Although this is not my first time with Landmark (I did try it during the early alpha days) the gamechanged significantly that it is almost like trying a new game. I say almost because it is not too different from when one plays a MMO for a while then stops for say, 5 years, and returns to it. There is all that sense of familiarity mixed with something completely new and strange. And thinking about it now that may be the reason for me not spending as much time with it during the weekend as I did with Trove (which you can read my first impressions of here). But before we get into my very brief foray with Landmark, let me give the usual disclaimer.
DISCLAIMER: This is by no means intended to be an in-depth review. Consider it the first impressions of someone who just installed the game, with very little to no knowledge about the game beforehand. It is the impressions of someone that spent an hour or two playing the game and has probably very little clue of what he was doing.
Also, keep in mind that right now Landmark is on Closed Beta. That means the game will certainly change a lot until it is official release. That means that everything I write here now may be true to the game as it is it is quite possible (and most likely) that it will be a completely different experience when the game is finally released.
Alright. With that bit out of the way, on with the show!
So, Landmark right now is on Closed Beta. It is been… what, over a year ago that I gave it a try during the early days of Alpha? I am terrible at keeping track of time. The point is that the game changed a lot since then. So much that it could take an entire post and a lot of research just to list everything that changed since then. Because of that I will have to resort to being vague and just say that the game is starting to look more like an actual game and less of a prototype as the alpha felt like.
The best way for me to explain the difference in this case is probably to tell how things were back during those early alpha days and how they are now.
When the game started it was called Everquest Next Landmark. It was supposed to be a game on its own but that was also tied to Everquest Next in some way that was never completely clear to me. The only thing certain is that both games would share the same game engine and art style. Landmark would also be more about claiming lands and building stuff, in the same vein as Minecraft and Terraria, than Everquest Next which would be a more traditional MMO with quests, classes and leveling and so on. That part about the building and the potentials of the engine was what got me interested in trying Landmark in the first place.
The gameplay itself was pretty simple. You chose a server, created your character (there was only one race, human) then were dropped into the world with nothing but the clothes on your back, some basic tools and a flag to claim your piece of land. And this is where the problems started. It confused the hell out of me why I couldn’t claim land when it seemed to have enough space to build something cool. But there are some rules about boundaries when someone claims a piece of land and the game already reserves some additional space around it for future expansion. You can see those boundaries if you open the map and can figure that those huge transparent red in the map are other people’s claims but there was absolutely no explanation about it in the game and I had to go look in the forums to understand it. This also meant that if you were not one of the lucky few who logged in just as soon as the game went online you had to track a long way to find some piece of unoccupied land to claim as your own.
Then came in my real disappointment. The only tools you had to build were to add voxels (think of blocks in Minecraft) or remove them. Tools to heal the zone (kinda like an undo), paint tool and smooth tool (and probably a few others I forgot about) were just not available until you crafted them. And to craft them you had to craft the right machine for it which required harvesting the right materials to craft which required the right tools. But every tier of material required a better tier of tools which required gathering enough materials of the previos tier to build the better tools. Oh, and as you progressed you also needed to make better tiers of the crafting machines to build the better tier tools too. So it was a massive spiral of grinding materials to build better tools to gather better materials to then build better crafting stations to build even better tools.
I just don’t have the patience for that kind of grind anymore. I tried, by logging in different days, doing a bit of grind here and there but ultimately it wasn’t very fun and I drifted back to other games. And yes, I could have built something interesting with just those basic tools and materials. But to me that felt like being only allowed to do finger painting when what I wanted was to try painting with a brush. Specially because I was already doing “finger painting” in Everquest 2 where building cool things has a lot more limitations and complications.
Despite my disappointments with it, other people had no such issues and they built some pretty cool stuff. They also didn’t limit themselves also to just building pseudo-medieval high fantasy stuff either, which wasn’t a surprise to anyone but perhaps the developers. They built sci-fi stuff, modern day stuff, eastern stuff and so on. It was at that point that SOE (now called Daybreak Games) decided to make Landmark a stand-alone game of its own and drop any link to Everquest Next.
Now that is how it was during alpha. Currently it is on closed beta and a lot changed.
You still choose a server and then it is off to character creation which is still pretty much the same. The only addition has been the Large Human race which is pretty much just what it says on the tin. But it does indicate they do want to add other races to the game. This was something I was curious about when they decided to make Landmark a stand-alone game. What other races are they planning? Will they just be generic fantasy races like elves, dwarves and halflings? Will it have the unique races from Everquest universe, like the ratonga, frogloks and kerra? Will it have races unique to the game? Or will it be a mix of these these options?
