Details surrounding the classes in Everquest Next are slowly emerging. During the Everquest Next class panel, senior SOE devs broke down how EQ Next's class mechanics functioned and what players should expect when customizing their character. It should be noted right off the bat that all of this is subject to change as development continues.
One of the main features of Everquest Next is its multi-class system. Players start by choosing one of eight classes available to them when creating their character. These classes are said to be some of the typical mainstream classes you would find in other MMOs such as the Warrior and Mage, but SOE didn't reveal what all eight would be. Once a player has chosen their initial class they can venture out into the world and discover over 40 new classes to learn and individually progress.
Unlike traditional MMOs which feature a vertical leveling experience built around one class, players in EQ Next will level up each class independently through a tier system. As players meet the goals of each class tier (for example obtaining a full set of a particular armor), they will progress to the next tier were a new set of goals will be presented to them. Each tier will unlock new class specific abilities which they can then choose from in order to customize their skill bar, but more about that later.
Players will also accrue some form of experience by participating in events across the world, but players will be able to choose what class they spend that experience on. This means that while you may be playing as a tier 4 Warrior you can opt to spend the experience earned on another class you happen to have, but are not currently playing. SOE felt it would be unfair to players to force them into playing a lower tier class just to gain the necessary experience to progress it to the next tier. This way players can always remain relevant to the content they and their friends are engaged in while simultaneously progressing a separate class.
During the presentation SOE listed five classes available in EQ Next including the Blademaster, Rogue, Wizard, Tempest, and Warrior. The term mage had also been thrown around a lot in previous presentations so I am not sure if that represents another separate class from the Wizard. Each class comes with a defined set of "rules" which dictate what armor it can wear, what two weapon types it can wield, class abilities it has access to and weapon abilities they have at their disposal.
If weapon abilities sound familiar that's because the ability system can be easily compared to the one found in Guild Wars 2. Players will have access to two different sets of four abilities. The weapon abilities are a static set of four abilities which are dependent on the class and weapon. A Warrior for example may wield a two handed sword with four unique abilities, while a Tempest may wield that same sword, but with 4 entirely different abilities. Since multiple classes can use the same weapon type, SOE has designed different stance animations for each class so players can better assess what class a particular mob or player may be before they begin using their abilities.
One thing I found a bit discouraging was the fact that each class only had access to two weapon types. I am not just talking about 2-handed weapons versus 1-handed weapons either. A 2-handed sword is considered a different weapon type than a 2-handed mace. Using the Warrior again as an example, the class can utilize a 2-handed sword and then swap to a 1-handed sword and board. Weapons also come as sets, so if you enjoy mixing weapon types together for dual wielding you're out of luck. The same goes for shields.
Weapon swapping -and thus ability swapping- during combat similar to Guild Wars 2 is still up in the air as well. At this time players will need to change their weapon outside of combat in order to gain access to the new abilities.
On the flip side of things, while weapon abilities are rigid, class abilities are quite customizable. Each class type has a set of four ability types; movement, offensive, defensive and utility. Depending on the class you are currently playing as, you will be able to slot more abilities of a certain type. A Mage may have access to two utility slots, one movement slot and one offensive slot while a Warrior may have two offensive slots, one defensive slot and a utility slot.
These slots are determined by what main class you're currently playing as, but the abilities in those slots are up to you to decide. If you've progressed several classes you can choose to use abilities from those classes in place of whatever abilities you would normally use if you were playing only as one class. This is how the multi-class system really works.
Ability customization also goes beyond just choosing which ones you will use. Your armor will also affect how your abilities work. Grabbing a certain ring for example, may reduce the energy cost of all teleportation abilities. This extends the significance of armor beyond it simply being an item which carries stats. SOE wants players to choose their gear based around what style of play they wish to achieve. Since class trees weren't discussed during the panel, I suspect items may fill the role skill points do in traditional MMOs.
So what about dedicated roles? Well there are two sides to this answer. The short answer is: no. SOE has confirmed there will not be dedicated healing and tanking roles, but they did stress there will still be a need for coordination during fights. In fact during the Q/A portion of the panel many players expressed their concern over this decision citing previous games such as Neverwinter and Guild Wars 2 as prime examples of what happens when there is a lack of dedicated roles. In response, the devs explained that they do indeed see the importance of giving players the ability to support their raid mates through non dps actions and promised players their would be opportunities for those who wish to do so.
Finally, SOE briefly touched on Everquest Next's combat style. While they didn't confirm tab targeting or action based combat, they did say weapons such as a broadsword would hit all targets in front of the player. The devs also let slip that all attacks would originate from skills, meaning no auto attacks. Overall, the developers say they are aiming for visceral, active movement oriented combat.
Coming away from the panel I felt a little conflicted. On the one hand I like the idea of using whatever abilities from whichever classes I have unlocked. I also like the fact that each class has restrictions on how many of each type of ability you can use. I am hoping this will help balance out the fact that there are over 40 classes while still making each class feel unique. On the other hand though, having only eight abilities seems incredibly restrictive. While I do agree having a smaller amount of meaningful abilities helps reduce bloat and keep players focused on the action at hand, in my eyes it really restricts the feeling of individual class importance.
About the Author
Michael Dunaway has been part of the MMOBomb team for years and has covered practically every major Free-to-Play MMO title since 2009.More Stories by Michael Dunaway