Sunday, 5 April 2015

The Ton Up Boy : EQ2

It was only just over four months ago that EQ2's Altar of Malice expansion launched. Really? It seems a lot longer.

I bought AoM on release and spent a good deal of time there, going through the lengthy and generally interesting solo story quests, completing the solo dungeons and working on crafting. It's been a very good expansion from my casual perspective and from what I can gather it's been fairly well-received by the often cantankerous and curmudgeonly EQ2 careerists too.

Once SOE, as they were calling themselves at the time, got around to correcting the issues with tradeskilling progress, my weaponsmith hit 100 in something of a rush. Getting those last five adventuring levels solo, even as a Berserker, went a lot harder.

It's just as well the questlines felt enjoyable in and of themselves and that the material rewards - armor, weapons, augments, clickable items and so on - were worthwhile because questing in EQ2 is a painfully slow way to level. It's not just that each quest pays out only a small gobbet of experience, it's the time you spend traveling, hither to yon and back again, searching for the right creature to kill or the dead body to inspect.

Highhold Keep is a very pleasant zone to adventure in. Autumnal, open, full of xp.

Inefficient, then, if your sole goal is hitting the cap as fast as possible, and even if efficiency is not an issue there's the question of shortfall. For as long as I can remember EQ2 expansions have come with insufficient questing xp attached to bridge that gap from the old cap to the new. In the case of AoM I believe the shortfall runs around two full levels.

For group-oriented players that's rarely any kind of issue. A group player routinely hits cap in a handful of sessions "doing dungeons". Or so I'm told. It's quite a while since I grouped in EQ2. Even longer in anything that might have been called "current content".

Our guild used to be quite lively, with a dozen or so members and several on at once most evenings. For the last few months, though, and for the whole of the lifespan of AoM, I've been the only one playing.

I could, of course, look elsewhere for temporary group-mates but as yet I haven't experimented with the Level Agnostic Dungeon Finder. I want to - I just haven't had a moment spare.

Even if I'd had the time, though, it wouldn't have helped my Berserker. Those dungeons tap out at 94 and he was 95 coming in. In the end the gaps were filled with good old Chelsith, Chardok and Sebilis runs, done on double xp weekends with an xp potion running.

When the last of those weekends ended the 'zerker was still 25% shy of the target and I'm sorry to say I kind of forgot about him for a while. The job was so nearly done that in my mind it was. Then, the other week, when I needed to log him in to check something or other, I happened to notice he was still 99. Well, better do something about that, I guess.

The Phantom Sea is pleasant too - all sea-blues and greens and thick, leafy trees. Also xp.

This weekend, being Easter and a holiday, Daybreak chose to throw an xp party. Unlike the month-long birthday bash over in Everquest, where everyone got a 160% bonus for an entire month (and my Magician took advantage. tapping out at nearly 90), EQ2 only gets a weekend at double xp and you have to be an All Access member to get that. Which I am. So I did.

I began by gathering the plethora of daily and weekly quests on offer at the dock in Phantom Sea because why not have a little bit of structure? Then I flew up to Highhold Castle and dashed off the first of them, which amounted to repeating the solo dungeon step of the main questline.

It was only a few grimlings in that I realized something had changed. Instead of the infinitesimal, almost invisible, increments to my xp bar I was used to, I could see significant movement as each weak Heroic encounter dropped. Indeed, the amount of xp I was accruing looked remarkably similar to what I'd expect on a mentored run through those Kunark dungeons.

Just that single clearance to complete the quest left me with scarcely more than 5% of the level to go. I knocked that off today doing two short overland quests. Even the outdoor solo mobs seemed to be giving generous helpings of the yellow stuff.

Ssraeshza Temple may or not be pleasant and/or full of xp. I dinged 100 in the entry hall, ran into the middle, took this screenshot, then left.

