Everquest 2 came out with its fifth full expansion earlier this month, and in previous posts we looked at the depth to tradeskilling and the addition of pvp content that it brought to the game. There’s something else it brought too, something you might not have noticed if you aren’t a denizen of Norrath… major changes to the way statistics affect your avatar.
This is a much bigger change than you may think looking in from the outside, but to illustrate I’ll give you an example. My assassin is a burst dps scout class who can use poison and sneak attacks to kill foes. Pre Sentinel’s Fate I had to balance many stats to remain effective at my role: Strength affected my melee and combat art damage, Agility affected my avoidance of incoming damage and determined the size of my power pool, Intelligence made my crafted poisons more deadly. Post Sentinel’s Fate, Agility determines my melee damage and my avoidance and my poison damage and my power pool. Choosing gear is trivial when the only stat that matters is Agility, the scout gear is the one that has the highest. Other classes have experienced similar changes in how statistics affect their roles.
This also comes with a redesign of effects on equipment. Pre Sentinel’s Fate there were separate effects for melee and spell bonuses that affected critical hit rate, bonus to critical damage, bonus to normal damage and so on. These have all been consolidated. The changes come on the heels of the renaming of all spells/abilities in the game to numbered versions, clearly marking the update to a lower level spell as II, III and so on.
The effect of all this in my mind is to make the game a much more casual experience. A new player coming in doesn’t have as much to learn to be effective at their chosen class. But is that a good thing? Does the game benefit from reducing the depth of the stat and combat system, or does it lose something from it? I would argue it loses a lot. A game that has lasted five years has a strong player following and a mature story. When you play a game long enough you become immersed in it, emotionally attached to it. Some of that is lost I think when the system is changed out from under you. The skill renaming especially leaves a bad taste in my mouth, because previously the advanced skill names had flavor and felt like a new skill even if they were only an upgraded one. I see no problem with allowing a mature game to mature. The changes to Everquest 2 don’t approach Star Wars Galaxies NGE in terms of raw system changes but they are still a major difference from a month ago.
How do you view simplification/casualization in the games you play? Does it benefit the game as a whole? I would love to hear everyone’s thoughts.