In EverQuest II there have been a number of different variations and restrictions on travel throughout the realms. There have been enough changes as to make you wonder if things might not have gone better if they had kept most of Norrath a single continent.
In the beginning there were bells. There were bells in the city to allow you somewhat easier travel between all of the many zones that make up Freeport and Qeynos, including the tier 1 adventuring zones. Then there were bells on the docks in the Thundering Steppes and Nektulos Forest that would allow you to move between the two or reach zones like Feerrot or Zek (from the Thundering Steppes dock) and the Enchanted Lands (from the Nektulos Forest dock).
However, those zones with bells in Thundering Steppes or Nektulos Forest, like the Enchanted Lands, were restricted. You had to reach a certain level (30 in the case of EL) or complete a rather challenging quest for early access. Fortunately for me, the busy alchemist, either your trade skill level or your adventuring level were all you needed, so I had access to these zones before I could adventure in them. (Which did not stop me from doing the Zek access quest. I did not know that trade skill level worked at the time.)
There were still other bells in some of these zones to get you further along into additional zones. For example, on the far side of the Enchanted Lands there was a bell to Lavastorm that was guarded by a group of mobs. If you couldn’t survive at least running past them, you could not go to Lavastorm.
Then, once you opened up these zones via quest or level, you could buy a very expensive (at the time) ticket in Qeynos or Freeport to get there, thus avoiding the long run from town to either Thundering Steppes or Nektulos Forest.
Well, the tickets travel were expensive (at least back in those days, when spending a gold for travel seemed like a huge waste), so SOE came up with another plan. There was a smuggler ship that would sail you to these zones at a discount price. The catch was that, rather than instant travel, you were transported onto a ship and had to fight mobs that spawned on the ship while it sailed. Then, after a fixed amount of time had passed and minimum number of mobs had died, you were teleported again to your destination.
I suppose this seemed like a good idea to somebody, but it did not last very long. There were just too many silly things about it. You teleported to a ship. You fought mobs that just appeared out of nowhere on the ship. You teleported off the ship. You did not buy a ticket. Instead, you bought an object that represented where you wanted to go, but which was labelled and identified as though it was a ticket. And, finally, the price of passage wasn’t a huge discount over the going rate at the main bell in the harbor.
Eventually we hit what I will call the rationalization of the bell system, which remains in place today. From Qeynos or Freeport you can buy a ticket to either Nektulos Forest or Thundering Steppes. From those two dock areas you can access bells to all of the other major locations.
When Desert of Flames came out, flying carpets were added to the dock areas of Qeynos and Freeport that would wisk you away to the new lands. When Kingdom of the Sky came out… I have no idea what happened initially, but I am told there are spires that run on a timer ala EQ that get you there. And the Fallen Dynasty adventure pack (which actually looks pretty neat) added another bell to the dock in Nektulos Forest.
Which brings up to Echoes of Faydwer. Boats are back. See the boat?
If you have played World of Warcraft, this boat routine might seem familiar to you.
If you did the old tutorial for EverQuest II… or did the Zek access quest… or sailed on the ill fated, previously mentioned “fight club” discount passage smuggler ships… or a couple of other things I have probably missed… the boat itself will look familiar. Does this bring back any memories?
To get to Faydwer you have to run out to the end of the dock in either Nektulos Forest or Thundering Steppes and wait for the boat to arrive. Here is the boat pulling up at the end of the dock in Thundering Steppes:
One nice thing about the boats is that when the boat is docked, the dock master will tell you exactly how long until the boat departs. You also get a message in your chat window that lets you know how long until departure when you jump aboard the boat.
In Nektulos Forest and Thundering Steppes the boat does not spend very much time in zone. The boat appears out of nowhere pretty close to the dock and zones out pretty soon after departure. This isn’t a scenic voyage, at least at this end of the trip. I would estimate that the boat spends around two minutes total in either of the two zones, with a little more than a minute of that time spent docked.
Then you zone. I wish I could say something nice about zoning in EverQuest II, but I cannot think of anything.
On arrival at Butcherblock you do get a more scenic entry. You sail through a channel, the shore on one side and a series of small islands that are clustered in the middle of what would otherwise be a bay on the other side of the ship. It is pretty and Butcherblock itself is impressive. Here is the dock:
I would guess that the boat spends no more than five minutes in zone at this end of the voyage. Add that in with the time to zone and the boats make a full circuit in under ten minutes.
When you dock in Butcherblock in one boat, you will likely see the other boat pull up or depart while you are there. I am not sure why SOE decided there had to be two boats. Thundering Steppes and Nektulos Forest are equally accessible to both factions and only a bell apart. The two boats are, of course, identicle. Here is the second boat in Butcherblock as seen from the first:
I will give SOE some points for attempting to make travel, if not more immersive, at least less immersion breaking. I always felt the bell system was something of a travel cop-out. This keeps you a little more “in” the game without going to the boat system that used to be in EverQuest. Still, it seems like a half measure. There should be a better way to travel that does not break immersion in the game and gives on a sense of travelling in a big world without making it a huge chore. Maybe Vanguard will show us something new.
And maybe SOE will get a new boat some day.