Jalexbrown looks at the beta for the upcoming expansion for Everquest 2.
It should be noted up front that Age of Discovery is not a content expansion; it's a feature expansion. There are no new zones, no new raids or dungeons, and perhaps a scant few new quests associated with the new Freeport Reborn patch that is technically a separate entity altogether from the expansion pack. Destiny of Velious, the last major expansion pack for the game, is going to be coming with content well into 2013 according to Sony Online Entertainment. So what's coming with Age of Discovery? A fair enough of a question, I suppose. Fortunately I was able to play the beta for a few days over the weekend, so allow me to fill you in.
Firstly, and perhaps of most interest, there's the new class: Beastlord. The Beastlord class is a scout class, so it's a melee dps class - specifically a pet dps class. The main aspect of the Beastlord class is the ability to tame enemies found across the game's continents so that they'll fight at your side. I was unfortunately limited in my ability to try the new class out, but from my experience it looks to be a pretty viable dps class. If it's anything like the Beastlord class from the original Everquest, it'll also have a fair amount of buffs and HP/MP regen spells. In the original it was relatively possible to use a Beastlord as an off-tank or an off-healer, but I can't personally vouche for how viable this will be with Everquest 2's Beastlord class.
(My awesome Beastlord...and, unfortunately, the armor is all appearance only.)
(And its awesome pet.)
Another new feature being added is the ability to hire mercenaries to help you in combat. if you're familiar with the original Everquest post-Seeds (Seeds of Destruction), then the whole mercenary system will be pretty familiar to you. Mercenaries are NPCs that the player can hire to help them in combat as either a tank, melee dps, ranged dps, or healer. These mercenaries will be found around the world for recruitment, and Sony Online Entertainment has even included a few rare mercenaries that I'm guessing will work on random spawn timers and possibly in random locations. There will be ten different mercenaries available for hire, and I believe you'll be able to hire only one at a time.
Another noteworthy inclusion to the new Age of Discovery is the Dungeon Maker. The premise of the Dungeon Maker is similar to the player housing of Everquest 2. Essentially you'll unlock themed layouts as you play the game, and you'll be able to use them to create your own dungeons. You'll be able to set your mobs, set your bosses, set your decor, player spawn and end points, all that good stuff. Once you're done getting your dungeon to your liking, you'll be able to publish it for others to play through and rate. The players won't get to run their own characters, but will instead be able to select from different level 50 template characters; this allows the developers to dynamically scale the difficulty of the mobs so each and every dungeon can be completed by anything from a solo player to a full party of players. There won't be any sort of loot rewarded to players for playing through the player-made content, but the players' real in-game characters will gain experience for what they do in the dungeons.
The last two things worth mentioning aren't really tied to the Age of Discovery expansion, but they are tied to the Age of Discovery's release. The first is that Freeport, one of the game's capital cities, is getting a complete redesign. This will include, amongst other things, new quests and less zoning across different areas of the city.
The other thing worth mentioning is that the game is going with a freemium model. Sony Online Entertainment experimented with this on a relatively small scale with Everquest 2 Extended, and now they're rolling out the full thing. This means that free-to-play players will be able to participate on the same servers as silver and gold players. A detailed list of what's included with each plan can be found here. It's worth noting that, to get a silver membership (which I highly recommend if you like the game, even if you don't want to pay the full subscription rate), you only have to pay $5 once. This means that if you buy 500 Station Cash, you'll automatically be upgraded forever to a silver membership.
So what say you, Gouki? Do any of you care about MMOs? Will any of you be trying this when the free-to-play is available? The Age of Discovery expansion, which also presumably includes the Freeport Reborn patch and the free-to-play option, is launching sometime on December 6th.
(Click pictures included to see full-sized versions.)