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Heroic in Norrath – Straight to Level 85 October 2, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest II.
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I took a little time away from fretting over the logistics of getting myself and some ships down to Curse to look at SOE’s new idea for EverQuest II.

The SOE plan is to sell level 85 “heroic” characters for the low, low price of 3,500 Station Cash. (~$35 at the normal cost of SC, but as little as ~$12 if you wait for one of those Triple SC sales.)  They are selling them right now.  And, for the moment, they are also giving away free samples.  Between now and at least October 15th you can test drive a heroic character for free.

EverQuest II Heroic Offer

In some ways this is both a dream come true for some players and an out for SOE who has a game where the current cap is level 95.  If you want to join your hard core EverQuest II pals, you no longer have to grind through a lot of lonely levels to see the newest (and presumably the best) content and play with your friends.

According to the SOE Heroic Character FAQ:

In response to both former and current player feedback, we wanted to provide an opportunity for players to return to EQII without worrying about an overwhelming level gap.  We’ve also been asked by all kinds of players for a way to try out high-level classes before committing valuable time to leveling one.

Being an old and extremely lapsed EQII player… I have a few characters in the 50s and one up in the 60s… I had to try this out.

The first question was how to take SOE up on the offer.  You can either try this as a fresh character, or you can apply the jump to level 85 option on one of your current characters.

Being a long time SOE customer, I was pretty sure that if I applied this to any current character that the whole thing would be irreversible or that it would forever taint that character.  And while I am not overly enamored of my characters… nor am I likely to ever really play them again except to show up in the game once in a while to remind myself again why I stopped playing…  I figured the safest option was just to get a fresh heroic character.

(I do find it amusing that, according to the FAQ, if you upgrade a character, you get a potion renaming.  Presumably this is to hide the shame of having created a store bought character or some similar perceived stigma.)

I hit the button and created a freshly minted heroic dwarven berserker.  And he was indeed in possession of heroic stats and equipment, certainly relative to any other character I have.

Fresh Heroic Dwarf

Fresh Heroic Dwarf

He got the full set of supplies as outlined in the FAQ, which include.

  • A set of Level 85 weapons
  • Level 85 jewelry
  • Level 85 armor
  • 20 Food and Drink
  • Ammunition for Fighter and Scount Ranged Weapons
  • 6 24-slot bags
  • Variety of Potions
  • A Pegasus Mount

I do not think any of my EQII character ever, at any level, have been so lavishly equipped.  You also get 280 AA points, pre-populated for your convenience.  (If you want to set them yourself, you have to pay the 3,500 SC.)

I was particularly happy with the abundant bag space.  And there was a flying mount, which was a nice touch.

Flying about

Flying about

Of course the flying mount also represents the same mixed blessing that it does in every game.  It is super nifty cool to be able to fly around and explore, but it completely takes the wind out of any concept of space or travel in the open world.  And SOE’s latest stay mounted compromise, where your mount disappears as you enter combat and shows up as soon as it is over is… odd.  I am sure I would get used to it in time, but I feel strange having the frilly Pegasus mount show up under me just after I finish my latest murders.

Ah well.

And I certainly was not alone aboard a frilly Pegasus mount.  Once I rolled up my character I was dropped into the Great Divide zone (third instance) with a dozen or so similarly mounted characters around me.  Heroic characters were quite the thing according to reports.

Now, of course, the question is how much of this is novelty, with people like me showing up to kick the metaphorical tires, and how much of this represents people eager to return to playing (and paying) in Norrath?

So there I was in a zone… a snow zone, which meant it looked like pretty much every other snow zone in the game… seriously, I though I was outside of New Halas at first… and wondering what to do next.

There is something of a tutorial going on as you wander around, but it seems aimed at people who are either new to the game (but not MMOs) or who have forgotten a lot more about the game than I have at this point.  So I started ignoring those and went off to grab a quest to see how heroic this new guy really was.

And the answer was, “Pretty darn heroic indeed.”  Look at this shot of him absolutely destroying a level 89 mob with one of his attacks.

Die gnoll, die!

Die gnoll, die!

Clearly, basic survival in the field was not going to be an issue.  I actually had to walk up to a mob to get that picture, as I was one-shotting everything with my bow if I tried to pull mobs at range.  And, if I this whole heroic character thing became suddenly super engaging to me, I had the post from Karen Bryan, perhaps the most serious correspondent Massively has, about what to do with your new heroic character bookmarked.

How to do it though… that was the key.  What I most feared came to pass.

One of my complaints about EverQuest II is that SOE apparently cribbed their underlying philosophy from my mother-in-law, going with the idea that “Too much is never enough” or “Nothing exceeds like excess!”

So you have, in my opinion, too many races, too many classes, too many cities, too many crafting recipes, too many crafting ingredients, too many chat channels, too many AA trees, and, far and away worst of all, too many damn player skills.

And the skill thing has actually gotten better over time.  There was a point when not only were there too many skills, but they had too many different names as upgrades to skills were called something completely different and even, at times, had different icons which was often shared by another unrelated skill.

