The (Over?) Power of Mercenaries!

Still infused with our fresh wave of EverQuest nostalgia, Potshot and I were out of the tutorial and in old Norrath again.  My warrior and his bard were both level 11, we each had a mercenary in tow, and we wanted to see how we might fare in the world.

It is a big world, and where to go is always a challenge.  And this all the more with the Plane of  Knowledge available to us, since we can drop in on so many places without much travel time.  But without a lot of time to invest in researching where we should go, it had to be some place obvious.

The game itself suggested Blackburrow when we hit level 11, which seemed kind of low level.  I suggested West Karana, which has a variety of things to go after, and Potshot agreed.  It is one of those classic zones where nobody ever hangs out.

West Karana all on One Map

(Map image from Phoenix Dragoons site)

My thought was bandit camps.  That was something of a known quantity for us after last year on the Fippy Darkpaw server.  And though we were a level or two up on where we were when we started on bandits back then, adds and aggro management was still a danger to us at our level.

So we waded into the bandits.  First in the smaller groups that are on the plains around the farm, then later into the larger groups up in the hills.  And we were pretty much invincible.

Bandit Problems? Call Mercs R Us!

We went through a few rounds of clearing out bandit camps, including spawns with the ever annoying (and often deadly), casting bandits.

Basically, any time we were coming up short, the mercenaries picked up the slack.

It was nice to see that my mercenary, the healer, would not only heal Potshot and myself, but would also heal Potshot’s tank mercenary along with herself.  In fact, there were times when we seemed to be somewhat superfluous to the fight.

In the picture above, we had managed to pull the whole camp of bandits.  That looked like trouble.  But my merc pulled aggro on the whole group by healing me and ended up off tanking everything while just standing there healing once in a while.  Meanwhile, Potshot’s merc was doing more damage than either of us.  I tried to look effective by taunting so I could at least tank one of the bandits.

At more than one point in these fights it looked like we could have just stepped back and let the bots clean things up.  There were a couple of fights where us focusing on the right bandit first, like the level 12 casters, needed our involvement.  But we clearly had to screw things up mightily to worry about a wipe.

After demonstrating clear mastery over bandits, I ran us over to the farm fields to chase scarecrows. (Scarecrows were one of my early favorite models.  I like light shining out of their faces and the way they move.)

Here, due to bad placement and wide ranging scarecrow movement, we ended up taking on three scarecrows in a chain.  We never had to face more than two at once, but these were mobs were red to us.

Scarecrow in West Karana

And while I was nervous going in, especially when we started getting adds, we ended up knocking off the scarecrows without much drama.  The mercenaries kept us going, again doing the healing and most of the damage.  I managed to taunt well enough to tank and pretend I was making a difference, but I was pretty sure again that we could have gone off for tea and the mercs would have cleaned up for us.

The experience was pretty good though.  I was seeing 12% of a level from each scarecrow.  That got me well into level 12 and tipped Potshot into that level as well.

We did eventually meet our match.  A wandering spirit roamed by us, looking like four wisps glued together in two pairs, and I immediately tagged it, only to find we were taking serious damage from it without doing much of our own.

I quickly googled the mob and found it on Zam and found that it was level 25.  I suppose here was the test.  It was pretty clear that we were not going to be able to bring it down, but we hung around in the fight long after we should of to see how long we would last.  In what I would call a 7 minute battle (estimating methodology: take how long the fight seemed and cut that time at least in half, because people always over estimate) the mercenaries covered for us and stayed up until the healer ran out of mana.  And then it was slow death, all of us dropping one by one.

The mercenaries went down first.  Then, when we finally decided it was high time to leave, we could never quite get away as the wandering spirit would root us.  So we died too, a full wipe.

We were then back at the Plane of Knowledge, where Potshot discovered he lost a level.  So we ran out quickly and got that back before calling it a night.

This was my first real “out in the world” use of mercenaries in EverQuest.  They seem pretty powerful, considering we were using a pair of apprentice mercs. I suspect that this will even out some as we level up.

Now we just have to figure out where we should go in the world with this group to get us in range of the Lost Dungeons of Norrath content.

Norrath is such a big place and there are so many choices at any level.

10 thoughts on “The (Over?) Power of Mercenaries!

  1. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    As an addition to the post, I would have to say I was disappointed in the drops we got in West Karana. Not one piece of defiant gear showed up. I suspect, as always, the ongoing conspiracy against Qeynos and its nearby zones. SOE has been plotting against Qeynos since day one!

    Also, I am seriously considering the Station Cash item that lets me rename my mercenary.

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  2. Pid

    If they haven’t changed anything since 2010, the mercs are way overpowered until the 40’s and still overpowered into the early 60’s. You will need a group again once you get into the 70’s. You can have a full group with just 3 players and 3 mercenaries though.

