Friday, February 29, 2008

Horizons - A 2nd and Final Look

I had tried Horizons about three years ago. I enjoyed it somewhat at the time, but performance issues kept me from playing beyond the trial. I had seen so much potential in this one and periodically kept up with the game's progress. Various owners have come and gone and seeing that it currently seemed to be in capable hands, I thought it was time to have another look.

Much like other fantasy MMO's your race choice includes elves, dwarves, gnomes, and humans. In addition to these there are dryads (which in my opinion look better than the EQ2 fae), Sslik (lizard), Saris (cat), half giant, satyr, fiends (horned, blue and sexy!), and of course what sets it apart from all mmo's - dragons. Keeping in mind these are older graphics, even by today's standards I think the avatars are very decent looking. And of course the dragons look phenomenal and get larger as they level.

I wanted to experience as much as I could in a short period of time, so ruled out dragon as a starting race. The dragon is not just a race but a class in itself and requires more time than the others. I thought I'd be a sturdy warrior. Race does matter as far as stats go and as usual, the high strength races were not appealing visually. So I settled with a human. Not as exotic as the others, but the strength was reasonable enough to get me through.

The tutorial has been simplified since last I played. Here you will be offered some basic classes, but by no means all of them. The mainland offers more class choices. But you will have to do some exploring to find them all. Basic crafting trades will be offered in the tutorial. After completing several quests, you will be about level 5 and sent to New Trismus.

Here you will find your class trainers, a pawn broker to sell junk loot to, and a consignment merchant where other players sell their wares (affectionately referred to by other players as "Connie"). Surprisingly, I was able to find some very affordable player-made armor and a weapon.

When you first arrive and see a sign like the above, you might be misled into believing this is some hand-held, easy mode game. That is definitely not the case. The tutorial only covers some very basic information and most of the rest you will have to discover for yourself. Quests are vague telling you to go "over yonder" and you often have to explore off the trail to find what you need.

A few things that stood out to me -


1. Music - I'm a sucker for good music in an mmo. I know many people turn it off and play their own tunes, but when the music is good it sets a gaming mood. Horizons has some of the best music I've heard anywhere.

2. Multi-classing - Aside from dragons, what also sets this game apart from others is being able to be as many classes as you wish on one character. There are restrictions and reasons for not taking up too many classes. But this is a bit too complicated to go into detail here.

3. Crafting - The crafting process was for the most part enjoyable. I had even sold several pieces of armor that I crafted.

4. Variety of Races and Classes - Lots of choices here.

5. Easy Travel - There are portals to most of the cities and if you stick to the road, you get a bonus to your run speed. Also, your recall button is always available to port to wherever you choose to bind.

6. Roleplay - Horizons is the only game I've played that had an enforced Roleplay server. Names are required to fit within their fantasy world and real life may not be discussed in public channels.

7. Community - Although I can only speak from my experience on the Chaos server, everyone was polite and there were no Chuck Norris topics to endure.


1. Not enough adventure content - There are levels where everything is either too high or too low, so you must grind through low level mobs to level.

2. The Grind - There are only so many quests so you must endure long sessions of random slaughter. I actually wouldn't mind this at all if mobs had a chance of dropping armor I might use. But everything is crafted so there is nothing to look forward to other than another level.

3. Crafting Recipes - Recipes are not granted automatically and must be purchased using tokens. Tokens are acquired by doing quests for the crafting trainer. One single recipe cost 13 tokens and I was only receiving one token for each quest. Gaining recipes was a long, tedious process.

4. Dragon Lairs - About 8 out of every 10 players you encounter are dragons and currently all lairs are spoken for. Some of these are expired accounts and supposedly they will be reclaiming some lairs in the near future. Housing is important to players and if you wish to retain them, make sure there is enough for everyone.

5. Keyboard Controls - I like to use my right mouse button for looking around as I'm running around. When I set it to do this, it interferes with being able to right click recipes to scribe them or to examine items. I should be able to do both as I do in other mmo's, without having to reassign one of the keys.

In it's current state, I think it's still a great game if you like the idea of playing a dragon AND love crafting. But if you prefer to just adventure, you will hit some walls of frustration and fairly early on. I played through the 14-day trial and subscribed for a month beyond that. But I can't bring myself to log in anymore. The thought of having to kill more maggots, pigs, and spiders several levels below me because I can't handle anything higher is just too much to endure.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Creating Content for the Majority

Keen and Graev's recent blog, while stirring up some fond memories of DAOC, also reminded me of my annoyances with my current game EQ2, as well as previous MMO's.

As I mentioned before, EQ2 recently released epic quests for each class. Whenever someone obtains their epic, a message is broadcast to everyone with their name, guild, and a link to the weapon they've acquired. On our server, only one raid guild has been able to acquire these. It's getting to where I'm starting to get annoyed each time I have to see the message. I'm certain it's no exaggeration that 95% of the players will likely never acquire these. All this effort and time creating content for such a small player base. And for what purpose? To annoy the majority and appease the few? I'm starting to get that discouraged feeling I had in EQ1 all over again.

Which is why I had mentioned in Keen's post that DAOC was the most enjoyable PVE experience for me. We obtained epics with a group of three. And why is this such a bad thing in other MMO's? I had a blast doing these. No camping of mobs hoping the right one spawns after eight hours. Just a fun series of challenging dungeon crawls. None of this carrot on a stick nonsense. The carrot was finally obtainable.

Conquering keeps and such is a different matter. I understand the need for volumes of people when you're taking over territories. And even DAOC gathered large forces for taking down a dragon. But it was for the experience of doing it and not to benefit one single individual with some wonderful armor piece few will ever see. We all pay the same fee and all want nice stuff without having to sacrifice our families to acquire things.

DAOC had added raid content in the form of the ToA expansion, which gave a select few an advantage over everyone else. But when players left in droves, they did eventually implement classic servers which included everything but ToA, and these servers did really well. I think had EQ1 added pre-PoP servers a couple years back, they would have also been successful, but think it's a bit too late for that now.

Mythic created one of the few MMO's with the majority of its players in mind, and that is why I will be trying Warhammer.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Epic Completion - A First For Me In Their World

Epics always eluded me in EQ1 and with the recent implementation of epic weapons in EQ2 for adventurers, I realized once again it will be unobtainable for me.

However, along with the adventure epics, EQ2 also added crafting epics. Having a level 80 Provisioner, this was something I couldn't pass up attempting. I have to say I think this has been very well done as this turned out to be a very enjoyable experience. For anyone that remembers crafting in EQ1, there will be some nostalgia as you come across characters and items that will be very familiar.

Fortunately, also being a level 80 Adventurer and having completed Kunark, my faction was already high enough to begin the quest. My journey took me into two dungeons where I was having to sneak around and dodge level 100 mobs. My palms were sweating and I was a nervous wreck! Surprisingly, I suffered only one death.

The final step granted a recipe specific to your crafting class and involved gathering an item from each of the other crafting classes. Since the items needed are no-drop, EQ2's crafting commission system must be used. This involves the crafter targeting you and opening up a special window while they craft. You drop the required items into the window and the finished product appears in your inventory. So there is no buying items off the broker as they must be made specifically for you.

I was a bit concerned about having to find all the crafters to complete this, but many pulled together and formed a crafting raid at a neutral location. Many stayed for hours even after they had completed theirs to help others. The final reward was an earring and class-specific cloak and here they are!

Yep that's a rolling pin and spoon on the back!

My only other crafter that is 80 and able to begin the quest is my Carpenter. Her adventure level is only in the 40's; however, so she will take a little longer as I have to raise faction with the appropriate Kunark faction. But I really look forward to doing this again!