In addition to the quests there are events called Public Quests. These are events that take place in the open world. Often these are in stages, and usually you can stumble into them when questing. Basically they require a whole bunch of people to complete them, but in effect every player is competing against each other to earn the loot.
How it works is that every player's contribution to the quest is assessed and they are ranked according to this contribution. A random multiplier is then introduced, and the top few players are then awarded a loot sack. In the loot sack are bunch of items that you can then choose from. The rest disappear once you have made your choice, and if you miss out in the loot roll you are awarded a bonus multiplier for the next public quest when it resets (usually in minutes), which means persistence will win a reward eventually.
This is fine in theory, but these Public Quests just don't work when there is a lack of population. The Green Skin and Chaos areas in the servers we tried were easy with heaps of people, but the Elven area had a small population in comparison, and it was largely impossible to complete these quests. Given these Public Quests result in experience points, it makes levelling in these areas all the more harder. Even in the higher population servers some PQ's were hard to complete as players had either levelled past them, or the chapter simply didn't have enough players to complete them. As the servers mature this problem will only get bigger for late-comers to the game.
This problem not only manifests itself in the Public Quests but also in the PvP areas. One of the big strengths of the game is the PvP. In fact this aspect sets it apart from many other MMO's. Large areas of the game are set aside for PvP and many quests include aspects of PvP (reward for killing x number of opposing players, gather items in a PvP battle area, etc.). The battlefields are well thought out, and there is a constant ebb and flow as one faction gains the upper hand over the other. There are a heap of differing battlefields to test your mettle, and it is a constant underlying theme of the game. Many of the battles are on a timer, and can be quite quick, while others are persistent with the field of battle being an integral part of the game itself.
They are a lot of fun - however, they rely on a good sized server population to make them viable. More so than any other MMO, a healthy server population will have a big impact on the game experience. Solo play, although possible, does not have the depth that the PvP side of the game has. It's hard to tell if this gamble by the designers will pay off, but long term server population management will be key to ensuring a healthy player base.
As you proceed in the game and you begin to explore, you get the feeling that the later parts of the game were rushed. Whole swathes of the terrain are unpopulated. Solo players revel in the art of exploration, and although there are some magnificent environments to explore, they are often barren and lifeless. Clumps of life dot the quest areas, but step out of these and there is usually nothing.
The game has an eclectic bunch of gathering and crafting professions. There is salvaging, scavenging, cultivating and talisman making to name a few. Although different or less traditional, some appear to have been given more thought than others. Scavenging is a breeze to level with, as there is ample opportunity to re-search bodies after they are looted. Some of the crafting skills are agonisingly slow, however.
Player balance in the game seems to be surprisingly good at this early stage of evolution, although we did find some of the healer classes were harder to level up than the melee classes. The combat is already attracting some debate, specifically surrounding the lack of skill or variety. We certainly found it entertaining enough, although the lack of combat options for some classes did make it seem repetitive at times.
PvP combat was a lot of fun, and we were happy to see that renown points were awarded for doing damage and for healing. These renown points can be traded for goods and for talents. Some of the monster versus player combat was a bit glitchy with monsters often stopping in combat and not taking any action at all while you beat on them for a few seconds, and their tracking across the terrain is a bit circuitous at times.
Music and ambient sounds are good, and have a lot of variety. There are distant battle sounds, yells, animal noises etc. to all add life to the world, although these don't seem to change when you are underground. Exploring a crypt while hearing the chirping sounds of birds, although uplifting, does not fit well with the circumstances.
As we have said, there are plenty of high points in this game, however our biggest concern is how well it will build and retain the community it so desperately needs to make it playable. Early indications are concerning, with almost no in-game chatter, but the wide variety of PvP opportunities could well attract a lot of the jaded PvP players from other MMO's. The installation problems and the unfinished aspects of the game are certainly disappointing, but the positive aspects are quite innovative and well thought out.
Overall this is a good game and only time will tell if it is a great MMO.