A tale of 2004 and all that.
Actually, the request was for a guide to the Thundering Steppes, but guides are not my stock in trade. At least not on such short notice.
The Thundering Steppes in EverQuest II will always be that first “dangerous” and “new” zone for me.
It was late November 2004 when we started venturing into the Thundering Steppes. Our guild started in Qeynos, and by that time Antonica was a familiar place.
Our small group was around level 17 when we went through the big gates at the eastern end of Antonica. It was daylight, and we found a road ahead of us. The feeling, to me, was very much like being in EverQuest when I first ventured out of the Qeynos Hills and into the Karanas.
Part of this is natural, as the Thundering Steppes encompass some of what was once Karanas. It has some of the same features, like an obvious road through it, towers visible along the way, and even wizard spires.
And it has big mobs.
In Antonica, as it was back in the Qeynos Hills, mobs tended to be human size or smaller. But the Thundering Steppes, like the Karanas, has a lot more variety in size. Giants. Griffons. Centaurs. Even the skeletons come in the large, economy size.
And to add to the Karanas feel, there were scare crows, giant beetles, and even some bears. (Though not as many as there are now.)
Of course, back in December 2004, the spires were still broken, there were no griffon towers, and a lot more of the mobs were heroic encounters.
We walked up the road, undead on one side, gnolls on the other, and giant beetles up ahead. That first venture did not last long. We were scared. Our equipment was poor, this being the early “wear what drops” days of the game, and even the solo encounter mobs proved to be tough. We ran back to Antonica for another level or two before we came back.
This was the first zone where we fell back into the EverQuest normal mode of grinding mobs for experience. There were plenty of quests, but most of them were either annoying (book quests? shoot me now!) or required a group to handle them.
This was the first zone that felt epic. Huge. Dangerous.
And the guard towers were barely staffed. Only one of them offered any safety.
Not too long after we came to grips with this zone and were working through access quests to the Enchanted Lands and Zek, the Thundering Steppes went through a series of tweaks. For a stretch the Steppes became a very solo friendly zone. Then it got dialed back and forth for a bit until it settled down to the mix you find there today, which still has many heroic encounters, but is much more solo friendly than it was on day one.
Unlike my EverQuest screen shots, which disappeared with a bad drive some years back, I still have a collection of shots from the early days in the Thundering Steppes, a selection of which you will find below.
Nomu in the fields of the Thundering Steppes. That scarecrow must be looking the other way.
Gaff and I, doing the “Mini-me” routine. That is the original Tier 3 plate armor look. My oven mitts were a rare drop as I recall. Gaff made all our armor once we decided we could no longer get by with drops. I went to alchemy and made all the inks and warrior skills.
Gaff in a fight with some gnolls. Those are the original, pre-Splitpaw gnoll models.
Gaff putting the AOE taunt on a centaur encounter. The cents were ALL heroic encounters back in those days.
In the ravine of the undead that runs through the zone, Gaff taking on a skeleton. Like the centaurs, all skellies were heroic back then.
Gaff suffering from the dreaded “30 degree angle” bug. Here he looks like a fridge magnet stuck to the wall of the ravine.
Same bug, with him hanging out over the ravine.
Gaff square dancing with a griffon.
And, finally, proof that I did more out there than take pictures of Gaff getting beat on. Here he is actually being healed by me!