Tag Archives: Mercenaries

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.

Through the Withered Lands

The trick with returning to EverQuest II is generally finding some task or zone I can get into, something that will keep me going for a bit.  It doesn’t have to be the latest content… as noted, I am not sure I could even find that… but something at about the right level.

As I said in last week’s post, I went with Bhagpuss’ suggestion and started out on the Days of Summer quest.  That gave me a couple days of wandering Norrath and, as it turned out, having to find and roam through some of the later expansions as part of the 2017 series of quests also brought me to some content that looked about right.

Somewhere pretty… not sure which expansion

The goal was to get my level 96 berserker into something and get him closer to level 100.  And as I went through various zones I spotted one that looked about right as a starter.  I jotted down the name as I flew through it to get the update for the summer quest.  It was The Withered Lands.

Getting the last bit for the Days of Summer quest

However, when I had finished up the Days of Summer quests and decided to go find it again with Sigwerd, my berserker, that left me wondering where it was.  I had the name, but in the whirlwind tour of Norrath I had misplaced the where.  It doesn’t appear on the big travel map.

Oh the places you’ll go in Norrath

As it turns out it is a zone from the Destiny of Velious expansion, which is from 2011, so I am still seven years behind on expansions.  You have to first travel to The Great Divide and, from the bell there hop over to the New Combine flight point.  However, there is another flight point in between you and that, so I ended up trying to wrong flight point a couple of times before I got that settled.

From the correct flight point it is a quick flight/zone transition to the zone.

The zone itself it is very linear, consisting of a long, bending canyon.

Welcome to the Withered Lands

There are two flight points in the zone, but both are only to move to other locations.  My little red arrow is where you land while the second flight point… the little set of angel wings… is the far end of the zone and the quest chains that guide you through it.

In between are a some quest hubs, done in the classical fashion where you go grab half a dozen or so quests and run out to slay or explore until you’re all done, then you run back for the big set of turn ins.

There is fast travel… or at least hands free travel, it isn’t all that fast… between the quest hubs.  Each of them has a stable stop so you can take a horse between them.

The stable stops along the way

If you have a flying mount you can move about the zone over most of the mobs.  However, there is an unassailable mob flying around the zone that will knock you out of the sky as it passes by.  When that happens you’re down in the mud and cutting your way through the locals.  So sometimes it is better to just take the horse and let the locals look on as you pass.

Can touch me on this mount!

The quests are fairly standard.  EQII does a reasonable job marking where you need to go on the mini-map, though I sometimes feel that has released the quest writers from ever feeling the need to give you a hint as to where you might need to go.  There were a few quests that involved scouting a location that was deep in a cave complex, but the only hint you got was a blue mark on the map.

And, of course, there are the usual comical oddities that come with quests and interacting with the locals.

So there are two of you now?

The zone started out a little bit below me in level.  But that was fine as it let me get back into the swing of things without having to worry too much about fighting and correct use of my combat skills.  I wasn’t one-shotting things with auto-attack, but mobs went down pretty quickly.  As I went further though, the mobs started to catch up a bit in level.  But I leveled up as well, so the experience wasn’t too bad.

As I got to the last quest hub, Alivan, I got the achievement for exploring the zone.

Been there achievement

I don’t know what it is about achievements in EQII, but they don’t motivate me the way they do in WoW, or even Rift.  I don’t know why that is.  Maybe it is because they showed up so late in the life of the game that I don’t think about them.  I am always happy when I get an achievement in WoW, even the dumb ones, but in EQII my response is always a bit of a blank look.

Of course, in WoW achievements lead to things like unlocking flying, so maybe that helps.  I am not sure.

At Alivan the quest chain ends and you are essentially done with the zone.  You get a thank you from a big dragon and you’re set.

A job done, if not well done or done well

There is, however, that flight point Aliva.  It only has one stop, and that is Skyshrine: City of Dracur.

