We didn’t learn a lot of details. But the shape of what’s coming is much clearer now than it was before the live letter, and we have a baseline for what to expect in the game when we step through the Gates of Judgement in June. There were some interesting revelations and a few that I think rather flew under the radar, so let’s start looking at where we’re going from here and what we can reasonably expect.
Dungeons and the structure
According to the live letter, there will be eight new dungeons at launch. This, I think, says a great deal about how long leveling will take in the expansion.
In the earliest levels, there’s a big crowd of dungeons thrown out in quick succession: You start with three close to one another, followed by Halatali at level 20. The next dungeons are Toto-Rak at 24, Haukke at 28, Brayflox at 32, and each covers a four-level span. But as you get higher than that, the gap narrows to be three-level ranges; Qarn is at 35, Cutter’s Cry at 38, and so on. That’s the pattern up through the cap.
There’s a clear understanding among the developers that no one wants to be running the same instanced dungeon ad infinitum. We have gaps, but the gaps are reasonable, being based on the speed of leveling. We also know that by and large, the development team is happy to give players three dungeons to swap between at the level cap, avoiding the problems that the game’s endgame had in the earliest days with chain-running Amdapor Keep or Wanderer’s Palace until your eyes bled.
Having said that, the leveling process is going to be slower from 50-60. With eight new dungeons, we’re perfectly spaced to have one at 50, 52, 54, 56, 58, and three at 60. This coincides nicely with the fact that the live letter also stated that players can expect roughly the same volume of main scenario questing that we found in the game’s first 50 levels. I don’t know whether I entirely believe that, but it would certainly be something that could be filled out by making sure that the last batch of leveling goes more slowly than before.
I’m not saying all of this is a done deal, but it does seem to be something that the game is setting itself up to do, and as a result it feels like a natural extension. I would honestly be surprised if we didn’t wind up with at least three dungeons at the level cap; perhaps we’ll have more than that, but trying to break out that many new dungeons with each new patch would be asking a lot. Then again, the 3.x patch series isn’t going to have as many old dungeons to turn into hard modes anyhow.
Scrips, tomestones, and looting
One of the most irritating parts of crafting with any seriousness in 2.0 is that a lot of the high-end crafting stuff relies spending a lot of money and then crossing your fingers to hope that a meld goes off. It’s not pleasant, and I weep no tears at the thought that 3.0 will be introducing the option to get your gear through more structured means of crafting. We don’t have many details about scrips yet, but I imagine they’ll work similarly to the way the Ixali dailies and the supply/provisioning missions currently work: We’ll craft rare items to earn scrips and get new equipment and the like.
Tomestones are sticking around as dungeon currency, which strikes me as a little odd unless Rowena is moving shop from Mor Dhona, but I would have been surprised if we didn’t have the same basic mechanics in Heavensward. Perhaps it’s easier to just keep the mechanic explicitly the same. While I appreciate the intent behind keeping the weekly lockouts unavailable for a few weeks, I wonder whether it’s just going to practically mean that the people who gather the lesser tomestones obsessively for those two weeks are going to wind up with significant advantages. Still, it’s an effort that I appreciate to not make the push to level 60 into a horrible race.
I’m glad to hear that Alexander and primal looting is changing up; at a glance, it looks as if Alexander is removing the weekly lockout of content in exchange for a Crystal Tower-style weekly loot lockout, and primals are getting a loot system closer to their old form of collecting tokens and then trading them in. This is good. The fact that we had to run and pray, over and over, was a decided weakness of the structure before. Changing it to the current system was arbitrary and unnecessary.
New jobs, new tricks
Here’s something I find interesting: While we know there will be new actions for all jobs that are earned through quests rather than leveling, that phrasing leaves it somewhat ambiguous as to whether or not there will be new actions added that are earned through leveling. I am honestly hoping not; I’d rather see a handful of new tricks rather than trying to massively rebuild my already overloaded bars. Not that I’m not looking forward to some new tricks, of course.
It looks as if the new jobs will indeed start leveling from 30, which is good, although it’s an open question whether or not players who want to mainline the new jobs will be able to successfully raise them from 30 to 60 before the weekly lockouts start in. You’d have to be dedicated, I suppose, especially if my guesses about leveling are accurate. Perhaps hedge your bets with an old standby first.
Many people have speculated that some of the abilities on display during the final bits of 2.55’s storyline will hint at the new tricks we’ll gain access to. In some cases, I think this is accurate; there’s an instance of what may very well be the new Paladin combo, for example, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see derivations of the other bits of flare thrown around. What matters more is where these tricks will fit into our overall rotations and playstyles. Adding some complication into the simpler classes (Paladin, Monk) is a good thing, but it risks eroding some of the mechanical identity that makes those classes fun for players in the first place.
I don’t think we’ll be getting as many abilities from 50-60 as we got from 40-50, at the very least. If we get anything new from leveling alone, it’s likely to be mostly in the form of traits. That’s still an underused system in some areas, and I’d love to find out if it’s getting expanded at all. For that matter, it’s interesting to see if we get any new cross-class skills to be used in that final leveling push, since right now there’s a very set number of useful abilities. Having an extra slot to equip them makes cross-class abilities less interesting for several classes, simply because it removes the few meaningful choices we actually have.
But now we’re waving goodbye to what we’ve learned and stepping into the thick forests for speculation, and there will be plenty of time for that in the future, won’t there? So let’s call this week what it is, with the usual caveats that you can leave feedback in the comments or mail it along to email@example.com. Next week, assuming we don’t get another big and unexpected infodump, I’m going to be talking about the end of 2.55 from a lore standpoint; if you don’t want to be spoiled, I suggest wrapping that up over the next week. You have been warned.