Frostfell is back! Over the years EQ2's midwinter celebration has become as much a part of my Christmas as any real-life tradition. This year surprised me in just how much I've been looking forward to it and even more in how the emotions kicked in when it finally arrived.
Stepping through the wardrobe outside the bank in West Freeport to the jingling music and sparkling lights across the snow of the Frostfell Wonderland Village sent an actual shiver down my spine. I remember when the zone was introduced back in 2006. We were playing on the Test server back then so we got to see it from its very earliest days, when nothing really worked and when the lack of instancing meant unseemly scrapping over gifts.
Over the years I've watched Frostfell change and grow from a fairly contained, managed experience to a wild, sprawling celebration that spans Norrath. A quick flip through the wiki gives an idea of the sheer scope of this magnificent sleigh ride of fun. There really is something for everyone.
At the beginning crafting was the big driver of activity and that emphasis has never slowed. New recipe books appear every year. Denmother Niami dutifully records the new additions at the invaluable EQ2Traders website and this year there are some fantastic, must-have additions. The frosted windows look amazing.
Over the years content was added hand over fist for just about every playstyle short of raiding. There are a whole bunch of quest chains, some of them quite lengthy, all of them a lot of fun. There's a dungeon, The Icy Keep, that comes in solo and Heroic versions. There are games and entertainments, dancing and snowball fights and, of course, plenty of presents.
Santa Glug, Gigglegibber goblin and winner of the Least Convincing Disguise competition seven years running, hands out gifts one per character per day. In the past I've had half a dozen or more representatives camped out next to him and the addition of some excellent new Snowglobes and pets this year is likely to lead to another set of cold characters complaining that it must be someone else's turn by now.
The whole zone received an extreme makeover two years ago.It looks much the better for it. It looks positively stunning in fact. The items Gerbi Frostfoot sells for the Frozen Tokens of E`Ci you get as quest rewards and as drops in the dungeon have improved out of all recognition as the years roll by.
The armor sets and weapons he sells for every appropriate level provide an absolutely invaluable once-a-year opportunity for returnees or fall-behinds to gear up to something very close to current at-level solo benchmarks. If anyone reading this has been dithering with an idea of coming back or even starting from scratch this is absolutely the time to do it.
I browsed the new armor last night and my Berserker will be taking four of the new level 100 pieces to fill the slots he has yet to replace with Thalumbran quest rewards. Each piece costs thirty tokens but he has sixty banked from last year so he's halfway there before he's even begun. Just as well because the Warlock at level 93 is going to be clamoring for a set of 95s. I foresee much token farming in my immediate future.
There's a whole new quest series this year that I worked through in two short sessions at the end of the evening over the last two nights. The storyline will be familiar to anyone who's played EQ2 for long. Another innocent in dire trouble, another rescue mission, another trip around the zone putting up decorations, another panel of interviews. I loved it. More of what we already know we like. Yes please.
The only slightly off-key note, I felt, was the Unfortunate Event that precipitated the rescue. I know orphans are synonymous with Christmas but I don't particularly want to meet them with their parents still lying dead on the ground. That's not exactly festive, is it?
You do have to own the new Terrors of Thalumbra expansion to do the questline since some of it takes place in Maldura. That has raised some very mild controversy but anyone with a long memory will recall that several previous Frostfell questlines have also required ownership of the then-current expansion so it's hardly unprecedented. It scales to level, too, so you can do it even if you don't have any high levels yet.
Any way up, it's a jolly good romp. It also reminded me I have that prestige house that I bought two years ago and never got around to decorating. Add that one to all the others. One of these days...
Next week Wintersday arrives in GW2. I like Wintersday a lot but, let's be honest, it's no Frostfell. Unlike Syp, though, I rate the Midwinter holidays in MMOs as second to none. Even an also-ran trumps any Halloween effort for my chocolate money.
I'm off to put up some deccies. And farm those tokens!