My Mighty Norrathian Mercenary

Mercenaries became part of EverQuest with the Seeds of Destruction expansion, which came out back in late 2008.  So as a feature they have been around for a bit over a decade, or more than half of the life of the game.

Where is Firiona Vie?

However, at that time and going forward my relationship with EverQuest was largely nostalgia driven, with my largest concerted effort being around the Fippy Darkpaw era, back when SOE still seemed tentative on the whole retro server idea. (As we saw last week, Daybreak is now all-in on that.)  That was a little over eight years ago.

I did tinker with mercenaries a bit.  When EverQuest went free to play… for live servers at least… an event that is now seven years in the past… a few of us rolled up characters on the brand new Vox server.  There I ran the tutorial with quite a crowd of people.  There is even a screen shot of me in that post with a mercenary.

Healer with a big stick!

And while mercenaries have changed and been upgraded over the years… they got their own gear then their own AA points… I never fully appreciated how strong they can be.

Nor how… uh… varied they can be

That is because I have been foolishly using them in a support role.  My characters on the Vox server tend to be tanking class, so naturally their mercs have been healers.  That seemed the obvious route to me.  I did the same think in EverQuest II when I was last there, traveling around with a healing merc in tow.

Now I am beginning to see the folly of my ways.  My thinking was that I might not be able to trust the game to tank for me, but healing seemed like a simple programming task.

For this last run at EverQuest I rolled up a cleric.  Not a tank this time, but a plate wearing, shield bearing, healer than could take a hit.  I figured I might need that weight since I decided part way into the tutorial to hire a merc to tank for me.  I was a cleric after all, I figured I could keep him alive, at least long enough to be able to run away.

Running away has never really been an issue.  At first I was careful where I went with my merc and, as such, his durability seemed unsurprising.  I never had to heal him.

Fighting safe blue mobs in the Paludal Caverns

Then, when running the Plane of Knowledge armor quest in Nek Forest, I got in range of the hostile guards on the bridge.  They are linked, so pulling one gets you all four.  I figured that would end badly, a reaction that spiked when I saw the sergeant of the guard con’d red to me.

The /con mechanic now nicely gives you the level of the mob, and the sergeant was level 25, while I was only level 17.  I figured I would try to keep the merc alive, but was pretty much resigned to running for the book back to the PoK.

But my merc didn’t have any problem with the encounter.  I didn’t even need to heal him.

A bit later, when I found the greater wisps I was there to slay and they began to pile on… wisps are social and assist their fellow wisps when attacked… I was able to walk a ways away and sit down to meditate when I was out of mana.  My merc was handling a dozen at level mobs, no problem.

But the clincher was the armor quest that sends you off to Permafrost.  I was about level 22 at that point and stumbled into a level 40 frost giant.  Again, the merc was handling it.  And the second one as an add.  I think the fight would have ended well had I not stepped into range and had one of the giants turn and one-shot me.  Oh well.

My tanking merc isn’t perfect.  Just last night, at level 28, I took the level 30 daily hot zone quest which sent us off to the Crypt of Dalnir on Kunark.  That was going pretty well.  The mobs were at level or a few levels above, with one level 35 mob along the way.  Things only went south when my merc went off to chase a runner who resisted my root spell and ended up with a half a dozen more adds.  They managed to kill me before he could taunt them all off of me.

Still, I was being a bit reckless in the crypt and ending up with trains like that isn’t exactly a new thing in EverQuest.

More care on the second run paid off

I suspect, however, that my success with my merc tank might be related to being in older content not correctly scaled to match him.  I suspect as I get higher level… depending on how far I take this trip in Norrath… things might not go as easy.

But now I am a bit bummed I didn’t roll up a druid or a bard.  Having to run across zones in Norrath makes me miss Spirit of the Wolf or Selo’s.

5 thoughts on “My Mighty Norrathian Mercenary

  1. bhagpuss

    I think mercenaries are the single best addition to both EQ and EQ2 SOE ever made. That said, they are crazily OP at low and even mid levels, but in games of that age, where there’s next to no opportunity to group at those level ranges, that’s a good thing. People who don’t like it can just not use them and those who do can enjoy themselves without getting in anyone else’s way.

    I used the tank merc for a long time with my Beastlord. I swapped from a healer because the Merc can hold agro whereas the BL’s Warder can’t (or couldn’t then – that might have changed). Being able to stand behind the mob and melee without getting hit worked pretty well and I could patch heal the Merc as needed. By the time I got into the 80s, though, that was becoming increasingly risky and I ended up swapping back to the cleric. I really couldn’t risk not having that rez on tap. At lower levels, though, the tank is a real beast.

    I wonder what the others are like? I’ve never tried the Wizard or the Rogue. In fact, there might be others too by now. Been a long time since I thought to check.

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  2. Isey

    I have never played with a Merc. Not once. The cost per hour irks me for some reason (unless I misunderstood the cost structure?)

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  3. bhagpuss

    @Isey Allakhazam, which has a great guide on Mercs, says “There is a platinum cost associated with purchasing a mercenary. There is also a smaller recurring charge associated with upkeep (charged every 15 minutes). You can see the costs before hiring them. The amount you’ll pay should be recoverable through normal experiencing and vendor-loot drops. Your merc will start costing you 2g every 15 minutes at level 14. ”

    I have always found that cost to be absolutely trivial. At every level you will earn more in drops from the mobs you kill in five minutes than it costs to hire your Merc for an hour. Even at higher levels a single gem like a blue diamond will pay your Merc’s costs for the whole session. That does vary a bit from zone to zone as we all know drops vary hugely but in the places I’ve been hunting it’s been absolutely no problem at all.

    Mercs are completely game-changing in EQ in that they effectively turn it into a single-player solo game for almost any class for the first 70 levels or so. And a very fun solo game it makes, too. They are also superb for people who duo – two players, two mercs can do pretty much anything in terms of leveling.

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  4. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Bhagpuss – I don’t know, I find the “insert coin” every 15 minutes to be a bit oppressive.

    You can find drops that will cover the cost, but with inventory space being critical early on and having to buy spells with my cleric, I had to keep my merc suspended as much as possible to stay solvent. The problem is that at lower levels you can find those 2p drops if you know what they are, but they’re mixed in with those drops that still vendor for a couple of copper to a few silver.

    Now I “solved” this problem by buying a Krono and then reselling it for plat. Now my cleric is beyond money worries on that front, though now I must fight the temptation to twink via the Bazaar with my new found wealth.

    This is the opposite of the way things have gone for me in EQII. There I always have money because the market is accessible and selling things is easy. (To me at least.) There is probably a post to be had in that, comparing the market in EQ versus EQII.

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  5. Telwyn

    I only use a merc in EQ2 when playing heroic dungeons solo, Kluuron’s battle res is so useful to avoid an accidental boss mechanic death turning into a length run back to the current fight. He pairs wonderfully with my SK, not so well with my Inquisitor mind. I’ve only done the tutorial of merc’s in EQ, though it seems even from that it would be quite a game-changer.

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