The Isle of Refuge – What Do You Do With Your Own Zone?

The EverQuest II 10 year anniversary just passed, and I posted about hitting the 10 year mark myself with the game last week.

This past weekend, while taking a break from Warlords of Draenor so as not to burn myself out on it right away (a hazard as I spent the two weeks running up to the expansion binging on the game), I decided to log into EverQuest II in order to see if I was eligible for the 11 year veterans reward.

Yes, I can do simple math.  How can I get the 11 year award just days after the 10 year anniversary?

SOE, as part of the enticement to get people to buy expansions, threw in a 90 day boost to your veteran’s status with the first four expansion.  Having purchased The Desert of Flames, Kingdom of Sky, Echoes of Faydwer, and Rise of Kunark (and The Shadow Odyssey, which was the last EQII expansion I purchased, in part because I haven’t even made it into Rise of Kunark yet), I had, like many long time players of the game, an extra year on my record.  And so SOE has to be a year ahead of the game when it comes to these things.

There was also a point in time when SOE was only counting the time you were actually subscribed to the game.  I think that went in at some point after Rise of Kunark.  Up to that point the calculation was based on when you created your EQII account (or the launch date, if you were in the beta).  So, despite taking time off, I was always eligible for the latest award.  Then they got picky, people were complaining in the forums that it was not “fair” for non-subscribed time to count (I seem to recall Scott Hartsman backing that idea, but I could be wrong), and I wasn’t playing very much, so I fell behind.

With the advent of EverQuest II Extended and free to play, SOE eventually changed their minds, no doubt wanting to avoid complications, and set veteran rewards simply based on your account start date again, and suddenly I was overloaded with such items to claim.

The rewards vary in quality.  They started out as anniversary loyalty markers… you usually got a title, a house item, and a couple experience potions… then somebody at SOE thought that such awards might help with player retention and we ended up with a batch of rewards for the first two years.  There is a one day award.  Yay, you didn’t uninstall and walk away after a day with the game, have a 12 slot bag rather optimistically called “The Bag of Endless Adventure!”  I think of it more as the bag of about 15 minutes of resource harvesting, but you go with your experiences.  You can see the semi-complete reward list at the wiki.

Anyway, enough of that back story, though this post is going to be pretty much all back story and nostalgia.

I logged in with Sigwerd, a berserker and the last character I played as a “main” or sorts, and I didn’t even have to type in the /claim command to check.  There in the system messages in chat was a reminder that I was eligible for the 11 year reward.  So I typed in /claim and brought up the list.

The 11 Year Reward

The 11 Year Reward

The 11 year reward is a prestige home in the form of the Isle of Refuge.

More after the cut.  Warning, back story and nostalgia ahead.  Also, screen shots.

The Isle of Refuge (more back story) was the original starter zone for EQII.  It used the “rescued/washed ashore with nothing” RPG trope to explain your presence in the world as a full grown young adult without any belongings or a career.  Dungeons & Dragons Online, Neverwinter, Path of Exile, and any number of other RPGs start this way. Your past life was washed away (literally and figuratively) and it is time to start anew.

There were two Isles of Refuge, one that sent you to Freeport, the other that sent you to Qeynos, and where you started was picked during character creation.  This was to be a protected, new player zone.  You would learn the basics of the game, but you could only level up to a certain point, after which you had to leave the isle for the appropriate racial ghetto in your chosen city.  Once you left, you could never return.

It was an interesting place.  Thanks to SOE’s zone instancing tech, there were multiple versions of the isle running at any given time, and they tended to be pretty full up.  It was there that you learned about quests and trade skills and harvesting and the bank and combat skill and trainers and all the basics of the game.  The whole thing was pretty much on rails.  Do thing A, then B, then C, and so on.

A lot of people went through the whole thing as fast as they could.  I lingered for a while on my first run, but later learned that it was best to squeeze the maximum amount of experience out of the zone.  You could only level up to a certain point, but the excess experience would stay with you and you could get a leg up on the first few zones in your home city, which were… awkward, crowded, or something else.  I just remember it seemed like a good idea.  It was also good to get your harvesting skills boosted up there as tier 1 harvest nodes were plentiful.  And there were a couple of collection quests that were only available on the isle, so you wanted to finish those off if you could.  I knew somebody who kept an alt on the isle for years to farm those collection quests, using the shared bank slots to pass them to his main, who would then sell the pieces on the market for those who left early.

The Isle of Refuge became optional with Echoes of Faydwer, as you could start in Kelethin then, and went away entirely at some later point.  I couldn’t even find any screen shots from the old place.  By the time I was trying out EverQuest II Extended four years back, the new player experience was completely different.  Meanwhile, characters who remained on the isle found themselves in a bit of a bind.

So, with a full zone now unused in their back pocket, SOE decided to reward the old timers who would remember it by giving them a copy.  Only one copy though.  Unlike a lot of veteran’s rewards, which ended up becoming one per character (though most of them had 3 uses only in the past, then we all got a ton of alts and SOE eased up on that) the Isle of Refuge looks to be just one per account.

