Actually, that title is pretty much a lie. I was just on a roll with “First Impression” posts.
While the post is something of a first impression about returning to the game, it isn’t about the expansion.
I have not purchased the Chains of Eternity expansion for EQII, mostly because it is focused on characters well beyond the highest level of any of my own. I think my characters cap out in the 60s for adventure levels and in the 80s for crafting levels. So even had I purchased it, I wouldn’t have been able to do anything with the content. Life in the level based MMO lane.
Still, the launch of the Chains of Eternity expansion and my own minor reflections about the past eight years of EQII did kick off a bit of a nostalgia vibe. My post I got Gaff nostalgic for the game. And then he started chatting to me about it, which got me more interested in going back for a peek.
Such is the power of the blog. What I do influences what I write. What I write influences what I do.
I am told that the screen shots really sell the nostalgia angle.
Anyway, I patched up the game and opted in for Gold level, which means the traditional subscription. More blathering aboutthat after the cut.
Into the eight year old game.
I actually went gold because I realized that most of my characters would be naked if I did not. The restrictions on equipment is pretty onerous. And I wanted to be able to use the broker, which for me is part and parcel of the whole EQII experience.
Then I went of to discover what had changed.
It has actually been a while since I was in EQII. The instance group was there, on the Freeport server during the EverQuest II Extended experiment, for a couple months back in 2011, starting just after SOE got back online after the hacking and ending in frustration around June of that year. So going back to the game and looking at our guild roster showed most of us with about 500 days since we were last online.
Not an uncommon occurrence in a game that is eight years old. Our guild old guild on Crushbone has players who last login dates 1500+ days back. We never unguild anybody I guess. Lot of people can linger for years on guild rolls.
So things were a bit dusty and I was a bit rusty. And the first thing I was presented with was an alert that all of my alternate advancement points had be reset because they shook up the whole AA tree thing again. It was not as drastic as the pre-Storm Legion soul skake up in Rift, but it was enough to convince me that I had best pick one character and focus so I could figure out what was going on.
I picked Sigwerd, a level 42 barbarian berserker. Berserkers have always been a fun class for me in EQII, and I noticed that when he hit level 42 I outfitted him with a full set of master crafted ebon vanguard armor, plus a sword and shield, along with his legendary Journeyman Boots. That meant he was good for 10 levels before I would have to worry equipment.
The AA trees are now broken out into a couple of different groups. I had 75 AA points to spend in the traditional fighter/berserker trees. (Another reason I picked him was that he had a lot of AA points relative to some of my older, pre-AA characters.) Then I had the racial traditions to pick. The class focus skills to pick.
And then I found I had 40 new AA points to spend in a crafting AA tree. I guess being a level 75 crafter grandfathered me in or some such. There are only 45 points worth of options in that tree, 9 skills with 5 points possible in each, so it was basically “find the useless skill” and don’t spend anything there.
The only thing I was locked out of was the prestige crafting tree, which requires you own the Chains of Eternity expansion. But if I read things right, you can only earn prestige points if you are a level 90 or above crafter. I was momentarily excited by the mass production options in the crafting prestige tree, until I read that they do not count when doing crafting writs. More about crafting AA and such over at EQ2 Traders.
AA’s somewhat settled, I started looking for a mercenary.
They added in for hire NPC mercenaries a while back in EQII. They are similar to what you can find in EverQuest. I probably wouldn’t have considered one, except that I have been reading about Tipa’s adventures with her merc in EQII and decided to give it a try.
Plus, you know, you are no longer penalized for grouping!
I found the healer mercenary, a mystic named Nevis Yewkus, in New Halas and hired him. I renamed him Varius because… I dunno, Latin name I guess… and because it wouldn’t let me name him Ben Nevis for some reason.
As in EverQuest, there is a base fee to hire your merc, and then an upkeep fee every 30 minutes you have him out and about. At level 42 the upkeep fee was 50 silver every 30 minutes.
You also get a panel to control your merc.
I have always felt the pet control panel looked a little awkward. There is something about the bright button colors, a motif not used elsewhere in the UI, that bugs me. But it is simple enough otherwise. The buttons are attack, back off, protect me, protect self, go away (and stop billing me) for a bit while I do something non-killing related, and just go away forever.
So the first thing to do was to bring my equipped, AA fortified, healer supported berserker out into the field to see what he could do.
I first ran out to Everfrost and then to Lava Storm and started working my way up creatures in quest lines and such.
I found that my merc and I could handle just about any heroic encounter we came across. This included encounters that were 3-5 levels above my berserker. Things did break down a bit when I pulled four heroic groups that were 6 levels higher, but for the most part, we seemed pretty well suited to go after anything sub-epic in our level range.
Now, it is difficult to tell exactly how over-powered, if at all, my guy really is. He has decent equipment and the whole player effectiveness equation has ebbed and flowed in EQII over the years. I remember times when I could solo guys like this if I was just a few levels above him. I remember times when Gaff and I, in a guardian/templar combo, could tear up heroic encounters all day long. And I remember groups of three or four getting their asses handed to them by named mobs five levels below them.
Still, it felt like I might be more at the “over powered” end of the scale. I think all those AA points in such a low level character (42 on a scale that goes to 95) probably pushed things in that direction.
In EQII’s arcane “how tough is this monster” display system, the size and shape and thickness of the bars around the name of a mob, along with the word heroic and those up arrows, basically says that this guy is a baddass who should wipe the floor with me. (Is there a good guide to the encounter difficulty symbolism somewhere?) The little star means I have never killed him before, so I will get a special AA treat if I do, and the feather means I need him for a quest.
That last bit may be the best change to the game since I last played. Taking a hint from other games, you now get a visual indicator if a particular creature is one you need for a quest. In this case, it is the little feather icon, which gets attached to the name of mobs.
Anyway, all of this is a symptom of MMO nostalgia, which happens to me every autumn. The skies grow gray… or gray-ish… it starts to rain a bit, and I suddenly want to go back and explore some MMO world from the past.
The odd thing is that now EverQuest II fits the bill for nostalgia.
I will spend some time with the game. I will have to see how Sigwerd and his healing merc fare in dungeons or with heritage quests. You can see I am a few steps into the Saving Soles quest, which is one I have never completed before. Being over powered can be fun for a bit, and is probably better for nostalgia runs like this than for a game I am playing more seriously with our regular group.