Once I actually got EverQuest II installed and running, the next big question was, “So, what am I going to do?”
Of course, all 12 of my character slots were full, which meant that I should have had plenty of characters to choose from.
The problem with that is, if I’ve stopped playing a game, and stopped playing a character in particular, there is usually a reason. I’ve usually hit a flat spot or a place where the next area in which to adventure is either not obvious or a place that just doesn’t click with me.
In EverQuest II there are so many paths to get a character to 50, which used to be the level cap way back when, and the levels go by so fast, that you feel like you cannot possibly see all the content. And then around 50 the options get spread somewhat more thin.
There is a reason I have a clump of characters in the level 49-52 range: The Desert of Flames.
It isn’t the worst set of zones ever in the history of MMOs, or anything close. It is, in fact, well put together. But as an expansion it never clicked with me. (Plus I hate seeing freaking flying carpets all over Norrath.)
I gritted my teeth and got through it once, by bouncing back and forth between it and Lesser Faydark. But I am a fan of neither and the less said about the Kingdom of the Sky, which is where you end up after those two, the better.
So my characters tend to stop at what is around the mid-game these days, level 50.
Thus, my “3 weeks until I’m back in WoW full time” nostalgia tour did not seem well served by getting one of my old characters out and trying to press through content I’ve already given up on in the past.
Fortunately, SOE has been back to the nostalgia well again, something that has generally benefited them in the past.
New Halas, the latest home city in Norrath, with an accompanying starter zone, seemed to be just the ticket.
As I mentioned above, all of my character slots were full. I could opt-in for some Station Cash and buy another character slot, or I could delete a character. Since I had two characters that were still very low level, I decided to do the deletion route. Or, to look at it another way, those were the only two characters for which I could not make a case for keeping.
Now, what to roll up and on which server?
The goal here was to have fun as opposed to filling a specific role for a group effort. (Not saying that such a role isn’t fun, but I wouldn’t focus on a dedicated healer for a solo career, as an example.) While I really enjoyed playing a swashbuckler in the past, as a solo character it is almost too powerful. With stealth and evac it can be a bit too easy to just walk past danger and avoid your mistakes if you get in too deep.
I like doing a lot of damage, but favor the armored versus the cloth wearing classes. Plus I tend to prefer the direct approach. With that in mind, I decided to go with the berserker as a class. Again.
I went with a berserker when I made Reynaldo Fabulous on Guk back when we last jumped into EQII, where we enjoyed the luxurious hospitality of the Revelry and Honor guild on the Guk server.
I did consider a Shadowknight, a class I have not played, but you cannot make one and start in New Halas. That blocked out a couple of options, so that in the end I figured I would go with a class I already knew would fill out the fun factor.
But who needs two berserkers on one server? So for where to roll the new guy, Guk was out. Plus there is some server merge activity coming up with Guk. I’m not saying that there are going to be issues, but I’d rather not take the chance when I am going to be playing for a limited stretch.
I was tempted by the Antonia Bayle server, since that was where all the cool kids went a while back, and it boasts a high population which might be enough to stave off that empty city syndrome from which EQII often seems to suffer.
In the end though, I decided that I could just go home to Crushbone, a high population server that won’t be affected by the upcoming mergers. And I have alts and access to two guilds on Crushbone. Plus that is where I started six years back. What better way to serve nostalgia?
As for the choice of race, going to New Halas dictated that I be a barbarian, of course.
I saw that the character creation process had been revamped. Rather than the list of 24 classes being popped up on the screen, SOE is back to the four basic archetypes to help guide you to a class: First you see the archetypes, then the classes represented by the archetype you chose.
The barbarian character models seemed to be much uglier and possessing odd, almost sumo-like physics than I remembered. I’ve never been a huge fan of the SOE character models (I’d be hard pressed to name a game that has character models I like that I actually want to play), but this seemed to be going over-board on the ugly front. I realized later that somehow the alternate model display was turned on for this (and only this) character and I was looking at the SOE Asia version of a barbarian.
Not sure how that happened on a fresh install.
Get him in a full suit of armor with a helm covering his head and it won’t matter much anyway.
Once rolled up, I was into the New Halas new player experience.
It is the same shipwreck story we’ve had for the last six years of course.
You wake up, standing bolt upright, with your rescuer before you.
Note the SOE Asia model hair style and build.
SOE has changed the tutorial around some. They now have some instructional pop-ups to show you how to interact with the world.
Looking around, it certainly had the Halas feel to it… which is to say it was all white and snow covered.
There is even a little raft to take you back and forth across the bay, just like back in old Halas in EQ.
There are new things. For example, I don’t recall Halas being a haven for butterflies.
Okay, so SOE re-used the same collection quests that you get at any of the other starting locations. You have the seashells, the bird feathers, and a little later, the butterflies. Still, butterflies do seem odd in this frozen land.
The game itself seems otherwise as solid as ever. Advancement is quick through the first levels, but New Halas was put together since they reworked the level curve, so you do not seem to be in danger of out-running the quests and having them go gray before you can do them. Well, at least not too badly. The quests never went gray, but some of the mobs I had to kill did.
One of the first quests you get is the challenge to get to level 20 in 14 days. Considering I got to level 15 in one sitting, that shouldn’t be an issue.
You will, however, out run your harvesting skills pretty quickly unless you get them to 20 quickly. One of the first quests you get involves some harvesting, but it won’t be enough to get you to 20 where you can harvest the next tier.
One problem with the nice little help cards that they splash up on the screen is that unless you screen shot them or memorize them, I am not sure how to get them back if you have a question.
For example, I realize it has been a while since I have been in Norrath, but I do not know what this third bar is below an NPC’s health and mana bar.
Aggro meter? Special attack power? Holiday decoration? I have no idea any more. Was that bar always there?
That I’d like it if they put a vendor with some arrows somewhere along the trail. There is a banker out in the middle of nowhere, a repair merchant, and a general vendor. But arrows? Can’t find any for sale.
I was also a bit annoyed at one quest where I had to choose between a serious weapon upgrade and a serious shield upgrade. I went with the weapon only to see that the very next quest from the very same NPC offered me a weapon with the exact same stats as the only reward.
And at some point you start wondering when you are actually going to get to New Halas proper. 15 levels, haven’t seen it yet.
But as I said, once you put enough armor on a berserker, it really doesn’t matter what he looks like inside his armor.
Though he might look a little more fearsome if he didn’t seem to be a giant candy cane.