Having no other plans, I headed off for there.  Arriving, I found it to be one of those confusing mixes when it comes to difficulty that seems to be a specialty of EQII.

The main area itself is a hub in the midst of three city segments, each populated by heroic encounters.  Those, according to the help, are supposed to be set for groups of three players.  And, sure enough, after picking up some quests and wandering out into the city, I found those encounters to be difficult enough that if I got adds I was pretty much dead.

However, EQII has a solution when you need a small group, which is good because I saw nobody else in the zone the whole time I was there. (Probably not surprising for a zone from 2011.)  The solution are mercenaries.  I had forgotten about those until I died a couple of times and was pondering what to do.  I had a mystic for a mercenary who happily buffs and heals me when he is called up, not to mention kicking the crap out of any mob that looks at me sideways.

Me and my merc

But I didn’t always need him for heroic encounters.  There is a whole series of time travel quests, which I quite enjoyed, that send you off to various instanced bits of content, which is full of heroic encounters that I could easily handle solo.  So I dismissed my mercenary, if only to give the mobs half a chance and save the 20g every 30 minutes price.

There is an overly complex method of determining the difficulty of a mob that has to do with its level, whether or not it is flagged heroic, and the decorations around its name where the thickness of the frame, the barbs, and the up arrows all indicate… something.  More is more difficult, and the mob having a name is am additive as well.

Given all that, the level 100 heroic dragon mob in the screen shot above, which is named, has three up arrows, and a barbed frame thick enough to use as a sewer pipe, ought to be pretty tough.  Certainly tougher than the one in the screen shot below.

Looking on at Ovalis… also, the Halloween event turned my weapon into a shovel, of which I approve

Ovalis there is only level 98 after all, which made him my level at the time.  He looks more on par to this other named dragon, which I did solo without a blink. (Though, admittedly, he only has two up arrows, so he is easy according to the guide.)

Another named dragon… so many

However, the first dragon, which was early in the quest chain, went down so fast I barely had time to get that screen shot, while Ovalis was a different story altogether.

Ovalis is at the end of the quest chain and might be, for all I know, the last mob before you’re done.  I don’t know because I couldn’t finish him.  He was in an instance of heroic encounters that I was able to mow down solo.  But when I got to him he didn’t have much problem taking me out.  So I got out my mercenary and took another run at him, but he took the two of us out about as easily as he did just me.

It turns out that Ovalis is actually a boss fight, unlike all of the other named heroic, graphically festooned mobs I had run across up until then.  There is a run down of his fight on the wiki, but I wasn’t able to get through it on a few tries, so I started looking around at how to up my game.

I figured out that mercenaries can now be leveled up, which opens up equipment slots on them.  So I blew about two thirds of my hoarded Station Cash… Daybreak is probably tickled pink that I finally spent some of it after all these years… and boosted my merc up to level 10.

I then went off and crafted a full set of level appropriate armor for him.  Sigwerd is an armor smith, and I had be harvesting along the way, so that was easy enough.  I also managed to get his armor smithing skill to level 100 while I did that.

There were some other open slots for my mercenary, but those seemed to be for level 100 items, so were out of reach for me.   But otherwise as well equipped as I could make him, I headed back out to the Withered Lands and Skyshrine: City of Dracur, taking the various flight points and horse runs, to get back to Ovalis in order to challenge him once again.

And after all of that I was defeat yet again, just as easily as before.

So I am just shy of finishing the Withered Lands.  There isn’t much else to do in the zone, so I am off to find the next zone to try.  There is currently a boost to experience on the server, so I would like to get Sigwerd to level 100.

But overall the Withered Lands gave me a good solid chunk of content, which is all I am asking for really.

The (Over?) Power of Mercenaries!

Still infused with our fresh wave of EverQuest nostalgia, Potshot and I were out of the tutorial and in old Norrath again.  My warrior and his bard were both level 11, we each had a mercenary in tow, and we wanted to see how we might fare in the world.