After character creation you are just dropped in the world with the clothes on your back, some basic tools and a flag to claim your own piece of land. This time however there is a basic tutorial. It appears like a quest tracker to the right side of the screen. The first one ask you to claim a piece of land and says you can do it by pressing the button with the flag in your hotbar. If you want to know more about how the whole claiming system works you can click on the line in the “quest tracker” and it will pop up a screen which explains it in more details. I personally think it is kinda of counter-intuitive. In fact, I only found about it because I was trying to take some better screenshots for this posts and was clicking around the UI to check on some stuff. I think it would have been better if they started with the open window then the person can click an ok button or close the window and only then the tutorial would appear on the tracker.
Anyway, if you don’t want to do the tutorial you can just ignore it and go do something else. Which is exactly what I did. I spent most of my hour with it just wandering around, looking for cool buildings to look at, stuff to mine, trees to cut. This might be where having played the alpha worked against me as I was expecting to have to walk like 20 km before I could find a place to claim and that it would still be again a huge spiral of grind to do anything interesting.
When I was done with that I decided to start heading back to the teleporting hub where we start out. I remembered that in the alpha days there were some basic crafting stations in there and I wanted a claim as close to it as possible just so I could craft my own stations. I was lucky and was able to find a claimable spot in the middle of a few other big ones not too far from it. That is where things started to get interesting. The tutorial then asked me to get a template to place in my plot of land. Templates are anything that is built with voxels and that are saved to be reused later. They can be statues, furniture, even whole buildings. There were some templates already provided by the game, like a modern day warehouse, a tower, a japanese house and a few more. I chose the japanese house, it came already furnished with a few very basic furniture and, to my surprise, a forge and a workshop station. So one point for Landmark!
Another happy surprise was clicking on those stations. Looking at the recipes it seems they got rid of the whole idea of different tiers of stations and you can just craft the stuff you want on them as long as you have the materials. Looking at the Landmark forums, seems like that is exactly what happened!
Seems like tools also were changed in that you can aren’t limited in what kind of materials you can harvest by the quality of the tool. Now you can harvest anything with basic tools if you wish. But higher quality tools wield more harvests. That means higher tier tools equals less grinding for materials. That is another point for Landmark in my book.
Speaking of crafting, we can now craft gear (like clothes, armor, weapons) and some tools to make it easier to find harvestables. The latter should make it easier to find some ores. While the former still doesn’t seem to have much use outside PVP as I don’t think monsters have been implemented in the game yet. Or at least I haven’t found any. I am also not a fan of PVP so I didn’t look into that.
As for the building tools you still only start with the ability to add voxels (and remove the ones you added). But you don’t craft the other building tools anymore. Now they are unlocked via an achievement system. The reasoning for that is that they don’t want players to be overwhelmed and to let they get familiar with each tool as they go. I don’t know how this unlocking system works but I can understand their reasoning. So it is something to investigate further.
They did add a toolbar with all the options for the selected building tool now though. So you don’t need to go to the forums or look into the wiki to see all the different keys that you can use when building.
Back to the tutorial, after you place the template the tutorial branches into three different categories: adventuring, building and crafting. You can do the steps of them in any other you want and you get different rewards for completing steps for them. For example, completing the one for crafting earns you some cut agate.
As it is now the game does not have any traditional sort of quests and I have no idea what the plans are for this area. It does have achievements for Building, Crafting, Adventuring, Arsenal (using different weapons and armor sets) and PVP. As you complete achievements you earn some reward. For example, completing an adventuring achievement would make some of your stats to get higher, give some unique gear or materials. I have no idea if they intend to add a more traditional system in the future or if they just plan to expand this achievement system and use it to serve as guide for what kind of activities the player can partake in and for being rewarded. If it is this second option I personally wouldn’t mind it since it means that no matter what I choose to do in the game I get some form of progression. That means I could do a bit of building here, a bit of adventuring there, then a bit of crafting and still feel like I am getting closer to some sort of extrinsic reward.
These are the major changes I found out while briefly playing the game and poking the games forums for writing this post. There are certainly more and like I said before there are way too many to list. If you are curious about it the best I can do is provide a link to the May update notes which seems to have been the latest major patch for the game.
Overall I think the game is shaping up well. Yes, the game is still far from being finished, there are still many unknowns and who knows when the game will even release. I will be honest and admit that when I logged out during the weekend I just felt apathetic by the game. It just seemed like things had changed but not the things I found interesting. But now after writing this post, poking in the official forums to do some fact checking I am getting excited for the game again. I am thinking of trying to dig a bit deeper into what is available now to see what the game has to offer. Probably trying to build something interesting too just to get a feel for the building tools. We’ll see how it goes! 🙂