The Fallen Dynasty

Posted: June 19, 2006 by Kendricke in General Game Concepts

When last we spoke, I was looking forward to the upcoming Adventure Pack, Live Update 24, and a load of other changes taking place within my own guild (all positive, I assure you).  Well, all of the above have come and gone, and let me tell ya – it's been mostly for the best overall, but I do have some observations which I feel compelled to share for all three of my loyal readers, regarding the latest Adventure Pack:

The Fallen Dynasty:

Sights and Sounds:

The first thing anyone notices, of course, is the eye candy and sounds.  Here, the art and visuals are brilliant overall, (though to be fair, I'm not a fan of the SOGA-only models used for the Wantia), and the fact that we have an Adventure pack which takes place above ground makes me a fairly happy camper.  The music is absolutely fitting.  Combine this with the architecture and "the little things" (TM), and it all comes together for a perfectly lovely general package.  You're transported into the world of the Isle of Mara. 

A problem I have is the "seen it" syndrome.  I realize this is just another Adventure Pack…but for the most part, I've already "seen it".  With the exception of the terracotta warriors and the Nayad, the overwhelming majority of creatures within this Adventure pack are simply repeats of what we've already seen for the past 69 levels.  Some of the same creatures you fought on the Isles of Refuge?  Yep, they're here. 

So, while the art for the overall landscape and environment is positively brilliant, the art for the creatures in general left quite a bit to be desired for me personally.  After all, how many times can you see a bear in Everquest 2 before you just don't care about seeing a bear in Everquest 2. 

Now, all of this said, there's some very interesting looking weapons coming out of this Adventure Pack.  The quality of art on these items is very high.  For example, there's a hammer which basically looks like a clenched, metal fist atop a wooden shaft.  There's a braided metal two-handed sword.  There's some fairly interested maces. 

Gameplay:

Ok, so many of you say you don't care about the "feel".  You want to know about the mechanics:  it's all about the gameplay!

Well, there's no real new bells and whistles here.  The first Adventure Pack introduced the idea of breakable walls.  The second Adventure Pack introduced moveable and stackable world items.  This third Adventure Pack introduces…um…not really anything new. 

This isn't to say that the Adventure Pack doesn't utilize previous features to new effect – because it does.  Swimming isn't optional here.  The ability to move on a bridge while being thrown around by a new version of the old recoil sentinel (or risking the death of a thousand papercuts..er, fishbites) is there as well.  You've got to know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em here, but overall, there's just nothing very "new" to the general, overall gameplay. 

In short, this Adventure Pack isn't about gimmicks.  It's very much about the fundamentals. 

That said, the gameplay is generally more difficult.  If you don't have your fundamentals down, you're going to have to learn them quickly or face a world of frustration.  You better understand how to move through a dungeon, and when to pull, and when not to pull.  You better figure out how to move as a group if you don't already have that down.  Frankly, if you thought Sanctum of the Scaleborn could get crowded, you ain't seen nothing yet. 

Now, for those of us who felt the Halls of Fate wasn't very "spicy", or who felt that the Vault of El'Arad was downright "mild", you just might finally get the kick you're looking for with Nizara, City of the Nayad.  Oh yeah – Epic encounters for a single group?  That's right.  This is not a casual, come as you are dungeon.  Bring your A-game or go home crying.  Basically, this is a one group raid zone.  It's tough.  It takes considerable class knowledge and a certain level of gear.  It requires attention, planning, and committment. 

Many players will never get past the first named in this zone.  That's fine.  In fact, it's not just fine, it's designed that way per the developers.  If Nizara is too hard for you, maybe you should hone your skills in the Forsaken City some more before coming back.

The Loot:

"Kendricke, that's all well and good, but what about the rewards?  Where's the "phat lewtz"?"

Ok, here's the thing…some of the loot is great.  Most is…not.  It's fairly average loot for the most part, and though there's some interesting drops being found on some of the raid targets, the majority of loot doesn't seem to up to par compared to the work or effort required. 

For example, Nizara seems abysmal for most players – with Epic x2 and x4's dropping wooden chests frequently.  At least within the Halls of Fate you just know you're walking out with some legendary or fabled gear for your hour or two investment.  In Nizara, you can spend a few hours fighting the hardest single group content in the game, and walk out with a handful of treasured gear. 

I'm actually hoping this gets looked at fairly soon.  Now, no one's saying that any single group dungeon (no matter how difficult) should be "monty hauling" cartloads of fabled gear every three days from the dungeons, but the current drop rates seem to be completely off.   The gear dropping from these targets simply seems to be subpar considering the relatively high level of skill and gear required to get through Nizara in the first place.  Hopefully, we'll see an announcement from the developers on the subject fairly soon.

The Story:

There's very little I can say regarding the storyline specifics without giving away too much, but suffice it to say that compared to previous Adventure Packs, the story within The Fallen Dynasty takes center stage.  For lore junkies, this Adventure Pack has quite the satisfying buffet, with an all-you-can-eat dinner special. 

You've got monk clans competing, shiploads of pirates, and you're going to learn quite a bit about why the Gods left…and why/when they might be returning. 

Honestly, this is where it feels like the developers pulled out some stops and just let loose.  Story is positively dripping from virtually every corner of the Adventure Pack. 

The Build-Up:

How was The Fallen Dynasty presented?  I gotta admit it.  I think SOE fell short on this part.  I don't like to say that, but it's something I think felt a little…"light".  And by "light", I mean, "next to nothing". 

When the Bloodline Chronicles was being released as the first new "pay-to-play" content, there was a world-wide plague introduced to Norrath.  When you claimed your ring the day after the Adventure Pack was released, you had an image of a location in Nektropos presented to you.  You became part of the story…and you couldn't avoid that.

When the Splitpaw Saga was released, gnoll "terraporters" started to show up all over the Thundering Steppes, and gnolls were kidnapping any adventurers that got too close. 

When the Kingdom of Sky was being released, entire servers came together to build new "spires" in different zones, and then fought off dragons to lead up to the release. 

When The Fallen Dynasty was released…there was no in-game build up at all.  None.  Nada.  Nothing.  One day, out of the blue, you can go click on a bell to get there…without any lead up at all.  That's it.  That's all there is to it.  Oh, there's an optional quest you can go on…but it's not required at all.

Raid Content:

I'm reserving this for now, as we haven't yet been able to fit this content into our schedule all that much (it's only been a week).  Suffice it to say there are two instanced raid zones (you can choose x2 or x4) and two contested targets.  We're hoping to hit this content more than a few times over the next month – and then I can speak up on the content with more of an educated opinion.

Overall Impressions:

Generally speaking, it's a solid Adventure Pack.  Splitpaw is still my favorite overall, but I'm really enjoying The Fallen Dynasty quite a bit.  The problem is that I don't feel compelled to play in The Fallen Dynasty as much as I was within Splitpaw.  It's a fun place to visit from time to time, but overall, I'm just not feeling like living there right now. 

Members in my guild seem to agree.  Even though the level range for Forsaken City is right in that 60-67 sweet spot, most of my members still in that range seem to prefer Sanctum of the Scaleborn or Palace of the Awakened for levelling up.  When I ask why, the general response seems to be that the hassle of building a group for Forsaken City isn't worth the generally poor loot chances. 

I don't think we've seen a master chest drop at all within this Adventure Pack – and we've killed most of the known named in most of the zones so far – multiple times in many case.  And though it may be just the luck of the draw…it's enough of a perception to keep some pretty good players away from what may be some great content.  The "carrot" simply isn't appealing enough yet to keep them down there.  That's a crying shame, actually…because it really is a lot of fun down there in Forsaken City or Nizara with a good group. 

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