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  3. Troy Christensen (@ShalimarTroy)

    Both Everquest and Everquest II has been basically destroyed by overpowered mercenaries. I am a solo only player and the mercs have or should have been the greatest benefit to me and players such as myself, but they have actually stolen the thunder. The mercs in Everquest II make my toons look like their slaves, and the amount of healing or dps that the mercs can pump out is outrageous. It is a well known fact that both games have over the top mercs, yet Sony blindly extolls their virtues. Sadly, it just cheapens the overall feel of the game.

    I think it is a way to dumb the overall experience down and promote the use of Sony Cash to further augment the characters. At one time EQ was a hardcore game, but those days are over with.

    Of course the argument could be made that no one is forcing me to play with them, but in a MMO when the world is alive with other players you have to stat competitive or end up buying gear from the other guy who uses every advantage in the game.

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  4. bhagpuss

    I’ll put the counter-opinion to Troy. As a very long-time EQ player, I rate the addition of mercenaries as my single favorite addition to the game ever. Mrs Bhagpuss and I got a full six months brand-new content out of them when they arrived, first doing dozens of zones we’d never done before and later leveling up new pairs of characters into the 50s and 60s in all kinds of places we’d done only in full groups years before.

    Yes, they are overpowered. That’s the best thing about them. It’s not 2001 any more and I like having the option of doing it the hard way OR the easy way. I do both, depending on mood. I’m very glad EQ isn’t a hardcore game any more (not that I ever really thought it was, not the way I played it).

    As for where to go at 12th, I’d go to Kurn’s for a bit and then wander round Kunark. Or there’s always Crushbone or The Warrens.

    And in my experience Defiant Armor is as rare as hen’s teeth and has been for a long time. Once it used to drop like autumn leaves but they put a stop to that ages ago.

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  5. Gazinnia

    With all due respect, why on earth would a self described solo only player need to “stay competitive” (itself a dubious concept in a pve game)?

    /boggle

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  6. sikkun

    The newer zones are going to gear you better than any classic zone because they have quest tuned for that. As for mercenaries they are needed. Right now you are playing on vox experiencing a rush of new players. A couple months ago if you wanted to level up a new character you either get someone to PL you or use your mercenary. Once you are at the high end of the game though real players are stronger than the best mercenaries that often make very very bad choices.

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  7. Facepalm

    I’ve never experienced EQ, I guess I just missed out on that era. Is it worth jumping in and trying now that its F2P? Or is nostalgia the only real driving factor? Just curious…

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  8. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Facepalm – EQ is a strange mix of old and new. It is a themepark, though more in the proto-themepark stage. If you find people to group with, it is fun. But that goes for a lot of games.

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  9. wizardling

    Late to the party – but yeah, I just took a SK through the entire Crescent Reach and Blightfire Moors quest lines (no tutorial – it’s boring after the third or so time, but is worth doing as a first timer) solo with an Apprentice tier V (lower tiers have weaker abilities and run more often when faced with multiple mobs) healer merc.

    The only thing that killed me before I could run away was the Moors boss ‘Defan the Watch Captain’, but only because a) he ports you back to him if you try to disengage, and b) he spawned about a hundred bats and I was unprepared to halt the bat spawning the first time around.

    Well actually I did die a couple other times, but those don’t count (LOL – no really! You believe me, don’t you? ;-) ) as it was me being bloody minded and seeing how close to the edge I could get. The answer to that question is about a dozen yellow mobs very, very slowing winning a war of attrition vs my merc’s absurdly high mana supply and regen.

    Goodness knows what a Journeyman merc that doesn’t run would be like. You only get tier I Journeyman mercs so they get scared easy, but I have tried them, and so long as they hold fast, their healing is nothing short of godly overpowered.

    In other words the only way to die with a merc before 60ish IME is to get trapped with no way out, or to be silly (no, brave!) and stay well past the point you ought to have run.

    If you ask me mercs should be only as strong as a player wearing level appropriate defiant gear. Right now they’re worth three to four well equipped players with their absurdly high armour, mana, HPs and regen. That’s just silly. Mercs ought to be a leg up, not an I Win button.

    Side note: it’s a shame we can’t gear our mercs, though that would probably lead to them becoming God Mode for EQ :-D

    Anyway – one final word regarding much hated (by me anyway – Defiant feels horribly dull. I always get excited about stat item drops on Fippy. Almost never on regular) homogenising defiant armour drop rates in old zones – I’ve found I tend to get about one piece per two levels gained, which leads me to me being fully kitted out (though obviously with a range in gear quality) by about level 30, if only grinding, and not questing.

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