I had to think for a minute about who I wanted to have the isle.  But then I figured I wasn’t playing currently, didn’t know when I was ever going to come back and play, so I might as well go with Sigwerd.  Besides, if I really want another copy of the isle, it is available for station cash.

Item of the week - your own island!

Item of the week – your own island!

So I claimed it and then went through that moment of confusion where I tried to find it in my bag, forgetting yet again that rewards show up in a packing crate that you need to unpack.  I finally found the crate, unpacked it, claimed the home, and then ran over to Qeynos to the prestige home portal in order to activate it.  I am not sure why there is that last step.  One you do that, it is in your housing window and you can teleport straight to it.  But for that first time you have to go to a specific geographical location in a big empty city.

Anyway, it was claimed.  I had a copy of the Isle of Refuge.

The access panel

The access panel

Now, what to do with it?

There was another pack that had some NPCs and a few of the animals that used to populate the isle back in the day.  You also get a few goblins, the main foe on the isle.  There is a depth of details as to what you get over at EQ2 Wire.  You can place those around, as you can in any house in EQII.  I spread them out near the dock where we all used to start back in the day.

I placed him and made him extra large

I placed him and made him extra large

But the few items you get, cute though they may be, are barely a drop in the bucket when it comes to the Isle of Refuge.  I couldn’t say for sure how the isle compares to the island you can buy as a guild hall, but it is pretty big relative to any home I have ever had in Norrath.

Of course the wide open spaces, and the fact that you can buy more Isle of Refuge themed items in the Station Cash store, is an inducement to spend.  But I am not sure I would want to lay down the money it would require to recreate the isle back in its prime.  As Bhagpuss wrote, another decorating project I will probably never take on.  I’d like to see somebody who tried though.  The zone allows you to place 900 items, which might just be enough.  And if it isn’t, I think you can buy an expansion to that in the cash shop as well.

So I played with the items a bit, then started sight seeing.

It is a bit like an abandoned amusement park, or going back to your school years later when everybody is on summer break and the whole thing is unnaturally quiet and deserted.  Yet you can still picture what happened at various locations, the points where you got in trouble or got a great drop or formed an ad hoc group to conquer a particular quest.

And it is all there.  The little instance in the basement of the tower where you learned some trade skills, the cave over by the tree house where the last encounter happened, or the little shack on the bay where you turned in your collection quest and wrapped up your time on the isle.  I rode around for a while, looking at all the bits of the past, the locations where things happened, where quests were, where NPCs used to stand.

It is a nice touch, and example of SOE playing the nostalgia card well once again.  They can manage that like no other when they put their minds to it.  I think only Jagex, which has done a lot of nostalgia related things with RuneScape is in the same league on that front.

So I have an island of memories sitting around.  I am not sure what I will do with it, if I end up doing anything with it.  But there it is, waiting for me to get nostalgic and come back for a peek.

Some pictures from the isle.

5 thoughts on “The Isle of Refuge – What Do You Do With Your Own Zone?

  1. C. T. Murphy

    I really loved doing the Isle. I loved that it was a relatively short experience that explained, but didn’t overexplain.

    It’s good to see the zone get some love again!


  2. bhagpuss

    I haven’t claimed my free one yet. Must do that. For reasons too complicated and ridiculous to explain I’m subbed and doing the new expansion (top class it is too) on the five-year old account I made when EQ2X was a thing.

    When my sub on the 10 (11) year old one runs out in December I plan on letting it go F2P and keeping the younger one as my primary account. The combination of losing Vet credit if not subbed and the specter of the PSS1 deal and the hazy situation on grandfather rights kept me from dropping it before but now there seems no reason not to chop and change as necessary. Famous last words no doubt.

    I’m certain someone is working on a complete and faithful recreation of the IoR right now. Like you I look forward to seeing it but it’s not going to be my project.

    The other reason I haven’t yet gotten around either to decorating my SC copy or claiming my free Vet one is that I’m spending an hour or two on the Isle of Refuge every day. It’s the starter area and daily quest hub for the expansion. SOE really pulled out the stops on nostalgia for Altar of Malice, what with the Isle of Refuge, grimlings and Akheva from Luclin, a main plot involving the Shissar, not to mention the Brokenskull Pirates from all the way back in Legacy of Ykesha.

    Oh and Captain Varlos, who ferried us all too and from the island, turned out to be a dragon in disguise. Questgivers keep mentioning it in passing as if I should know all about it but it was news to me. I imagine it happened in a raid zone somewhere, when my attention was elsewhere.


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  4. Jaybird

    Good article except this part “And it is all there.”

    It’s not all there, they left out a whole section of the island on the left where a bunch of goblins and wolves were and the quest where the guy was stuck up the tree. I was very disappointed in that.


  5. Pingback: EQ2: Returning to the Isle of Refuge – Aywren Sojourner: Gaming and Geek Life

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