with which the Sony Station Installer proceeded to tell me it needed 11GB more, which would take 17 of my Microsoft hours to download. I had to restart the client a couple of times, as it appeared to have stalled. Sometime later on Saturday evening, I finally had enough of the game to be able to being my free 'trial'. More on that in a moment.

By contrast the WAR trial installer made no claims that it was anything other than a downloader, and to their credit didn't insult me by thanking me for my patience as it took somewhere around 16 hours to download. Yes. 16. Hours. In reality it took me 2 days to download as I'd decided to download it at work because at home I've this little thing called a bandwidth allowance. The most annoying part of the WAR installer was that they appear to be throttling trial downloads. Yeah. Seriously. I'd love to know what kind of impression EA think their 20-40K/sec gives customers. Actually, I don't because I know they wouldn't care.

Trying out a MMO on a whim (the sheer cheek of it!) is not something one does lightly. At this point not only can I still taste salt in my mouth, but I've since developed an aggravated twitch.

The first thing I noticed about EQ2 was the amount of time it's possible to spend in the character generation screen. There are 16 races and you can specify crazy things like how angled your eyebrows are. As I'm the sort of person to judge a book by its cover, I was already asking myself what I'd let myself in for. I hurried through the character generation and rolled a Dark Elf priest.

My first quests were mostly of the "kill 10 badgers" variety. I struggled a bit with the interface, particularly the bag interface, which seemed quite happy to open one bag on top of the other bag window which made swapping items around immensely annoying.

I looted a lot of items from corpses, as one does, and noticed some were trade items! Win! Then I realised I had no idea at all what to do with them! This thing of not knowing what anything means was a theme that continued for some time to come. The starting area was, well, trees, grass. There were a huge variety of mobs. I didn't feel particularly attached or sucked in.

It's clear it's got a lot of depth, but I was damned if I could find out how anything worked. I'm told that to get anywhere you really need to be in a guild and I'm sure that would have sorted out a lot of my problems initially.

Moving on to WAR. I think it took me about 10 seconds to get through the character generation screen. I went with a Dark Elf healer again (apparently EA think Dark Elves look a bit like Marilyn Manson) and then, well, it's a bit of a blur. It's so WoW-like in a lot of aspects that I really didn't have to think too hard about what I was doing. The environments were stunning and the starting area nicely varied in quests. There are the usual "kill 10 badgers" quests, but they're spread out enough that I really didn't mind.

It was a hugely casual experience, pick up and play doesn't to do it justice. I constantly had that 'just 5 more minutes' feeling which then ran into another hour. Crafting doesn't become an issue until later on so the only things I was told about were the things I could do then and there which was great.

On the downside, I was warned pretty early on that your enjoyment of the PVP elements of the game are sensitive to how well populated your server is, but I hadn't got far enough into the game yet for this to be a problem.

EQ2 and WAR are very different games and aimed at different audiences. I loved the causal play of WAR, and I'll probably try out a subscription. I like the idea of the depth in EQ2 but without being able to experience it first to see whether I'd enjoy it puts me off a little.

Posted by Drew Shiel at August 11, 2009 2:01 PM

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