But there are still way too many skills.  And this is the reason I went with the berserker class.  I have four other berserkers in the game, so it was my hope that some mild familiarity with the class would help.  I also, hoping against hope, thought that maybe SOE would have a plan to deal with this.

And SOE does have a plan.  It just isn’t a very good one.

When you start off you have only one hot bar exposed with some of your combat skills on it.  Given how quickly I was killing stuff, I probably could have made due with one hot key.  All of your other skills are on additional, but still hidden, hot bars, which get mentioned as you progress.  Your skills are pre-populated in… an order of some sort.  Not the one I would have chosen, but I think in this I was handicapped by having played the game, but not recently.

So I ended up exposing a pile of hot bars to figure out my skills and ended up being annoyed when I couldn’t find certain things either in the hot bars or in the skill book.  For example, what happened to that skill that starts the heroic opportunity cycle?  I could not find it.  Did they kill that feature?

Anyway, it was the morass of skills that took the wind out of my sails.  There is a reason that, every time I come back to EverQuest II, I create a new character.  It is simply easier to get back into the game that way, picking up skills in a somewhat organic fashion rather than trying to decipher the huge set of skills you left off with last time and which have been changed since.

Well, that and the fact that my UI seemed to be having issues.  I had to kill off the old EQ Maps addon because it was using an incompatible version of the map xml.  And then my experience bar seemed to have expanded itself off the right side of the screen, pushing some of the controls off the edge with it.  I don’t think this was related to EQ Maps, as it was fine last week when I patched up and got into game in anticipation of this update.

So, all in all, I wasn’t sold on the idea.  I was certainly done with it in about an hour.

But I am, by my own admission, hardly the ideal target audience.

Borrowing a term from EVE Online, if there is a “bitter vet” class of SOE customers, I am pretty sure I fall into it.  I started playing EverQuest on day one and EverQuest II on day four if I recall right. (November 13, 2004)  I have many fond memories and consider myself a fan of both games, and yet I have trouble finding any joy in playing either game at this point.  When overcome by nostalgia, I can get a quick fix by starting a fresh character and running through some older zones.  But by level 20 or so the novelty wears off and the weight of the years and all the changes and updates and compromises begins to take its toll.  And somewhere after level 40 I feel lost in the world and tired of the game, which starts to become an alien place to me.

In EverQuest II, the game starts to fall off for me at Desert of Flames, so punting me up another 30 levels and dropping me into the very generic looking Great Divide was never going to be a winning proposition to start with.  All of the rest was just icing on this cake of woe.  Even the changes to equipment unlocks haven’t helped all that much.

But for people without such a history with the game, this might be an opportunity.  If they have some friends playing and can sink their teeth into the path to level cap and spend the time deciphering the myriad skills that come with the level, this could be a winner.

I am watching how other people respond to this new-ish initiative.  (*cough* Death Knights *cough*)

So far I have seen:

Have you given this a try?  What did you think?

Comments»

1. Stargrace - October 2, 2013

“I do not think any of my EQII character ever, at any level, have been so lavishly equipped. You also get 280 AA points, pre-populated for your convenience. (If you want to set them yourself, you have to pay the 3,500 SC.)”

This is not correct. The free heroic is free, for everyone who has an account (created before september 22nd 2013), from 1st October to the 15th (and you keep it forever). One time deal. The aa are placed for people so they have some idea of where they go / what they do – but you can ALWAYS swap them out no matter what when you want to, by clicking the bar on the bottom right of the AA window. You can even do it on the go now. The profile you get by default has absolutely nothing to do with the heroic characters at all, they added them so any player could load a build without having to do a bunch of research.

2. Wilhelm Arcturus - October 2, 2013

@Stargrace – I went through the AA tabs and could not figure out how to change anything. So, at best, if you are correct, we have another sub-optimal user interface decision by the EQ2 team.

And yes, you keep it forever, you just cannot level up beyond level 86. Once you hit level 86 you cannot log the character on again until you pay according to the FAQ.

3. bhagpuss - October 2, 2013

It’s interesting how different your feelings on EQ2 are from mine, given that our history with the franchise is so similar. You have six months on me in EQ – I didn’t start until November 1999. I did three months of EQ2 beta and then played from day one. There are plenty of things wrong with EQ2, that’s for sure, but it remains one of my three favorite MMOs and there’s a *lot* of stuff worth seeing after Desert of Flames!

If you’ve never been past the 60s before you could do a lot worse than chrono your 85 down a notch and explore the vast wilderness of Kunark. There’s a lot of very interesting stuff there that will ring bells from the old days. Sebilis and Chardok are particularly worth exploring and they aren’t much below your new Heroic level.

I upgraded two of my characters to 85 today and Mrs Bhagpuss did two of hers. That leaves us with three accounts to do, although none of those have characters either of us ever played regularly (they may or may not have been created for ballot-stuffing purposes back in the early days of voting on houses). Free level 85 characters are free level 85 characters, though, so they’re going to get made even if they never get played.

