I hadn't planned on doing the Beta. Over the years I've come to the conclusion that it's generally a bad idea to beta expansions for MMOs that I'm already playing. While I do really enjoy testing stuff it feels too much like opening the presents before Christmas Day.
I didn't even apply for this one. Which didn't matter because I got added without asking. Since I had access I figured it wouldn't hurt to take just a little look at the Freeport revamp. And the Dungeon Maker. Oh, and Mercenaries. Just a little peek. I just peeled the wrapping paper back an inch or two, really. I hardly even opened the box...
|Even Lucan can't stop the rain|
The new Freeport is absolutely the old Freeport. Pretty much everything is where it should be, looking like it should look. Yes, Lucan's had the decorators in and the builders too. There's been some re-zoning, a few buildings have gone and some citizens have been re-housed. But it's still Freeport, just smartened up and with all the doors open!
I wish they'd knocked down The Jade Tiger instead of The Blood Haze Inn because I purely loved that terrace, but East Freeport is so much better it balances out. There's a marvelous souk where the broker used to stand in his little cubby hole. Execution plaza now comes complete with an actual execution (which I deliberately haven't seen yet). The big ship in South Freeport had to go for technical reasons, but I can't say I missed it.
Overall, a big thumbs up for Freeport!
|I could have sworn it was bigger|
That said, it's going to be a decorator's dream. Not only do you get a ton of dungeon-origined placeables but you can also place pretty much anything you'd be able to place in a house. Station Cash furniture doesn't always work - I couldn't place my Rivervale set that I bought with my free beta 999,999 SC allowance. (Generous or what?). You can even name all the creatures and give them dialog (or will be able to - not sure if that's in for launch). I foresee some amazing creations. Having many of the items for the Dungeon Maker drop as tradeable loot from adventure content is a brilliant idea, too. Nothing like a gold-rush to spice up the economy.
There's one major downside that's been much discussed, of course. For balance reasons you can't run your own characters through the Dungeon Maker dungeons. I was worried that might make them feel like EQ1's Monster Missions, which I loathed, but it really doesn't. I found it very easy to associate with my Drolvarg avatar and the Bellywhumper was... well it's a Bellywhumper for god's sake!
Another big thumbs up.
Mercenaries are my favorite ever addition to EQ1 so I had very high hopes for this. I only tried one Mercenary, a Ratonga Inquisitor called Stamper Jeralf. I was playing a very low level bruiser and with Stamper helping me I was pretty much invincible. In fact, this Gnoob video, which I took to be a parody, turned out to be pretty much on the nail. If I'd let him Stamper would happily have power-leveled me all day so long as I didn't run out of silver.
|I'm calling Trading Standards about you, Jeralf.|
Unlike EQ1 mercs, these all come with proper names and back-stories and they seem to be less focused on their jobs than their counterparts from half a millennium ago. Despite hiring on as a healer, Stamper pretty much never cast a healing spell. At one point I began to doubt he even knew how. He mostly liked to hit things with his hammer and cure me of any possible ailment I might have picked up over the last few seconds. Since his buffs were so overwhelmingly powerful that pretty much nothing could hit me I guess he didn't feel there was much need for healing.
It looks very much as though EQ2 mercenaries are being tuned to be less useful than their predecessors, but they still look pretty darn useful all the same. Apparently they are quite expensive to run at higher levels. I'd bet that after a while the usefulness gets tweaked up and the cost down.
One thumb up and the other hovering ready for the fully-tuned version.
I didn't try a Beastlord but the vibe on them in beta seems almost universally positive. Even the folks who couldn't find anything good to say about anything else grudgingly acknowledged that Beastlords were going to be a big hit. For my money and from everything I've read in and out of beta they aren't Beastlords at all, but so long as they're a fun class, who cares?
Tradeskill Associates and Reforging I also skipped. But... Othmirs!
All in all it looks fantastic. Has the potential to be the best expansion for years for the EQ2 demographic that's had to take a backseat since Kunark.
NDA is still up on all beta screenshots so these are all official SOE issue. Mine would have been a lot better, but there you go...