Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Beastlords Now And Then: EQ2 & Everquest

Way back at the start of November I commented on the unthinkable arrival of Beastlords in EQ2. Now that my own Beastlord, a few of whose adventures are chronicled in character here, here, here, and here, is a whisker away from level 90, how's it been?

I can't say I've taken to it the way I took to the original. In Old Norrath choosing a beastlord meant a long slow haul until signature abilities kicked in. You didn't even get a warder until Level 9. Magicians and Necromancers came petted up from the get-go and low level Beastlords glared at them with the ill-concealed envy they'd get back in spades from Shamans later on. When the Warder finally did show up it was so small you wondered if the spirits had sent you a vanity pet by mistake.

But just when you'd be thinking of jacking it all in and re-rolling as a Magician you'd get Spirit of the Wolf, which should be enough to cheer anyone up and from there you could pretty much see Spiritual Light coming over the hill. After that it just kept getting better. So much so for me at least that my original Beastlord became and remains one of my favorite characters.

A huge part of that affection and satisfaction came from the bond between the Beastlord and her Warder. An Everquest Beastlord only ever gets the one. He grows alongside you, literally, getting larger and larger as he matures. You have no choice in species. A Barbarian gets a Wolf, an Ogre a Bear and so on. You can't rename your Warder, but unlike the Magician's elemental or the Necromancer's skeleton a Beastlord's warder doesn't get a spilled Scrabble hand for a name. He's your warder and everyone knows it.

And this is where I'm having a bit of a problem with the EQ2 iteration. On the face of it, being able to tame seventeen different "Families" of animal sounds, well, seventeen times better. Add to that a huge variety of appearances, currently 113 with more to come in next week's update and that has to be over a hundred times better! Right?

Well, not really. Right from the start I found it difficult to bond with all those different warders, even leaving aside the practical issue of remembering all their abilities. My Beastlord has just over half the Families but all of them were acquired before Level 30. As for the 113 flavors, once I found out that adding a new creature to a Family pushed out the one you were currently using I completely lost interest. Haven't tamed a creature since.

Then, each Family levels up. They begin at Journeyman and presumably go to Master. My highest is Expert. They level by fighting alongside you, a nice nod to the original, but they progress at a pretty sedate pace. To keep the whole menagerie ticking along at the same level would be quite a project. There are several Beastlord AA trees to contend with as well. I imagine it makes for quite compelling gameplay if you immerse yourself in it, but it hasn't grabbed me yet.

It's surprising me as I write to realize how little attention I've paid to any of this stuff while leveling up. After a bit of dithering I settled on a Bear as my warder around Level 40 and I have used him almost exclusively ever since. I seldom even remember I have the option to summon something different. Sticking with the Bear has largely solved my bonding issues but at the cost of not really playing the class anything like I imagine it was intended to be played. I'm going to have to experiment a bit more. I should at least get around to learning the Tame Exotic Warder skill, although I'll almost certainly end up with a Dire Bear.

The supposedly more action-oriented gameplay of the Beastlord I do like. Not like I loved the Monk/Shaman hybrid gameplay of the original but it's fun and very straightforward for anyone that ever played Rift, or even Dark Age of Camelot. Hit a bunch of hotkeys, fill a meter, hit some specials. The only odd thing about it is the giant blue paw that flashes up on the screen but my brain no longer registers that so it's not annoying. It is pointless, though.

My conclusion after nearly ninety levels of lording is that I still don't really have a handle on this class. I like it but I don't love it. It's certainly the only EQ2 scout class I've ever enjoyed. Doesn't play anything like a scout. I feel like I've barely scratched the surface of what it's about, which I suppose can only be a good thing. Onwards to 92.

3 comments:

  1. Hey man, I've got a question for you -- can you email me at justin@massively.com? Thanks!

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  2. Loved those screen shots. Just out of curiosity, can you tame centipedes or beetles? EQ II has the best arthropod models I've ever seen in an MMO.

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  3. @Yeebo Sadly not. There's no Insect or Arthropod family. Could come at some point, I guess. I'd take one of the Millipedes - love the way they whirl in circles.

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