So, either my perceptions have changed since the last time I played, or my memory is playing me up, either of which is possible, or Daybreak have tweaked things so that current, solo content is as good for leveling as mentoring down for older dungeons always was. I hope that's what it is because, if so, it certainly makes me feel a lot more positive about leveling up some of my other characters, who are currently languishing down in the 80s and low 90s.

The recent announcement on the future of DLC and "progress" for EQ2 made it clear there will be no level cap increase for a while; certainly none this year. With that in mind, the next step is to take a serious look at gearing up. The quest gear from the main storyline is a huge upgrade from what the Berserker was wearing before but I see that even Handcrafted, the lowest form of player-made armor, is better so there's massive room for further improvement.

Once the armor's settled, then it will be time to think about augments. That's a bucket of worms I've studiously avoided trying to untangle so far but it's going to have to be done sometime. Well, not really, but truth be told I'm quite looking forward to fitting some shiny gems in all those ugly, empty sockets.

Then there are the combat art upgrades - many of mine are still basic Apprentice level. I don't have an Alchemist to make those but Mrs Bhagpuss has one sitting at 95 that I could borrow and I already know how fast those last five craft levels go.

So many things to do. You know, I could probably be playing this game full time, if it wasn't for all the others...



8 comments:

  1. Gratz on 100! I hit it a couple of weeks ago on my main. I took the bonus xp weekend to work on alts. I actually hit 100 in Kunark, lol. Old habits die hard. It's nice to read another blogger still playing, besides myself. It's such a great game still, been taking up most of my play time these days.

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    1. Thanks! I am also playing Allods again, very casually, thanks to your screenshots and mentions. It plays excellently on my Win8.1 tablet so I've been logging in at work and knocking off the odd quest or two in my lunchbreak. I do like the way blogging about something sets off a little wave of interest sometimes - most recently with so many people going to (or back to) FFXIV for example.

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    2. Glad to hear you're enjoying Allods again! It's a really neat game, real cool classes.

      Yeah, I get bitten by the bug quite often too. Trying to quit getting so drawn in by so many shiny games oh the side, lol. FFXIV, is great but my brother plays it and I know end game is mostly group and raid content. I just don't have the drive for raiding add much these days, but I see a lot of posts that interest me too, lol!

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  2. EQ2 has become my go to game again but I keep getting distracted by Elite Dangerous. I wish I was able to take a little more advantage of the double XP weekend. Family in town took up a lot of my free time.

    The easiest next step to upgrading your gear/adornments is to kill the named in tranquil and phantom. The gear they drop can be upgraded with yellow gems from the ferrin merchant. Mix that with some of the mastercrafted weapons and jewelry will be pretty close to the best gear for a solo player. I do like to run the advanced solo zones, they can drop some decent gear for solo players too and give lots of free adorments.

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    1. Oh, thanks for that! That's really helpful. I was going to spend some time looking for upgrade paths and advice on Zam and the wiki and the forums today so that's some time saved.

      While I was in Phantom Sea yesterday I killed the big angler fish and the Heirophant skeleton and they both dropped things that were clearly upgrades, although sadly not for the class I was playing. I'll keep an eye out for more of them as I fly around. Not that I ever pass a Named without giving it a go anyway.

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    2. Save the armor dropped for other classes too. You can go to the merchant in the tower on the phantom dock. You buy an item that will convert the extra armor into yellow shards. You can then use the shards as currency to buy the armor you need all from the same vendor.

      Oh...and congrats on 100! Forgot that in my first post.

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    3. Thanks again. This just demonstrates what people often observe, though. Coming back to a well-established MMO after even a short lay-off can be a daunting experience. These things become so incredibly complex and layered over time. No wonder it gets harder and harder to draw new players in.

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  3. The wife and I are also plugging away at EQ2. We aren't heading up the leveling ladder just yet though -- we are still level-locked on our highest level characters (level 50) doing the original content. Just three more runes of the draconic language to go before we can chat with Nagafen. With our tank and healer and a pair of DPS mercs, we feel like we have a ton of content and no real urgency to rush to level cap.

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