Sunday, August 16, 2015

Malice: A Forethought : EQ2

There's a particular kind of quest that EQ2 does very well. It's the type that let's you know something big is about to happen. On a meta level the player often, though not always, knows where it's leading. There's usually been some press release or news item revealing an upcoming addition to the game - a new race, a new class, a seasonal event, an expansion.

For the great majority of players who don't give a thought to the game until they log in there's a heads-up by way of a log-in message or an in-game mail. Anyone who misses that will hear soon enough via general or guild chat that there's a new questline. They may have only a vague idea of what it's all about but hey, new quest, right? Where's it start? That's all you need to know.

For the character it's much more of a mystery. There will be a summons of some kind, one that you'd be wise not to ignore. Overlord Lucan D'Lere likes to make it very plain that Citizens of Freeport have duties as well as rights. Make that "instead".

I hardly ever do these questlines on the "good" side so I'm not sure what kind of pressure Antonia Bayle brings to bear. Probably some old nonsense about honor I imagine. Or maybe she just hands out bribes: buns for the halflings, beer for the barbarians, bows for the elves. (Either kind of bow. You've seen their hair.)

The current questline begins the pre-amble to this Autumn's expansion/campaign/add-on thingy. For a Freeportian it begins in Darklight Woods (or "Darlight" according to whoever typed the caption to that first screesnhot above) It moves on to Neriak and then progresses through The Commonlands, Enchanted Lands and Everfrost. It's not available at all on the TLE servers for the obvious reason that they won't be getting the expansion this year (look, I'm going to stick to "expansion" from now on, for the sake of sanity) not even if they vote "Yes" to each unlock every month from now 'til Frostfell.

As I mentioned earlier it took me just under an hour to run through the whole thing on my Berserker including time out for screenshots and looking up the bits I couldn't immediately work out for myself. Most of it was very straightforward but a couple of the clues were vague, to put it mildly. I won't go through the entire thing - there's a walkthrough on the wiki if anyone needs the full details - but the rest of this post is likely to be spoilerific so anyone that wants to be surprised probably should go do it for themselves. Please come back after.

Oh, and don't look at the pictures too closely!

Maybe I should have mentioned that earlier.

Okay, now they're gone here's what I know. Lanys is back! Wait, what? Did she go away? Remind me who she is again? Oh, that Lanys!

I always "liked" Lanys T'Vyl. I played on the server named after her for a long time and her invasion of Firiona Vie (the town, not the high-profile elf, or for that matter the server, although that might have been even better) was one of my all-time favorite Everquest events. She's one of the (many) gods and demi-gods and semi-demi-hemi-gods in the Everquest pantheon not to have made a reappearance in EQ2. Until now.

Every expansion needs a good villain. It's often Mayong Mistmoore and when it's not him it's Meldrath the Malignant. Anyone with alliterating Ms will do in a pinch. We'll get Mighty Mouse and Melina Mercouri in due time, I shouldn't wonder.

I like to be able to put a face to the existential threat. Not that I ever get to see the Generals and Potentates in person. That all happens in raids or at least it used to. Still, the scuttlebutt filters down and there's generally some grunt work for the rest of us to do, cleaning up the minions and the like, foot-soldier against foot-soldier as it were, while the kings fight the godlings somewhere far, far away.

Given that the last expansion (Ever? Let's not start that again...) was called Altar of Malice and this prequel is "Malice in the Woods/Grove (Delete as Applicable)" we can surely assume continuity. But AoM was all about Luclin, wasn't it? And Luclin is herself a goddess, isn't she?

I'm so confused and I'm not the only one. But then confusion over the lore is my natural state in any version of Norrath and it's just how I like things. I like to know enough to vaguely recognize the names so I can go "Oh is that her? You know, the one who was in that thing with the other one, what's his name? Oh you know him, he had a big stick with a lizard on it. HIM!" Just like when you watch a movie with your grandmother.

Recognition factor, that's all I need. I got a tingle when I learned that Lanys might be back and that's what I pay my All Access for. Also for good fun which this type of questline always is. The steps leading up to the big reveal were sprightly enough, too, although I might have a different choice of words if I'd not been able to look up the answer every time I got stuck.

Take "at the end of the path" for example. As this illustration shows there are several paths in The Commonlands and unsurprisingly they all have ends. If someone in Neriak tells you to go out the gate into The Commonlands and go to the end of the path you would expect it to be the end of that path from Neriak, wouldn't you? Well it isn't.

And what would you make of "where a landing is still?" There's officially only one "landing" in Enchanted lands - Bobbick's Landing. That's not the one. Turns out to be a completely unused dock in the extreme east of the zone that, as far as I recall, has never had any use or function since the day the game was launched. I had totally forgotten it existed. "Still" is quite a good pun there but you can only appreciate it after you find the dratted place.

I had to look both of those up in the end. I did work out the Everfrost clue on my own though and what I found there was unexpectedly shocking: the World Root , split down the middle, all the Numbfoot troglodytes who used to guard and worship it lying dead in the snow. I've killed them many times while questing there. It was...odd seeing them dead like that. Uncomfortable. Ironic how that works.

The battle also appeared to have done for some strange new species of fae. Did the World Root or its shaman turn the fairy to wood or did it start out that way? Can wooden wings fly? Does Norrath need a new breed of fairy? Looks like we're getting one, like it or not.

It's all very intriguing. My berserker reported back to his contact in Neriak, who naturally passed him on to someone else, as is the way of these things. The next stage would appear to be an open-ended bounty hunt, lasting until the middle of September, with a wide selection of house and appearance items as the incentive. EQ2 Traders has the full list with pictures, as always.

I'm off to track a few down now. I could use a new cloak. And a tyrannosaur's head for that spot over the fireplace.

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