I took a little time away from fretting over the logistics of getting myself and some ships down to Curse to look at SOE’s new idea for EverQuest II.
The SOE plan is to sell level 85 “heroic” characters for the low, low price of 3,500 Station Cash. (~$35 at the normal cost of SC, but as little as ~$12 if you wait for one of those Triple SC sales.) They are selling them right now. And, for the moment, they are also giving away free samples. Between now and at least October 15th you can test drive a heroic character for free.
In some ways this is both a dream come true for some players and an out for SOE who has a game where the current cap is level 95. If you want to join your hard core EverQuest II pals, you no longer have to grind through a lot of lonely levels to see the newest (and presumably the best) content and play with your friends.
According to the SOE Heroic Character FAQ:
In response to both former and current player feedback, we wanted to provide an opportunity for players to return to EQII without worrying about an overwhelming level gap. We’ve also been asked by all kinds of players for a way to try out high-level classes before committing valuable time to leveling one.
Being an old and extremely lapsed EQII player… I have a few characters in the 50s and one up in the 60s… I had to try this out.
The first question was how to take SOE up on the offer. You can either try this as a fresh character, or you can apply the jump to level 85 option on one of your current characters.
Being a long time SOE customer, I was pretty sure that if I applied this to any current character that the whole thing would be irreversible or that it would forever taint that character. And while I am not overly enamored of my characters… nor am I likely to ever really play them again except to show up in the game once in a while to remind myself again why I stopped playing… I figured the safest option was just to get a fresh heroic character.
(I do find it amusing that, according to the FAQ, if you upgrade a character, you get a potion renaming. Presumably this is to hide the shame of having created a store bought character or some similar perceived stigma.)
I hit the button and created a freshly minted heroic dwarven berserker. And he was indeed in possession of heroic stats and equipment, certainly relative to any other character I have.
He got the full set of supplies as outlined in the FAQ, which include.
- A set of Level 85 weapons
- Level 85 jewelry
- Level 85 armor
- 20 Food and Drink
- Ammunition for Fighter and Scount Ranged Weapons
- 6 24-slot bags
- Variety of Potions
- A Pegasus Mount
I do not think any of my EQII character ever, at any level, have been so lavishly equipped. You also get 280 AA points, pre-populated for your convenience. (If you want to set them yourself, you have to pay the 3,500 SC.)
I was particularly happy with the abundant bag space. And there was a flying mount, which was a nice touch.
Of course the flying mount also represents the same mixed blessing that it does in every game. It is super nifty cool to be able to fly around and explore, but it completely takes the wind out of any concept of space or travel in the open world. And SOE’s latest stay mounted compromise, where your mount disappears as you enter combat and shows up as soon as it is over is… odd. I am sure I would get used to it in time, but I feel strange having the frilly Pegasus mount show up under me just after I finish my latest murders.
And I certainly was not alone aboard a frilly Pegasus mount. Once I rolled up my character I was dropped into the Great Divide zone (third instance) with a dozen or so similarly mounted characters around me. Heroic characters were quite the thing according to reports.
Now, of course, the question is how much of this is novelty, with people like me showing up to kick the metaphorical tires, and how much of this represents people eager to return to playing (and paying) in Norrath?
So there I was in a zone… a snow zone, which meant it looked like pretty much every other snow zone in the game… seriously, I though I was outside of New Halas at first… and wondering what to do next.
There is something of a tutorial going on as you wander around, but it seems aimed at people who are either new to the game (but not MMOs) or who have forgotten a lot more about the game than I have at this point. So I started ignoring those and went off to grab a quest to see how heroic this new guy really was.
And the answer was, “Pretty darn heroic indeed.” Look at this shot of him absolutely destroying a level 89 mob with one of his attacks.
Clearly, basic survival in the field was not going to be an issue. I actually had to walk up to a mob to get that picture, as I was one-shotting everything with my bow if I tried to pull mobs at range. And, if I this whole heroic character thing became suddenly super engaging to me, I had the post from Karen Bryan, perhaps the most serious correspondent Massively has, about what to do with your new heroic character bookmarked.
How to do it though… that was the key. What I most feared came to pass.
One of my complaints about EverQuest II is that SOE apparently cribbed their underlying philosophy from my mother-in-law, going with the idea that “Too much is never enough” or “Nothing exceeds like excess!”
So you have, in my opinion, too many races, too many classes, too many cities, too many crafting recipes, too many crafting ingredients, too many chat channels, too many AA trees, and, far and away worst of all, too many damn player skills.
And the skill thing has actually gotten better over time. There was a point when not only were there too many skills, but they had too many different names as upgrades to skills were called something completely different and even, at times, had different icons which was often shared by another unrelated skill.
But there are still way too many skills. And this is the reason I went with the berserker class. I have four other berserkers in the game, so it was my hope that some mild familiarity with the class would help. I also, hoping against hope, thought that maybe SOE would have a plan to deal with this.
And SOE does have a plan. It just isn’t a very good one.
When you start off you have only one hot bar exposed with some of your combat skills on it. Given how quickly I was killing stuff, I probably could have made due with one hot key. All of your other skills are on additional, but still hidden, hot bars, which get mentioned as you progress. Your skills are pre-populated in… an order of some sort. Not the one I would have chosen, but I think in this I was handicapped by having played the game, but not recently.
So I ended up exposing a pile of hot bars to figure out my skills and ended up being annoyed when I couldn’t find certain things either in the hot bars or in the skill book. For example, what happened to that skill that starts the heroic opportunity cycle? I could not find it. Did they kill that feature?
Anyway, it was the morass of skills that took the wind out of my sails. There is a reason that, every time I come back to EverQuest II, I create a new character. It is simply easier to get back into the game that way, picking up skills in a somewhat organic fashion rather than trying to decipher the huge set of skills you left off with last time and which have been changed since.
Well, that and the fact that my UI seemed to be having issues. I had to kill off the old EQ Maps addon because it was using an incompatible version of the map xml. And then my experience bar seemed to have expanded itself off the right side of the screen, pushing some of the controls off the edge with it. I don’t think this was related to EQ Maps, as it was fine last week when I patched up and got into game in anticipation of this update.
So, all in all, I wasn’t sold on the idea. I was certainly done with it in about an hour.
But I am, by my own admission, hardly the ideal target audience.
Borrowing a term from EVE Online, if there is a “bitter vet” class of SOE customers, I am pretty sure I fall into it. I started playing EverQuest on day one and EverQuest II on day four if I recall right. (November 13, 2004) I have many fond memories and consider myself a fan of both games, and yet I have trouble finding any joy in playing either game at this point. When overcome by nostalgia, I can get a quick fix by starting a fresh character and running through some older zones. But by level 20 or so the novelty wears off and the weight of the years and all the changes and updates and compromises begins to take its toll. And somewhere after level 40 I feel lost in the world and tired of the game, which starts to become an alien place to me.
In EverQuest II, the game starts to fall off for me at Desert of Flames, so punting me up another 30 levels and dropping me into the very generic looking Great Divide was never going to be a winning proposition to start with. All of the rest was just icing on this cake of woe. Even the changes to equipment unlocks haven’t helped all that much.
But for people without such a history with the game, this might be an opportunity. If they have some friends playing and can sink their teeth into the path to level cap and spend the time deciphering the myriad skills that come with the level, this could be a winner.
I am watching how other people respond to this new-ish initiative. (*cough* Death Knights *cough*)
So far I have seen:
- Bio Break – EverQuest 2 – The Curse of Insta-85
- GamingSF – EQ2: heroic characters offer a whole new world
Have you given this a try? What did you think?