Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Going Underground : EQ2

As Wilhelm noted in his capacity as Blogger of Record, EQ2's twelfth expansion, Terrors of Thalumbra, went live yesterday. I'd pre-ordered it a while back and yet somehow it still managed to sneak up on me. I thought we had a few weeks to go.

The Author as a Young Roekillik
The unexpected all-round playabilty and high fun content of GW2's Heart of Thorns expansion has all but pushed every other MMORPG off the table over the last few weeks but the drive to Do All The Things in Tyria is beginning to abate at last, leaving at least a little space and time for other worlds. I had planned to wait until today, when I'd have time for a good, long look at the new underlands but in the end I couldn't resist.

Within a few minutes of the servers coming back up last night I logged in, expecting the usual immediate post-launch chaos of bugs and emergency patches, but no, everything seemed remarkably calm. Coming so soon after HoT's exceptionally smooth launch I'm beginning to wonder if, after getting on for two decades, maybe MMO producers might be starting to get the hang of how these games work.

Nah. Couldn't be that. Must be a fluke.

Anyway, I can hardly talk. How many expansions have I experienced now? Thirty? Forty? More? And yet I still begin by rushing straight to the portal and jumping in with both feet. Do I read the in-game mail first? Do I go and find the NPC with the briefing notes? Do I have any kind of understanding of what I'm getting into or why? Of course not!

Somehow, probably from EQ2Wire,  I'd picked up as much as that I'd have to go to Neriak first. Why is it always Neriak for us evils? No-one wants to go to Neriak. and in any case, since when did Queen Cristianos usurp The Overlord as Grand Poobah of Badness?

At least the portal was right there at the docks next to the World Bell. Hard to miss, too, great, whirring mechanical monstrosity that it is. Gnomish work, I fancy. They should have got a ratonga in. Just sayin'.

It works though. Got to give the gnomes that much. It spat me out somewhere in what I took to be The Underfoot until Al'Kabor corrected that misapprehension much later on, when I finally got around to doing some of the questing spadework.
I'll just chip off a little bit.

The whole expansion, in a really excellent play on words, is set in Subtunaria. I believe the region went by that name in EQOA although I can't be sure. I was never fortunate enough to explore that version of Norrath, which is why I'm so excited to get this unexpected, late opportunity.

It really is the connection to the Lore that lends impact to these extensions of the franchise. You can hear it daily in GW2 as players laud or lay into aspects of Tyria's transition from the elder game to the current version. Over in Eorzea Square Enix are milking player recognition for all it's worth, setting longtime FF devotees like Syl "squealing like a fangirl" (her words!). As the games (and the gamers) age so the emotions deepen.

None of that was apparent last night as I flew around the underground sea of Thalumbra the Ever Deep. It looked entirely unfamiliar. And weird. The level 110 Triple-Up Arrow guards at the gates of what I took to be the city were scowling in my general direction so I stuck to the "countryside", such as it was.

Hmm. Now that I look more closely I'm not sure that is a fairy. Might be a moth.

After a while I found some very big fairies. Tallest fairies I've ever seen. They were willing to speak to me or should I say willing enough to send me on a Kill Ten Foozles quest to let me speak to them. And it was 22 Foozles if you're counting.

So I did that. The foozles were easy enough (they were ooyogs and poxfiends according to my journal but I know a foozle when I see one). I died to some flower that got caught in an AE and didn't see the funny side of it but other than that it all went swimmingly.

Even so it was clear I wasn't going about things the right way. Pootling around running errands for oversized fairy-folk  wasn't going to get me into the city. I called it a night and ported home to Maj'Dul.

Don't just stand there, Raffik - pull! And why are you in my bedroom in the first place???

When I reconvened this morning the day didn't get off to the best of starts. I couldn't get out of bed. Not metaphorically; literally. I'd logged out on my bed for a good night's sleep as I'm wont to do and I woke up wedged into it. Couldn't move. Had to use my handy portal thingummy to port me to the dock in Tranquil Seas just to get free.

From there it was off to Mara, where all tradeskill quests tend to begin. I usually start an EQ2 expansion by doing the crafting Signature questline before I get round to the adventuring version. There are several good reasons for that.

Of wee. Tee hee!
Firstly, it takes a fraction of the time because although the crafting line often has as many steps there aren't any fights and it's all the killing that pads things out. Secondly, it will open up a whole lot of areas, set the necessary factions to Don't Kill On Sight, and provide you with anything you might need in the way of flying permits, teleports and so forth. Thirdly, and most importantly, the crafting quests in EQ2 are almost always entertaining and well-written.

Explain to me again how these bushes grow on solid ice?
This one's no exception. It's meaty, too. I spent nearly three hours on it this morning and I'm just at the point where the new guards don't want to rip my head off any more. The lore was really interesting, with plenty of background about the Dwarves and the Roekillik.

Ah yes, the Roekillik. For a ratonga they are the racial nemesis. They are the anti-ratonga in fact. I still remember vividly the ratonga racial quest line that was added when the old villages were revamped in Freeport and Qeynos. Ratonga are terrified of Roekillik. We left our lovely underground home to escape from them but they followed us to the surface world.

The high point of the expansion thus far has been getting my old mate Al'Kabor (aka The Duality) to make me a Roekillik illusion spell so I could prance around in their secret lair, talking in their silly accent and feeding fish rolls to one of their Elders. Don't ask what I put in those. He didn't, more fool him.

Me and Al'Kabor, we're like *that*, we are.

That got me a truly excellent map of Old Tunaria which is in my mansion right now and looking great. Another prime reason to do the crafting quests is all the house items you get.

That's where I've left it for now. I have a suspicion that compared to some previous expansions this one might turn out to be a little on the lean side. Only one open-world map instead of the usual two, for example, and that one doesn't look all that big.

Excuse me, I think your mushrooms are on fire.
Size isn't everything, though. I enjoyed the previous expansion, Altar of Malice, as much for what I learned about the fate of Luclin and the history of the Far Seas Trading Company as for the loot or the fights. I'm even more interested in the history of the lands below Tunaria so as long as I get my lore fix I'm more than happy I'm getting my money's worth.















4 comments:

  1. Hah! I am The Noob York Times, the blog of record!

    I was trying to think of something to say about Dragon's Prophet going down in North America, but I've got nothing. Still, have to note it somewhere for the SOE/Daybreak sequence of events.

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    1. The odd thing I noticed was that DP is apparently still running in Europe according to MassivelyOP. I didn't realize someone other than DBG had the franchise for it in the EU. I could google it and find out but I can't summon up the interest.

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  2. I only logged in to check out the new expansion for a few minutes this morning. Real life keeping me too busy. I will probably spend some more time playing this afternoon and tomorrow.

    What server did you end up on after the mergers?

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    1. My Freeport characters are on Skyfire, my old but still occasionally played Oasis characters are on Maj'Dul and I have some of my favorite characters still on Test. So, not much consolidation for me!

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