Were I to take the gaming sandbox analogy to its logical conclusion, it would be important to note that there are are actually different types of sand available for people to use in a sandbox. Some are store-bought and specially treated to remove carcinogens so as to provide a safe environment for play. Others are rougher to the touch because of their origins. In some cases, some types of sand are harmful to children playing due to the composition and makeup of the sand’s granules. Volcanic ash in your sandbox = disaster in the making.
That said, ArcheAge certainly has some stiff competition in Everquest Next. While ArcheAge and EQN have a number of unknown variables at this point in time, we can at least discuss some of the things that make these two sandbox titles different from one another.
In terms of the plan for both games, classes and progression are somewhat different for both. In ArcheAge, the general idea is that you pick three ability trees, and the trees chosen determine your class. This is somewhat traditional in the sense that there are definite power levels to reach and experience points to gain to attain new levels.
With Everquest Next, it seems you’re mostly limited by the skills of the classes you have and the types of gear you own. While a handful of starter classes exist, completing specific quests will reportedly open up new possible class types and their related skills that one can synergize into their character.
Real and Stylized
Speaking of characters, the art direction of both games are somewhat divergent. While nothing’s set in stone yet for EQN, it does seem that ArcheAge has taken the more realistically drawn style compared to EQN’s somewhat stylized, cartoony art direction.
While both are valid looks for a game, there’s no doubt that some people will likely gravitate to one over the other due to personal preference. It’s the same reason some people still bash World of Warcraft, I suppose: it can’t be helped by some.
Core Gameplay Driver
Assuming the current design documents hold true, ArcheAge seems to want to position itself as the PVP sandbox of choice, with plenty of other things to do for those who want PVE gameplay as well as creative resources for those who simply want to show off their ability to reskin items and create Starbucks clones in-game.
Bottom line: If you want to mess with someone’s crops on their property, it’s possible to do so with some EVE Online-like social engineering, then kill them on the PVP battlefield when you’re pissed.
On the flipside, EQN currently looks to be focused on providing a PVE-friendly sort of gameplay experience to the sandbox world. With Storybricks and EQN Landmark, it would appear the core gameplay drivers are the creation and destruction of the world and the formation of quests through interconnected relationships.
In this case, you engage in social engineering of NPCs through questing, and you destroy the voxels of someone’s garden if you want to piss them off.
It’s really difficult to say which game would likely win out in the West when both are released. Plainly speaking, I don’t think we can expect a deluge of new information until each company is ready. The divergent futures of the two games point to a very intriguing world for gamers in the coming months.
The sandbox revolution is growing, and I look forward to making better comparisons when more information is available... like a beta testing date.
Victor Barreiro Jr. / Victor Barreiro Jr. maintains The Devil’s Advocate and ArcheAge columns for MMORPG.com. He also writes for news website Rappler as a technology reporter. You can find more of his writings on Games and Geekery and on Twitter at @vbarreirojr.
Links to more MMORPG.com coverage: