The Press Release focused mainly on the new features of the expansion including breakable objects, traps, and Spheres of Influence. The press release is vague on detail so we can only speculate on what these features mean.
It will be hard to get excited over breakable objects. We saw them in EQ2 and once you've picked up a table and thrown it through a window in Half Life 2, smashing open a barrel just isn't the same. Larger scale breakable objects, like castles falling out of the sky or orc-laden bridges collapsing into the depths of a cavern would add a lot of excitement. Currently, however, details on the exact meaning are slim.
The same can be said for the two other features. Spheres of Influence are described as localized areas where the rules of the game can change to aid allies or thwart enemies. For example, sandstorms may be called down to blind anyone who enters an area. Both player created and environmentally created spheres may drastically alter the battlefield. How these spheres will effect player versus player combat is also unknown.
Traps should also effect the battleground before combat begins. We can only speculate that these traps will be similar to the hunter's traps in World of Warcraft. Players set the traps, lure the mobs into them, and hit them with nasty effects. These traps will not be rogue-only, but rogues will have more versatility with them than other classes. Players will also face some devious traps in their adventures.
Again, the press release is vague on the details of these three features so hopefully we will learn more about them soon.
Other minor features are more specific and sound quite useful. Buff filters will let players select which buffs they want to avoid. This mainly effects high-end players who hit the limit of buffs quickly. Eight new bank slots add a total of ninety six new available slots. That should help tradeskillers quite a bit. New spells, tradeskills, tasks (solo quests I assume), and disciplines are also mentioned but not AAs. We might see some Dragons-style AAs won over the course of missions or quests but I don't think we'll see entire new banks of AAs like we saw in Depths of Darkhollow.
Digging into the content, Prophecy of Ro will contain seven static zones and thirty missions, including monster missions. The press release also mentions six small instances but I expect those are the zones used for the thirty missions. The expansion will include new monster missions but overall we will not see as many missions as we did in Depths of Darkhollow.
The scaled difficulty of the expansion is also mostly unknown although raids will be scoped for Demiplane of Blood and Anguish-level guilds. Smaller events will likely start at Time / Elemental level and go up from there. The number of these events and raids is, you guessed it, currently unknown.
More interesting than the press release itself was the press kit I received later. The following nine screenshots were included and released for publication:
The names of the images are nearly as interesting as the images themselves: Dissonance, Relic, Arcstone, and Freeport. I don't think we have to guess very hard to figure out which old-world zone is getting a makeover. This discovery alone brings up many new questions. Will Freeport be a new hub? Is SOE planning on revamping other major cities? How will SOE get more players to spend time there when newer city zones like Abysmal Sea go mostly unused?
The story behind Prophecy seems to focus back on our time with the gods in Planes of Power. A new diety seems to be causing catastrophic events to unwind and only the adventurers of Norrath can help. From the screenshots above, it appears new Planes may be in our future.
Like most details, we do not know how SOE will handle loot in Prophecy of Ro. The point system of Dragons led to bottomfeeding at the easiest missions to acquire loot. Depth of Darkhollow's one-time loot resulted in a lot of nice gear from a variety of missions but only for a few slots. It isn't uncommon to walk away from Depths of Darkhollow with five different neck items or four shoulder items. This resulted in a lot of wasted loot.
Neither of these two previous systems seem ideal but they did have advantages. With those systems, players did not compete for items against other group items. Random drops off of rare mobs was not the only way to earn gear anymore. Hopefully new hybrid systems can help players earn appropriate rewards for appropriate challenges and reward them for facing a variety of challenges instead of the same one over and over again.
It's hard to follow an expansion like Depths of Darkhollow. Monster missions added a unique and powerful feature to Everquest - one that has already changed how people think and play the game. Breakable environments, traps, and spheres of influence just aren't as exciting. Likewise, including half of the missions contained in Depths of Darkhollow makes it clearly sound like a smaller expansion than Depths both in powerful features and in pure content. Yet the price is the same.
Granted, the time spent in Everquest expansions far exceeds the time spent on more expensive games with less content, but when one considers players paid the same amount for huge expansions like Planes of Power, one comes to expect more for our dollar than what we expect from other games.
This announcement also comes amid lengthy discussions on the Everquest expansion release schedule, a topic of heated debate since the rumors of Prophecy started nearly three weeks ago. I will take a deeper look into this topic in a future article to see exactly where these frustrations come from.
The full scope of this expansion is still not known to us. Until more information becomes available, we can only work with speculation and conjecture. More details will surely come soon.
3 January 2006