New Nostalgia, Old Nostalgia

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.

Not sure how she pulled me ashore...

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.

This is a quest, get used to them

Looking around, it certainly had the Halas feel to it… which is to say it was all white and snow covered.

Feerrott doesn't seem so bad now, eh?

There is even a little raft to take you back and forth across the bay, just like back in old Halas in EQ.

A little more ramshackle than the old raft

There are new things.  For example, I don’t recall Halas being a haven for butterflies.

So many colorful wings in this white tundra

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.

That bar, is it new?

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.

Red and white striped armor?

Though he might look a little more fearsome if he didn’t seem to be a giant candy cane.

8 thoughts on “New Nostalgia, Old Nostalgia

  1. Buzzregog

    Glad you got rolling finally. Couple of answers.
    I think that 3rd bar you are seeing is the new Mob casting bar, not sure how useful it is unless you are raiding or on boss mobs in group instances.

    Pretty sure you can completely bypase Sinking sands and such now. LavaStorm, Lesser Faydark, and then start in on the Cloud mount questline in Tenebrous Tangle around 54 or so. One of the best new questlines they added to an old zone in the whole game in my opinion, gets you a class based suit of armor and a flying mount.

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  2. Ferdinand

    I loved the Sinking Sands. Sweeping sand dunes over a network of crocodile caves, pirate islands, sandstorms that you could surf on, djinni spires, waves crashing against endless cliffs, oasi, a lost city… and the colors. It was gorgeous, made great use of the Z axis, and was amazingly intricate.

    Maj’dul was just a cool city period (I spent hours climbing all over the rooftops). And I had a lot of fun with a long questline involving a secret society, famous lore figures who hinted at vast unexplored continents, and the lost city, which was frankly awesome to explore stealthily as a halfling Ranger. I couldn’t get enough of the exploration opportunities and the lore.

    I completely agree with you on Kingdom of Sky, though. What a piece of shit.

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  3. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    @Gaff – No Lani in sight. Both guilds, KotC and Shades of Twilight look pretty lightly used. Who is going to invite my new char into one of them?

    @Ferdinand – From an art and mechanics aspect, I agree, DoF was pretty nifty. But as a left-hand turn in the Norrath lore it really annoyed me. That and the flying carpets. I cannot forgive the flying carpets. And as I said, I got through it. But I couldn’t get through KoS.

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  4. pkudude99

    The 3rd bar is indeed an aggro meter. When solo it’s gonna always be full. and as a zerk, you always want it full in a group too. In group it will also display a number, which is “how close” the next person on the meter behind you is to taking aggro from you — if they hit 100 they take aggro from you.

    I agree with you on Sinking Sands — it looks pretty, but it’s just never “caught me” and as a result I tend to use Steamfont Mountains to get from 35-ish to 50, the EF and Lavastorm to get mid-50’s. If you don’t set your AA slider too high, then KoS’s new overarching quest line and the new quests on each island (as well as the original quests) will get you to 70 and out to Kunark in very short order, so you don’t have to spend too much time there. The class armor and cloud mount you get from the long quest line are fairly decent too, even if only for appearance.

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  5. Ferdinand

    I wasn’t around for EQ1, so I wasn’t at all invested in old lore. I was an avid roleplayer and read every scrap of lore I could get my hands on, but from my perspective, the Desert of Flames was as good a place to go for the sequel’s first expansion as any.

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  6. Lomax

    “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.”

    Yep its the SOGA model, and for some reason they’ve defaulted to this for new characters. A lot of people don’t like them, but the bigggest problem I have with the idea is that they haven’t given new players a intiuative way to swap models.

    If there were two buttons that said “Eastern” and “Western” on the character design page I think people would understand that and be encouraged to check out either look, the bonus there too would be that its ambigious whether the eastern/western is a in game reference or a outside world reference, so people could take it as part of the lore if they chose to.

    Other then that I’d heartily recommend Loping plains for an alternative place to pass level 50, its very atmospheric although a bit crammed with mobs in some areas.

    Overall I find that there are less choices to level between 50 to 70, fortunately for me I love Tenebrous tangle, but unfortunately I don’t know of a good alternative to it. Once I reach Kunark though I find I have to move the AA meter around to have enough time for all the content, that continent is superbly designed in my opinion.

    As for not being able to get all the ideal loot, I believe that’s a sign of a good fun game if your left wanting more, since an unlucky choice left you with a poor shield it does at least give you a mini quest to look for a shield :) Its actually something I don’t like about newer MMO design, they seem to want to hold the players hand too much, loot shouldn’t fit a class like a glove all the time, that to me takes away the thought that goes into gearing and makes the game feel blander for it.

    There is an arrow vendor near the end of the journey to New Halas (and I do like that journey feel, its how I like adventures to feel), I think there is also one at the first camp too, although he’s a general merchant…

    Personally I’d sift through the options and get rid of that Soga model thing straight away, it then means you don’t have to look at anyone else being that ugly too ;) Fortunately if you roll a Froglok though they look just as beautiful on either model, I guess they couldn’t improve on perfection.

    I hope you enjoy your adventures through Norrath, I think it has had a lot of good improvements over the past couple of years (that have more then offset the odd poor decisions), kind of hoping that we can keep a more distinctive Norrath from its MMO peers.

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  7. Bhagpuss

    So much has changed since you last played EQ2 it’s hardly worth trying to give you pointers if you only plan to be there for three weeks. In my opinion virtually every change has been for the better, too.

    I love the whole of the Desert of Flames expansion. It gets better every time I play through it, which I’ve done several times now, excluding the raid content of course. I have to agree with you about the flying carpets, however. I actually left my Live server mostly because of the irritation of those things getting in my way in Freeport and Qeynos. We moved to Test, where no-one seemed to have a carpet, and stayed there. Oddly the carpets no longer annoy me the way they did and I even let my ratongas ride one now and again.

    We’d already left EQ2 when DoF was first released. Having played EQ2 from mid-beta through about 6 months after launch we just couldn’t stand any more and returned to EQ1 for the best part of a year. We came back around the time Kingdom of Sky appeared and while I agree it isn’t up to the standards of DoF, there’s still a lot about it that I like.

    The expansion that I feel has worn least well is Echoes of Faydwer. I loved it on release but now I find that I can’t stand most of the zones. I positively detest both Greater and Lesser Faydark, I’ve gone right off Loping Plains and even Steamfont, which I used to love, now seems pretty tedious. Apart from Crushbone I struggle to think of an EoF dungeon I like.

    Butcherblock got a recent makeover and is now much improved, The questline from New Halas/Frostfang will send you there and given your short stay you’d be well advised to go. If you want to see New Halas before the quest line gets you there (at around level 18 or so) then you can just go up a short ramp where that raft dropped you back when you were about level 3. The one the rolling rocks are rolling down.

    Anyway, no point going on about it. EQ2 is now so rich and deep in content that it would take the three weeks you have just to outline all the options.

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