The backbone of any MMO is defined by character progression. That character is you, and that character reflects your hard work. Like any MMO that has been around as long as EQ2 has, you need to be creative, and come up with more ways to improve and increase potential with your character. Whether that means all or some of: new gear, new levels, alternative “systems” to increase power (AA’s), abilities, and then of course new areas to explore and quests to complete. These things keep people engaged, something to work on with their character, and most importantly, playing the game.
EQ2′s latest expansion Kunark Ascending is no different. Developer’s took a very creative and unique approach in the latest expansion instead of simply increasing the [Adventure] level cap (which was the de-facto standard set from EQ1 as well as previous EQ2 expansions); they introduced a “secondary” class, Ascension classes. These classes can be trained and used by any existing EQ2 class, and the ability to switch between all 4 if you’d like. These classes work and are synergistic with each other, as well as your existing class (such as a Bard & Geomancer).
So, what’s the verdict?
The new Ascension classes brought new strategies, new ways of combat, and new ways of playing the game. They also brought immense power. In many cases, you can find that if you picked the “wrong” first ascension class, or you are behind on upgraded versions of the skills you obtain within, you are behind everyone else in effectiveness. This has furthered the gap in power potential for a lot of players. Being able to purchase upgrades with DBC/real life cash (also with the in-game upgrade scrolls being extremely rare) has also been a point of contention from the player base. Not to mention there are [currently] raid strategies in place that require certain levels/ranks of specific Ascension skills to be defeated. Ascension classes are so powerful, in fact, that in many cases your characters are more defined by your Ascension Class than your Actual Class in terms of effectiveness.
Experience gain is also different with Ascension Classes. In addition to going out in current content and obtaining experience by slaying mobs ad-naseum, or completing quests, there is an added component of time-gated experience. You accrue a small amount of Ascension XP over time, as well as through scrolls, which are once a week claimable items that give you a chunk of “gainable” experience per day. In a semi-recent patch, they bumped it up to adding 5 extra bonus scrolls per week. Experience increases by 50% each time you reach an ascension class to level 10, which exponentially catches you up to the remaining 3 ascension classes. Unfortunately, this only adds to the pile of overflowing required tasks to do in Kunark Ascending to keep you competitive. Clutch your alts tightly, people. Keep them warm.
While it is a ton of fun to have a smörgåsbord of new abilities; hit for insane amounts of damage, become completely immune to status effects, or burn all your mana for a large attack you’ll want to put on your fridge and show mom, there are components to the new Ascension Class system that leave some things to be desired. I do like this system, but having an easier way to obtain in-game scrolls needed to upgrade Ascension skills (and not feel obligated to pay for them with RL cash) would be truly appreciated. Without easier-to-obtain in-game options to increase effectiveness of a new system so vital to your characters effectiveness it can feel like a cash grab to some players.
I also feel like classes are quickly losing their identity with this system, which in my mind is threatening one of EverQuest 2′s biggest strengths. There are talks of huge class balance and shifting in the new upcoming expansion (as well as level 110), so there is definitely things to be hopeful for. I for one still enjoy the game, but its nice to stop and discuss these things. With any game, there is always going to be a constant shift and balance of game direction, and constructive criticism is always an important piece.
Sohami | Halls of Fate
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