It is a big world, and where to go is always a challenge.  And this all the more with the Plane of  Knowledge available to us, since we can drop in on so many places without much travel time.  But without a lot of time to invest in researching where we should go, it had to be some place obvious.

The game itself suggested Blackburrow when we hit level 11, which seemed kind of low level.  I suggested West Karana, which has a variety of things to go after, and Potshot agreed.  It is one of those classic zones where nobody ever hangs out.

West Karana all on One Map

(Map image from Phoenix Dragoons site)

My thought was bandit camps.  That was something of a known quantity for us after last year on the Fippy Darkpaw server.  And though we were a level or two up on where we were when we started on bandits back then, adds and aggro management was still a danger to us at our level.

So we waded into the bandits.  First in the smaller groups that are on the plains around the farm, then later into the larger groups up in the hills.  And we were pretty much invincible.

Bandit Problems? Call Mercs R Us!

We went through a few rounds of clearing out bandit camps, including spawns with the ever annoying (and often deadly), casting bandits.

Basically, any time we were coming up short, the mercenaries picked up the slack.

It was nice to see that my mercenary, the healer, would not only heal Potshot and myself, but would also heal Potshot’s tank mercenary along with herself.  In fact, there were times when we seemed to be somewhat superfluous to the fight.

In the picture above, we had managed to pull the whole camp of bandits.  That looked like trouble.  But my merc pulled aggro on the whole group by healing me and ended up off tanking everything while just standing there healing once in a while.  Meanwhile, Potshot’s merc was doing more damage than either of us.  I tried to look effective by taunting so I could at least tank one of the bandits.

At more than one point in these fights it looked like we could have just stepped back and let the bots clean things up.  There were a couple of fights where us focusing on the right bandit first, like the level 12 casters, needed our involvement.  But we clearly had to screw things up mightily to worry about a wipe.

After demonstrating clear mastery over bandits, I ran us over to the farm fields to chase scarecrows. (Scarecrows were one of my early favorite models.  I like light shining out of their faces and the way they move.)

Here, due to bad placement and wide ranging scarecrow movement, we ended up taking on three scarecrows in a chain.  We never had to face more than two at once, but these were mobs were red to us.

Scarecrow in West Karana

And while I was nervous going in, especially when we started getting adds, we ended up knocking off the scarecrows without much drama.  The mercenaries kept us going, again doing the healing and most of the damage.  I managed to taunt well enough to tank and pretend I was making a difference, but I was pretty sure again that we could have gone off for tea and the mercs would have cleaned up for us.

The experience was pretty good though.  I was seeing 12% of a level from each scarecrow.  That got me well into level 12 and tipped Potshot into that level as well.

We did eventually meet our match.  A wandering spirit roamed by us, looking like four wisps glued together in two pairs, and I immediately tagged it, only to find we were taking serious damage from it without doing much of our own.

I quickly googled the mob and found it on Zam and found that it was level 25.  I suppose here was the test.  It was pretty clear that we were not going to be able to bring it down, but we hung around in the fight long after we should of to see how long we would last.  In what I would call a 7 minute battle (estimating methodology: take how long the fight seemed and cut that time at least in half, because people always over estimate) the mercenaries covered for us and stayed up until the healer ran out of mana.  And then it was slow death, all of us dropping one by one.

The mercenaries went down first.  Then, when we finally decided it was high time to leave, we could never quite get away as the wandering spirit would root us.  So we died too, a full wipe.

We were then back at the Plane of Knowledge, where Potshot discovered he lost a level.  So we ran out quickly and got that back before calling it a night.

This was my first real “out in the world” use of mercenaries in EverQuest.  They seem pretty powerful, considering we were using a pair of apprentice mercs. I suspect that this will even out some as we level up.

Now we just have to figure out where we should go in the world with this group to get us in range of the Lost Dungeons of Norrath content.

Norrath is such a big place and there are so many choices at any level.