Mobhunter: The Warts Under the Emperor's Clothes

A month passed since the release of Omens of War and there is much to love. Excellent graphics, useful and fun zones, great hunting, and many new directions to progress all build one of the best expansions we've ever seen.

In previous articles we talked about the strengths of Omens. This week we look at some of its problems in hope that SOE considers them for change in Omens itself or considers them in the design of future expansions. Let us begin.

The Hollows, Sewers, and Catacombs expeditions in Omens include instanced content between levels 45 and 70 filled with experience mobs and the occasional rare beast holding a bag of shiny loot.

One thing lacking in these expeditions is any sort of plot, story, quest, or purpose aside from general hunting. These dungeons could have included plots and story lines, boss mobs, point-based loot systems, or even Kael-like armor quests instead of simply being more experience content. Add a quest, add a story or purpose, or add a new loot system and these dungeons become a lot more fun. And please, no more rats, bats and spiders.

The Omens task system could be the future of quests in Everquest. All of the tools are there to help players accomplish quests and travel across Norrath. While the current quest options are limited, scripted encounters and continuing story lines could take players through exciting quests far different from what we're used to. Add scripted and locked encounters, add an overarching story line, add more rewards than just cash and experience, and you will create a strong new quest system in Everquest for all levels. Include quests for level 68 and above. All players should have the option to perform tasks.

Omens brings a much improved spell system over Gates of Discord and Planes of Power. The Muramite Rune system ensures players never receive duplicate spells. Players may trade and sell level 66, 67, and 68 spell runes and already the obnoxious prices in the bazaar plummet. I predict rune prices will hit the reasonable10k mark by the end of November.

While players can reach level 70 in dozens of areas, they must now travel to either Muramite Proving Grounds or Riftseekers, two very difficult zones for non-raid equipped players, and hope they get lucky on a drop and lucky again on a roll.

SOE can improve this in two ways. Add in a quest that lets players receive their first rune at each level. Make the quest more than just rare drops on rare mobs. Remove the no-drop flag on 69 and 70 runes so players can sell these runes in the bazaar like the others.

When the whole focus-item quagmire hit a couple of months ago, we heard that Focus 5 items would be more available than the focus items we saw in Planes of Power. While decent focus gear seems to drop regularly in Wall of Slaughter, the drops in Ruined City of Dranik and Muramite Provingrounds, both harder zones than the Wall of Slaughter, drop few items with focus or combat effects. Add more focus and combat effects to equipment in Ruined City of Dranik, Muramite Provingground, and the Ruined City expeditions.

Now lets talk about a larger problem: Everquest's time requirements.

Lost Dungeons of Norrath changed the face of Everquest. Instead of spending four to six hours at a time sitting in one place pulling the same mobs over and over, we now had adventures that forced us to crawl, gave us a goal to accomplish, and a time limit to accomplish it in. It was not uncommon to get a group together, start an adventure, finish it, and camp out within a two-hour period. The game went from camping the same spot for six hours to a game of fast and furious adventure.

With Omens I hoped to see an improvement on this. More quests, more adventure types, perhaps a new point based loot system that doesn't remind us of a cigarette vending machine (“Innoruuk curse it! My +40 hitpoint augment is stuck again!” *bang bang*). Omens had the potential to combine our favorite overland hunting from expansions like Velious and Luclin with the powerful dungeon and loot system of Lost Dungeons.

Instead we took a step backwards. We have expeditions but they are simply instanced hunting zones. We sit, we pull mobs, we kill them, they respawn, and we repeat until we fall over into our own four hour old bowl of mulchy Coco Puffs.

In order to have any shot at new spells or gear in Omens, you have to hunt for at least four hours. In that time you may see two to three named mobs and may have a 50% shot at winning something. If you don't win, you are no closer to a new item or spell than you were when you started. There is no loot or spell progression option other than random luck or spending cash in the bazaar.

More important than the loot system, however, is a sense of an urgent adventure, one that requires us to fight fast and hard towards a single goal. These exist deeper in Omens with the Muramite Provinground trials, but few will see these Ikkinz level expeditions any time soon.

Omens is a great expansion with a lot of excellent content and features. With a little more focus towards quests, events, and goals, and a 90 minute duration per adventure this expansion or future expansions will step outside the traditional Everquest four hour camp and into a more time-friendly and exciting game.

Loral Ciriclight
18 October 2004