The graphics, already excellent for a browser game, seem to have been polished up even further. I also noticed a number of significant improvements in the UI. Seemed smoother, tidier, less cluttered. Player names turn off. Hooray! Still no "Hide UI" button that I could find. Boo!
They changed the music. It's still lovely but I miss the old tunes. Tune really. There was only one but it was a good one. Maybe it turns up further in. I hope so.
Character creation's streamlined to perfection. Looks great, takes no time at all. Very clear. Once past that, the opening Fall of Denton sequence has been heavily pruned and is much, much better for it. All the good bits, the atmosphere, the lore and background color, the delightful cut-scenes - still there. The deadweight and repetition - all gone.
The whole extended tutorial whips by in just a few minutes. I've done it in far more iterations than I can remember but I think this is the best version so far. Perhaps they'll keep it.
Once you hit Refuge it's straight to your new home. No faffing about. Again the fat's been pared. The original goblin house is back too...I think. The one-roomer. It looked as though maybe the rump housing quests that were left in the R2 version even though they no longer went anywhere have been removed at last. Whether anything replaces them I didn't have a chance to find out because...
...the Cellar under my house leads to Heaven! Well, Arkadia but it looks like Heaven, if Heaven has cogs. It appears to be some kind of hub zone with all the facilities, including Fishing and Mining mini-games that I didn't quite understand on a first run. But, hey, fishing! Visually the whole area is positively spectacular. Also bright, airy and sunny. What with that and all the flowers in Refuge the whole tone of the early game feels lighter, more positive.
You get a vehicle as soon as you arrive in your house. Free! Okay, it's a wonky dirt bike but the Guide Toiler in Arkadia, a robot with some kind of 80s shoulder-pad fetish, runs you through some upgrade and crafting routines to improve it. Upgrading your vehicle's now a thing.
Plenty of people there taking in the new sights. It was busy, really busy. Then again, so it was last time it launched. Keeping people around's the trick. This time, though, there were GMs in chat. Chatting. Reminded me of Fallen Earth, that. Also lots of events flagging up. No idea what those are yet.
Perhaps most importantly of all, the whole of the opening part of the game now has the feel of an MMO. All the tutorial instances I did were effectively open dungeons, albeit very small ones. Huge improvement, although I saw a couple of complaints on the forums from people who prefer to adventure alone at all times.
My very uninformed first-look impression; seems like a much-improved offering. It feels very different to the gritty, bleak world that so impressed me way back at the beginning but it's none the less intriguing and for once it feels like it might have heft, traction.
We'll see. I'll certainly be playing on.