EverQuest Landmark (or, as it seems to prefer to be known these days, simply Landmark) has quietly launched on Steam as an Early Access title.
Technically the game is still in closed beta, which means you'll need to stump up some cash if you want to jump on board to what will eventually become a free-to-play game when it releases to the public. Three packages are available: the Settler Pack costs $19.99 and gives you access to the beta as well as some in-game items; the Explorer Pack costs $59.99 and includes more items; and the Trailblazer Pack costs $99.99 and also comes with 4 additional beta keys to share with friends.
Mike came away very impressed with the early incarnation of Landmark when it first became available to play, and it's about to get a lot more interesting with the introduction of caves and underground tunnels, according to a report by Polygon.
The introduction of underground areas to explore is part of the development team's overall plan to increase the world's size and make it feel more three-dimensional. Now the game will not only be about exploring the surface, but also digging and mining into the depths of the earth, too. This also allows for resources to be scattered around in a more realistic manner; the game's senior producer Terry Michaels noted that in the alpha version, resources were simply scattered on the ground, whereas with the new underground system players will have to work a lot harder to obtain the most rare resources.
Initially, players will be able to dig their own tunnels and caves as well as explore permanent underground structures constructed by Sony. Player-created tunnels and caves will heal over time, allowing the world to change and shift as time passes, and even Sony's own caves will change their shape from day to day. Entrances will remain in the same place, however; the overworld won't change on its own. You also won't be able to build things underground for now -- presumably due to the fact that the caves and tunnels might not be there from one day to the next -- but this is something that may be added in the future.
The long-term intention is for Landmark to be a complementary experience to EverQuest Next's more traditional MMO sensibilities. Sony's Player Studio system will also allow players to submit their creations online and potentially be able to sell them via the in-game marketplace. It's an interesting and ambitious project that deserves to do well, but it remains to be seen whether it'll have what it takes to topple more well-established build-and-explore titles such as the seemingly unstoppable Minecraft.