You may have heard the expression: Damning with faint praise. It means that someone, by only giving a token measure of praise to something, is really expressing their disapproval. You’ve heard it used before, “That movie was okay.” Or for a date setup, “She has a nice personality”. And even for an employer reference like “Mr Smith, was a loyal employee who was always on time.”
So what’s it called then when someone attempting to be critical of something can’t really find anything serious to be critical about?
Wolfshead seems to have found himself in just this dilemma with his analysis of his first 15 minutes in Everquest 2.
It appears that his most serious problems have to do with Everquest having too much in the way of character choices and things to do, and some of the art choices made for loading screens and the like.
To be honest, when I first started reading this post I wondered if he was just pulling our collective legs as his first couple of minutes were spent worrying about the size and position of the ESRB label compared to how WoW does it. And in fact, that’s pretty much where the rest of this review headed, into a comparison with World of Warcraft.
That in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There are times when it’s appropriate to make comparisons between things. It’s one of the ways we work out what we like. But in this case, it appears Wolfshead is looking hard for things that make Everquest 2 to be not as good as World of Warcraft.
To be fair, there are a couple of things I agree with.
The UI could handle a bit of improvement, especially for new players. For the most part it isn’t so bad, but it does take a bit of getting used to, and finding out how to do some things can be a bit of a chore. On the other hand, it’s light years ahead of the UI used by EQ1 (or is that damning with faint praise?) Having said that, every UI needs improvement. Over time user needs and expectations change, and developers should keep abreast of that.
Wolfshead also mentions that the newbie areas and quests could handle some improvement. As Tipa points out in her rebuttal to Wolfshead’s post, that actually has happened – a number of times. And perhaps they could use still more improvement. However, I’d be more inclined to ask for some improvements to the major starting cities, Qeynos and Freeport. I find they, especially Freeport, tend to be tedious to get around, and these days are not the thriving metropli that they once were.
But there are a lot of points in Wolfshead’s article where I think he is completely off the mark. Aside from some of the completely irrelevant issues like “inappropriate background screens,” there are three points I’d like to address.
- Character Creation – Too many choices. I have never heard any game criticised for it’s abundance of character customisation before. On the contrary, some of the more celebrated customisations come from City of Heroes/Villains where it’s possible to have fun without ever leaving the character generator. If anything can be said, and it’s one of the things I felt WoW was lacking in, it is that World of Warcraft should have more character choices. And by the way, guys do like character options, just check out Age of Conan on that front (pardon the pun.) One thing to finish this point, I think Wolfshead has a great idea in having the devs provide a set of pretty character templates that players who don’t need the higher level of customisation can quickly choose.
- Combat and Abilities. For the most part Wolfshead seemed to like the combat, but felt that casting times were too long. I think we’ve all felt that when we’re in the middle of a fight and are waiting for the refresh. However, that’s where AA’s come in. For example, the ShadowKnight class provides an AA that reduces refresh and casting times by 25 to 30 percent. Wolfshead simply hasn’t got to the level where he can know that. Fair enough. He also says that there is only one way to know when combat has started, the name flashes. That’s simply not true. The music dramatically changes, and there are sound effects of attack, not to mention red numbers floating away saying how much damage you’re taking. Much the same as WoW in fact. But where Wolfshead really comes unstuck is suggesting that in getting more than one new combat ability or spell per level that this is in some way overwhelming for newbies. He suggests only giving one new ability per level. Hmmm. Strange considering with WoW you sometimes need to purchase way more than two abilities at every second level.
- Exposing the player to crafting too early. Once again I thought I was reading a parody post. Crafting in Everquest 2, while not perfect, is far superior to that set and forget nonsense in World of Warcraft. In fact it’s the reason a lot of players, some of whom are in my guild, play Everquest 2. To suggest offering crafting later? — What like Age of Conan where you can’t start crafting until 40 or so? — next he’ll be saying that crafting should be set and forget like WoW. Another point: At this stage Wolfshead was still on the newbie island. The only thing wrong with crafting on the island is that the crafting tutorial given by crafting NPCs in the cities is missing on the island. In fact there is no quest regarding crafting on the island, (there used to be.) Wolfshead would have to have gone looking. I know this because the other night I created a crafting character and went looking for the quest. I would have been happy to not do any combat at that time for that character. So sorry Wolfshead, you’re way off base with this one. If you don’t want to craft, don’t. But don’t suggest that others don’t want to.
In essence what Wolfshead is saying is that Everquest 2 should be dumbed down to below the level of World of Warcraft, especially considering some of his gripes are with things that WoW does. It’s posts like this that risk me agreeing with Syncaine on the subject of WoW Tourists!
While Wolfshead is entitled to his opinion concerning his comparisons between Everqust 2 and World of Warcraft, it seems to me that the essense of his post, saying that players are given too many new abilities as they level, that they have too many character choices at character creation, and that being exposed to crafting too early are all bad things, simply seem like he’s looking hard for something, anything, wrong with EQ2. And having found nothing he picks on the most minor and inconsequential issues.
To me, that sounds like praising with faint damnation.