Moreover, we pre-ordered the upcoming Tears of Veeshan expansion (four times for two accounts each). It comes with the previous expansions, which we never bought because we were playing GW2 at the time, bundled in, and we got a 33% discount on the two All Access accounts, so the whole thing came in at an average of £13 per expansion, which is under $20 each. Given that I’m sitting here looking at cheap hotels for our upcoming holiday, where one night will cost the same as all four of those expansions, which will probably provide many hundreds of hours of entertainment, that’s looking like one heck of a bargain.

4. bhagpuss - October 2, 2013

@Wilhelm The FAQ is highly confusing, like all SOE communication. I am as sure as I can be, however, that the Free Heroic character you get on an existing account is permanently unlocked.

It’s Trial Heroic Characters that freeze at 86.

On the AA thing I am sure Stargrace is correct. I’ll log in and check it and see.

5. Stargrace - October 2, 2013

Bottom right hand side where it says commit. You click the green “you are currently in view mode. Click to enter build mode” on the AA window.

Bhagpuss has the jist of it re: the free 85s.

6. bhagpuss - October 2, 2013

I just logged in and tried it on a Silver account. You have to select an unused profile in the drop-down in the top right corner first if you are currently in one of the presets. Then do what Stargrace said and you can fiddle about as much as you like!

Also to correct myself, of course the expansions we bought work out at £6.50 (under $10) each, not double that as I said. That’s practically giving them away!

7. Wilhelm Arcturus - October 2, 2013

@Stargrace – Well, like I said, sub-optimal UI. I actually toggled that button but it wasn’t clear to me what to do next.

And I was actually incorrect, the free trial character only gets 100 AA point, jumping to 280 AA when you pay, at least according to the FAQ.

@Bhagpuss: There is confusing and then there is just wrong I guess. The FAQ says this currently:

“There are a few restrictions however. After a full level of Try Before You Buy, these characters will stop earning combat experience when they reach level 86. Once they are logged off after reaching level 86, they are locked and can’t be logged in again unless they are upgraded to a full Heroic Character at the Character Select screen.

Some restrictions for the Try Before You Buy characters are in place to prevent issues for the community at large. These characters can’t trade, use shared banks, mentor, duel bet, send or receive attachments in emails, and a few other things, like combat experience being set at 100%.”

I also somehow completely missed the “bring you up to speed on Norrath” quest chain mentioned in the FAQ. Go me.

8. Stargrace - October 2, 2013

Keep in mind the FREE characters they are giving away right now are NOT trials. They are fully unlocked ones that you would normally have to pay $35 for. It is a temporary promotion. From 1-15th. So there’s two separate promotions at the moment. One free for anyone who had an account before 22nd September, AND the regular version, where you can try before you buy, and then buy.

The FAQ does stand for the trial ones.

9. bhagpuss - October 2, 2013

As Stargrace says, the FAQ is for the Trial HCs. We are getting Free HCs. They are two separate promotions.

Confused the hell out of me, too. I only found out the actual details by going to the forums, which I did a couple of days before the update. I wanted to be certain I wouldn’t upgrade a character I was already attached to and then find he was locked in a month’s time.

If you’re confused by this, try reading Dave Georgeson’s recent Forbes interview!

http://www.forbes.com/sites/danieltack/2013/10/02/everquest-next-landmark-is-much-more-than-a-world-builder/

Apparently we are going to end up with four full-scale, full-feature heroic fantasy, combat-oriented Everquest MMOs running side-by-side. And the demand for this is where, exactly?

10. Telwyn - October 2, 2013

As soon as I got a mini-ding on my SK (he’s still 85) I received some achievement about unlocking my heroic potential in the game – the description said I could level all the way up to 90 now (I don’t own the latest expansion hence the lower cap) so all seems to be working well.

11. Chaosrook - October 4, 2013

I was able yesterday to get my level 10 Ogre Guardian to level 85 free with this promotion. It upgraded him by a little green icon at the side of the log in screen. I will point out that I am so veryy new i have that fresh noob smell. I have only played new hallas or what ever it is called to level 20 on a barabarian before switching to the task that i fell in love to do. I once had a Hero System Character (Old pen and Paper) whom was an Quarter Giant ( An Ogre would do) platedmailed up and a two mace weilder finding the ogre quite suitable i dove into the exile path that I had learned off and finished that not but the day before this new 85 promotion showed up. so now i have a level 85 qeynos citizen ogre guadian with so many abilities that I am dumbfounded. I am quite distrought…..i am not ready for all of those abilities that i had to pick and have lost all the knowledge that i would have gained in playing the game….I am strongly thinking of either asking for them to undo it or to delete the character and do the whole 20 times betrayal quests i had to do in free port all over again…

Never provide people with a end game capable character without them first earning it…..the World of Warcraft DK is an example of how to prove your ready for a higher level starting character.

12. EQ2 Confusion | To Game For Life - October 7, 2013

[…] noticing a TAGN post, I decided to take a quick look again at Everquest 2.     Apparently, you can now create a level […]


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