Just a couple updates - no pics though, since once Skyrim hits, I probably wont be playing much for the next couple of days.
1) The world is seamless. There are 2 continents and one island (beginner area) which are zoned off from each other, not unlike WoW. Within each land-mass, the areas are seamless. You can also choose to use the Pegasus Express, which shoots you through those warp portals to get to destinations faster. I can see why they give you mounts so early in the game, the realm is HUGE. I'm not quite sure how many square miles, but it easily dwarfs World of Warcraft pre-expansion. Possibly on par after Burning Crusade was added if not a little larger. The transition from area to area is actually well-done as well. You don't go from extremes like in most other MMOs. Going from a plain to a desert, you actually pass through grasslands of a savannah before becoming dessicated as you get closer to the desert, likewise with the rainforest. I spent a solid hour riding around and I think I saw only 3 of the 8 zones in Southern Arun. This doesn't include the wastelands of Northern Arun or any of North or South Shara continent.
2) The visual fidelity of the game world doesn't depreciate. Each zone is incredibly detailed and stunning to see. There are some reused mob skins, but overall the bestiary is pretty freakin' large. Most areas have creatures indigenous to the environment, with some of the undead mobs being some of the most twisted i've seen in a while. I haven't seen any weather effects just as yet however. Also, there seems to be different channels ala Aion to allow better playability in congested zones.
3) There is an auction house, player bazaar system and mail delivery - so poo on you FFXIV. You have an expandable safe, but there's no personal spaces yet, but i'm sure that's on the table. There's certainly enough townhouses in Velika.
4) Mastering your class is much more than just knowing which combo rotations to use. Most encounters require you to take on multiple mobs at once (usually a stronger boss-type mob with a ton of adds) which will leave you dead very quickly if you don't pay attention to movement, timing your attacks and when to use restoratives and bombs (yes, you can use bombs). If you get knocked to the ground, most mobs won't hit you while you're down - but you can get nearly stun-locked if too many are hitting you at once. Movement is really really important here. The ability is super combo chain is next to useless if you don't learn how to GTFO. I see this being a major issue for people who are less than patient, or those who expect mobs to be pushovers all the time.
Combat isn't hard once you learn the basics, but you have to think strategically - especially if you're taking on shit higher than your level. Most mobs have a red gleam on their person before hitting you with a big move - usually its an anime-style eye gleam flash with an accompanying sound effect (like a katana slicing through bamboo), so even if you don't see it, you can usually hear it unless there's too many battle sounds. Centaurs will rear up and their spear tips and front hooves will glow red when they're about to lay you out. I've also learned that if you evade every move, you will never get an opening to attack. The main gist of combat is to evade the major attacks, and to make sure you don't get surrounded since attacks from behind seem to crit alot more frequently. Mobs will flash an exclaimation point over their head when they see you, but most will not attack outright until you attack them. Linking groups is a rarity since most mobs are attached to their own flock - attacking one will draw all of them, even fighting next to another flock will not bring them down unless you're careless with AOE.
5) There is a decent roster of instanced dungeons throughout the level spread, and all are 5 man PVE. From what I've read, some of them have a hard mode with a new boss and extra lewt. Dungeons are on a 24 hour timer for re-entry though, which is expected to be adjusted for NA release. All dungeon last bosses will drop treasures at 100% but there is a small chance of legendary items as well.
Lv. 19 Secret Base
Lv. 26 Bampieru Mansion
Lv. 37 Heathenish Shelter
Lv. 42 Necromatic Dungeon
Lv. 50 Golden Labyrinth
Lv. 50 Akasha Dungeon
Lv. 53 Hanging Gardens
Lv. 58 Labyrinth of Terror
Lv. 58 Black Tower
Lv. 58 Ron Saleh
6) There are numerous overworld bosses that are built for small and normal party play (3-5 man). Large scale PVP and PVE content is supposedly slated for Winter 2011-2012 so we will see if we get that stuff on release as well.
7) The game is NOT A KOREAN GRINDER! Seriously, i'm leveling at a pretty generous clip. I've done 16 levels in about 10 hours of playtime - half of which was probably figuring out where stuff was and how to do things. From people I've talked to the journey to cap (level 58) takes a little over a month for casual players and can be done from just questing.
Anyway, I thought i'd leave you all with this video of Hanging Gardens dungeon.Hanging Gardens, Level 53 Instanced Dungeon Speed Run
That's all I can relate for now. I'll keep you posted