Monday, September 5, 2016

A Horse Is A Horse : EQ2, WoW, GW2

This line in the latest patch notes for EQ2 confused me somewhat:

All characters who were upgraded to Heroic and did not receive Opegaz, Horde Bane have had it granted.

Opegaz the what? I made a bunch of free 95s and none of them got it, whatever "it" is. Or, at least, I assume they didn't. I didn't see it but then I wasn't looking. Not that I'd probably have recognized an "Opegaz" if I saw one.

When I logged in the same announcement was Message of the Day. Still nothing. And then, finally, when I changed accounts, a banner flashed across the top of the screen to let me know Opegaz had been added to my Mount tab.

Oh, so it's a mount! Why didn't you say that in the first place?

It turns out that all free 95s come with the flying skill already activated, thereby avoiding the simple, enjoyable but moderately time-consuming quest the rest of us had to do back in Velious, five expansions and an Adventure Pack ago. Naturally, if you have the flying skill you need a flying mount to go with it and Opegaz is it.

Apparently good ol' Orp first flew into our lives back in 2015, when the bar for Heroic Characters was raised from 85 to 90. I have to admit I totally missed that.

Of course, most of my characters have access to mounts that can fly, even if the characters themselves haven't yet reached the exalted level that permits them to take advantage of the extensive stable of /claim and event-related mounts all my accounts have acquired over the long years. Come to think of it, didn't I just do the hard levels on the Race to Trakanon server to earn a Patchwork Pegasus for everyone? Well, everyone on that account, anyway.

So, I wasn't that excited but a new mount is a new mount and free is free. The least I could do was open the stable door and take a look at him.

With an honorific like "Horde Bane" I was expecting some ferocious, drooling, snarling, smoldering hell-horse. (Which "Horde" would that be, anyway? The one from the Chains of Eternity/Tears of Veseshan storyline, I guess. Never really understood who they were supposed to be...) But no, he turns out to be slightly dopey, rather friendly-looking horse of the kind you might expect to find stretching his thick neck across the top of a five-bar gate in the vague expectation of an apple or a lump of sugar.

Apart, that is, from the wings. And the rather paw-like hooves. And the being blue.

Okay, he's not actually a horse, is he? Nor even a purebred pegasus. I'd say there's a bit of griffin in there somewhere. Doesn't matter! I'm not planing on showing him, just riding him through the sky and for that he's very, very good indeed.

EQ2 has something of a checkered history with mounts, flying or otherwise. From the plague of carpets that drove Wilhelm to WoW and me to the test server to the infamous anatomical anomaly that was the first cash shop mount to the proliferation of bizarre and unlikely rides regularly pimped in front of the South Freeport Bank, mounts in EQ2 have tended to be something of an eyesore.

Everquest has better mounts, strange though that seems. The Guild Lobby is a veritable showroom of weird and wonderful ways to get from A (Arx Mentis) to B (Burning Woods). I often swivel round as I wait for MGBs, doing a 360 goggle at the tamed and trained menagerie around me. In EQ2 I tend to avert my eyes and hope they'll all just go away.

My recent stint in WoW reminded me that Azeroth is most likely where the craze for crazy mounts began. The sheer insanity and variety there is almost certainly unmatched throughout the Virtual Universe. Blizzard's animators do a fine job of making most of them appear feasible, unlikely as that seems, which must be why, somehow, they don't seem to jar the eyeballs in the way EQ2's often can.

In latter years, quite probably since the arrival of animated animator and undisputed master of the forum one-liner Ttobey, EQ2's mounts have improved quite noticeably. There's still a major disconnect between what can be ridden and what should be ridden but at least now the proportions seem to be in order and all the limbs move in sequence.

In fact, perhaps the current leading contender for the Worst Mounts in an MMO Award is a game that doesn't even have mounts - GW2. Instead of mounts what ANet delight in supplying is an apparently endless barrel-scraping of "mounts" that you carry, rather than ones that carry you.

For far too long we've been subjected to a deluge of extremely badly animated back items, mostly some sort of "wing", for want of a better description. They connect to random points of the varied racial anatomies of Tyria, finding particularly poor traction on the shoulders of Charr and Asura. They lurch and shudder where they might be expected to unfurl and beat the air, giving all who wear them the air of buckshot pigeons in a death spiral. The wing analogs that don't come with feathers are even more hideous, hard though that is to credit.

Apart from gliders, about which the least said the better, the nearest GW2 comes to an actual mount are some of the "Toys", like the carpet, broom or sonic tunneler. These at least have the benefit of decent animations even if all they do, practically, is replace your running movement. I do have a soft spot for my Magic Carpet, even more so since it was tweaked to come back after combat without my having to ferret around in my bags to recast it.

Whether real mounts will ever come to Tyria we will have to wait and see. ANet did, I believe, say "never" but then they tried to say that about expansions and look where that got them.

Looking at the visual clutter in Azeroth and both Ages of Norrath I'm not sure I would vote for mounts to be added in GW2. On the other hand, though, couldn't we all use a horse like Opegaz, Horde Bane?

Or, as I think I'm going to call him from now on, Gazzer.


  1. It's lore-appropriate to be able to ride giant beetles in GW2's universe, so I've always been bitter about not being allowed to. =P

    1. That was seen by some commentators, quite rightly in my opinion, as the development team intentionally trolling the playerbase. I do think that was one of the less-attractive aspects of that period of GW2's management, which has now, fortunately, changed. Still don't think we'll get mounts though.


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