During the last week of last year I had gotten my berserker, Sigwerd, through the Kingdom of Sky expansion and into Kunark. He went out into the Kylong Plains, wrapping that up and now sits just shy of level 75 in the Fens of Nathsar.
While he is still 25 levels shy of the cap, he made some decent progress and is my highest level character now in EverQuest II. In the Norrathian expansion timeline I have nearly made it to 2008!
But in his bash through Kunark, Sigwerd had used up all of his vitality… or bonus experience… or blue bar in the parlance of Azeroth… as well as his weekly refill from the Orb of Concentrated Memories, a veyeran’s reward that is now available from the loyalty points vendor. And since I am in tourist mode… I want to see stuff, but not necessarily grind it to death… I started looking to see if there was an alt I could run around with while Sigwerd recharged. My goal was to find a character I could get to run through the cloud mount series of quests again without a lot of effort.
To do that, I needed somebody at least kind of close to level 55 or so, about the soonest you can really dig into that quest line.
My first choice was Nehru, my level 56 templar, and a copy of my very first character in game. (Copied over when EverQuest II Extended was the hot new thing and its own server. He still shows a November 13, 2004 creation date and all the play time recorded back when I used to leave him logged in to sell while I was at work, back when there was no offline selling option.)
He was right in the zone and I had even played him some in our last run through EQII way back when. He was geared up and good to go. So I got him out and gave him a try. To do this I figured I would have to work with a mercenary, as Nehru was biased towards healing. However, the rhythm of working with a tank mercenary felt really awkward and I gave up after a short time.
Which did not leave me a lot of choices if I wanted to stay on the Freeport server. I have a bunch of characters in the 20-40 range, but there was only one other character beyond those. That was Vikund, a level 49 paladin. He is a copy of my second ever character in EQII, but unlike Nehru, who got a new name and who actually got some play time, Vikund was copied over for his trade skill and was otherwise left as he was.
He was actually very close to level 50, so I quickly ran out and got that.
But from there he was struggling a bit to move forward. This appeared to be, in part, because he was geared up straight from 2005 before some gear had stats and such.
I thought I would be okay because I was at least wearing a full set of Ebon crafted armor. However, it was really, really old. Gaff made it with his character Meclin… I would guess in 2005 or so… back when the mastercrafted gear was available at 20, 30, 40, 50, etc., rather than the way it is now at 22, 32, 42, 52, etc. So I am going to guess that it did not get whatever updates eventually got applied to gear over time.
I could be wrong on that, but I was struggling some. Fights against single mobs were very slow, though that could have also been because I had no idea what my skills did. My hot bars were a complete mess. I ended up wiping them out and filling them up again, trying to apply some order to them.
My general logic is that a ranged started gets slot 1, whatever I need to do to start melee reliably (which means a skill without a cool down) in slot 2, first step and second step skills for heroic opportunities arrayed on either side of the starter (that yellow skill on 8), AOEs grouped together (alt 1 through 4), other stuff I think I might need strewn about where I will likely forget what it does when I actually need it, and buffs on bar 4, which I will scroll to should I need to re-buff… which I never need to, since most buffs are good until cancelled and persist through death.
Of course, SOE’s icons don’t always help. You will note that 4 and 9 plus 6 and 7 have the same icons, despite being different skills. A red background makes them single target damage attacks, but a couple are physical attacks, a couple are magic… because paladins… and the skill at alt 1, which has a mostly red background, is actually an AOE attack, despite other AOE attacks having a blue background. And purple is for group buffs, except for the skill at 1. There is nothing quite like having a system that you only mostly keep to.
(On the berserker side of the house, there are four skills, hate, enrage, mock, and chaos, which all use the same basic icon, three of which are taunts, which matches the “shouting at somebody” design. But chaos is a temporary group buff. Need more icons.)
And after I cleared the hot bars it took me quite a while to find the Master’s Rage skill, the special attack you get to use against mob types for which you have completed the appropriate Lore and Legend quest. The spell book is as muddled as always, which wasn’t helped by the fact that I couldn’t remember what the skill was called. I found it after I set the spell book to show all spells, sorted them alphabetically, and went through them page by page until I found it.
But now I have a system that mostly works, though I am going to have to move that long cool down big heal at alt-7 because I hit it now and again when going for the short cool down attack at alt-6.
I also decided to grab a mercenary. With Sigwerd I went with the barbarian warder as support. While that worked out well, I decided to change it up a bit and went for a mercenary in the druid line.
That meant an elf following me around and summoning plants and what not, but it wasn’t a bad change. That allowed me to get up to level 52 quickly enough where I diverted into Frostfell village (which was still up last night… how long does Frostfell last?) where I ran enough quests to upgrade my gear to the holiday set. (Also, no helm for the Frostfell set? I didn’t notice I had the ebon helm on still because I had the blue Santa cap in my appearance slot.)
It does feel a bit like I am running around in my pajamas at times, and the snowflake aura isn’t exactly a tough guy look either, but the upgrade was very noticeable. I added in a cobalt sword and kite shield, after which I was able to put away my mercenary for a while as I tore my way through the Pillar of Flames to level 55. (Also, at some point in the distant past, I got an item that applied that glowing yellow eyes look to me and I have no idea how to turn it off.)
Anyway, I got to 55 and headed up to the Tenebrous Tangle… which meant getting to some spires… where are the closest spires to New Halas? I keep going to the Commonlands… to start the cloud mount quest chain.
That went well enough.
I did not need my mercenary until I hit the Sanctum of the Scaleborn, which includes heroic mobs. I also tried to pick up a side quest now and then to run in parallel as the cloud mount quest advances in levels much more rapidly that you, as a player, do if you are running only that. Parallel quests went okay, except for one in the Sanctum of the Scaleborn which runs just fine until the very last step. At that point you discover that, if you did not complete a language quest back in the Desert of Flames expansion, you cannot finish it. I’ll have to get back to that.
I also got skunked in the Sanctum of the Scaleborn for a bit because it is an open dungeon and a group popped in with me… the first time I had seen another player doing anything beyond passing through in Kingdom of the Sky… and proceeded to jump ahead and wipe the whole place out. So I had to wait for the end of their rampage and a round of respawns. (Commence “instanced vs. open dungeons” argument.)
Those quests were still not quite enough to keep Vikund from getting ahead of himself at times. But that is why he has a healing mercenary. I think his main problem in running ahead as fast as he has is that all of his skills are at the apprentice level still, which means that they do not hit higher level mobs as often as I would like. I may have to get Nehru out again, as he is an alchemist, so he can whip up a batch of journeyman skill upgrades.
Overall, swapping out to a new character for another shot at the cloud mount quest line has been fun. It has also been a bit quicker, as I know where I got lost or confused previously. Vikund has made it past 60 already and is into the second stage of the quest line in The Barren Sky.
I was tempted to run back to Frostfell village to upgrade his equipment again, but then I started getting pieces from the Angelic Soul paladin armor set that are part of the quest line rewards. That will keep him going for a while. The question is, how long will I keep going?
I guess I can make it through this weekend. SOE is having a bonus exp event, so I should be able to get a little bit further with either Sigwerd or Vikund. But my thoughts are turning back to Azeroth. There are garrisons to maintain and alts to work on and Darkmoon Faire to run through. So much to do.