The thing about doing a set of content a second time is that it can feel very different, especially if you do it not to long after the first run. The difficulties, the confusion, the wondering where you should go… a lot of that gets smoothed out. Going into the cloud mount quest chain with a second character so recently after having done it the first time highlighted this.
The whole dynamic of the quest chain felt very different. Places where I spent long gaps of time trying to figure out how to get to a particular mob or location, I had the answers for those now. I moved quickly and efficiently during those stages on the second pass.
Which meant that areas that required patience versus knowledge stood out as they ended up occupying a much greater segment in the overall duration of the quest chain. And one segment stood out more than the rest; the Palace of the Awakened.
A lot of the cloud mount quest chain uses the standard mechanics of quests that we have grown used to over the years. Find a mob, find and kill a mob, find and kill a dozen of a mob, find and kill a type of mob for a dozen drops, and so on.
The Palace of the Awakened segment uses one of those special to EverQuest II mechanics, the collection. (Along with climbable walls, which SOE devs were in love with during that era. Climbable walls seriously out number stairs, elevators, ramps, and whatever for moving vertically in the expansion.)
Collection quests were one of those special and popular features of EQII at launch, and one that has stood the test of time. On the ground in the various zones of the world you may run across a little question mark highlighted with a sparkle effect or a little exclamation point over a document on the ground. You can pick these up and will be rewarded with a random item exclusive to that area.
Each collection needs anywhere from 3 to a couple dozen items to be completed and they reward experience, AA points, and special items on occasion. The EQII player base took to collections very well… at least once they got their own special section of the question log… and new collection quests are part of every expansion. They used to be a great way to get a few quick levels on an alt and the trade in collection items is a big part of the market in Norrath.
The only game I have seen copy the collection quest directly from EQII is Rift, and given the Scott Hartsman connection, that isn’t very surprising.
Of course, a big reason that the trade in collection items is popular in the market is that to finish a collection you either have to be very persistent in hunting for items or you have to buy the items you are missing from somebody else.
Vikund, who I spent a lot of time persistently hunting for collections with back in the day has discovered over 150 such collection quests, but has only completed 60. That percentage puts him way ahead of most of my other characters.
Anyway, the Palace of the Awakened segment of the cloud mount quest series is a collection quest. You are given the binding for a book, which is the first item in the collection and establishes it in your collection log. Then you have to go to the palace and find nine missing pages to complete the collection.
The spawn points for collection items are scattered all over the palace. The density it fairly sparse… rarely are there such points within sight of each other and almost never in the same room… and the respawn time feels longer than average, so if you want to get this done you have to roam the palace.
And for Vikund, going into this at level 61, roaming the palace was a bit of a challenge. The mobs range from level 65 to 70… and maybe beyond 70, as I couldn’t get past the level 70s… and are heroic encounters, which means they are designed for groups. Or were designed for groups from 2005. Vikund and his healing mercenary could handle things if I took everything slowly and carefully.
So he went roaming the Palace of the Awakened over the course of two days and a couple of hours.
The thing with this sort of collection quest is that the first item you find is always a winner. The spawns are random, but if you do not have any of them yet, it doesn’t matter what turns up, it will advance the collection. The second one is almost always a winner as well. And the third is likely to be too. But there is a tipping point where you start picking up duplicates. As your collection grows, your odds go down. I spent probably three quarters of my time in the palace trying to get the last two items and at least half the time trying to get the final piece.
None of which is necessarily a bad thing. The palace is heroic but manageable, so the experience was good… and all the more so since the past weekend was a bonus experience event to celebrate the new year. Vikund went in at level 61 and came out at 64. But in how the quest chain felt, I spent less than five hours working on the whole thing, but at least two hours of it were hunting for scraps of paper in the Palace of the Awakened and more than an hour of that time was spent looking for one specific piece of paper. So while my first run felt like I did a whole series of activities, the second run felt like I did the Palace of the Awakened and little else sticks out. There was less than two hours invested getting there, and it only took that long because I did some side quests, and after the palace I was done with the whole Bonemire segment of the quest chain in under an hour and back and starting at that huge pile of loot again.
Then again, the whole quest chain ends up with you finding the treasure parked pretty much right below where the whole thing started, so maybe the feeling of having spent a bunch of time elsewhere plays right into the theme of the quest.
Anyway, Vikund got his cloud mount.
I quickly put my horse back as the visible mount once that was complete, so now he has a magically gliding horse when he jumps off of high places.
And he has a the seven pieces of the Angelic Soul paladin armor that comes from the quest chain and which will keep him going well into Kunark, should I bring him out there.
I mentioned that the Frostfell armor made me feel like I was running around in my pajamas. I am not sure that the golden look of the Angelic Soul armor is an improvement. I might have to go put my ebon armor set in the appearance slots. (Because, of course, I didn’t vendor that set, I just put it in the bank next to the Frostfell armor set. See what huge amounts of bank space does to me.)
And, one side benefit of the whole Palace of the Awakened trip was that I was able to make some platinum by selling the repeat drops to people who just wanted to get past that part of the quest chain.
I remain ever impressed when I sell anything for a plat coin or more, still being stuck mentally in the old days when it was a moment of celebration to earn a whole platinum piece. So a sales day like that seems amazing to me. And those sales financed the upgraded sword and kite shield Vikund needed. So he is level 65 and stands ready to enter Kunark when the time is ripe.
That also makes him my second highest level character in EQII, behind Sigwerd, who is about 10 levels ahead. And I feel better about not opting to boost one of them to level 85. I had fun enough with the cloud mount quests and SOE just announced they are changing the insta-level option to boost people to level 90. Five more levels should I ever want that option.
And, standing at what for me is the pinnacle of my advancement through the game, it seems like my vacation in Norrath might be nearing and end. I am back to focusing more on Azeroth and there is a deployment coming up in EVE Online. But at least I can say I have finally made it into the 2007 content. (Though, technically, I did get one level in Kunark way back when it launched.)
My characters can go back into a quiet state where I just log in every so often up update their skill upgrade queue so they will be upgraded the next time nostalgia strikes.