Saturday, December 9, 2017

Give The People What They Want : EQ2

So far, Planes of Prophecy has been an absolute joy and it looks set to go on that way for a good while yet. My Berserker is currently just under halfway through level 107 but he's hardly begun. According to the timeline at the invaluable he's barely a third of the way through Legacy of Power, the Signature quest that forms the backbone of the expansion.

On the way to 107 he's maxed the first of the three factions, House Yrzu. That leaves most of the main questline plus two more faction lines to complete, not to mention repeatables, dailies, weeklies, timed key quests and a standalone sequence in The Amphitheater of Song. It would appear there must be far, far more quest experience available than the journey from 100 to 110 requires.

It's emblematic of the refreshing approach the Daybreak team have decided on for this expansion. Out goes almost every kind of roadblock, drag anchor and irritation: in comes convenience, user-friendliness and ease of access.

Mob models in Plane of Prophecy are really excellent. Full of wit and character.

In keeping with EQ2's complex hierarchy of systems things aren't always as obvious or self-explanatory as they might be but that's only relative. Compared to previous eras of Norrathian history this really is the smart, sleek, accessible version. From the Teleport pads in Plane of Magic through the Ascended Trainer in Coliseum of Valor (not to mention CoV itself) to the account-wide zone unlocks, no effort has been spared to make the whole experience as straightforwardly enjoyable as possible.

It's been a quiet revolution. The last two expansions, Terrors of Thalumbra and Kunark Ascending both cleaved in the opposition direction, removing a number of conveniences while adding a whole slew of qualifying conditions. I liked both ToT and KA but a lot of people weren't as happy about it all as I was.

There were continual rumblings of  dissatisfaction that occasionally rose to a dull roar and it very much seems as though someone was listening. Of course, not everyone is content. It wouldn't be EQ2 without a thread like this on the first page of the forum. Compared to most years, though, the number of positive voices chipping in to counter the gloom is noticeably higher:

" This is the best expansion in quite some time."

50k faction - that's the real achievement!
"The devs really listened to the problems with KA and have made it much easier to get started in PoP."

"I'm loving it so far."

"I feel like overall this is a very approachable expansion (unlike KA)."

"I feel it's a more accessible expansion than the prior one by a long shot."

"I like to say, this is a classical expansion, with increase of lvl, new armor, new quests and so on. We have seen this in the past many times and for sure it is much better than KA and much more alt and casual friendly."
"I am really impressed with this Xpac"
"I love how the dev's listened to feedback for this expansion."
"It's a great expansion. Great content"

There are a lot more like that, too, although there are some naysayers as well. The difference this time is that usually naysayers are all you get!

It's not just the great improvement in accessibility; the way you can get started on the meat of the expansion hour one, day one. It's also, as one of the comments above points out, that this is "a classical expansion".
Meldrath! Mith Marr! Druzzil Ro! All the nostalgia buttons Path of Fire didn't press for me are getting hammered hard here.

It's been a while since we last got new levels. Three years, in fact, in Altar of Malice, and that was only a five level increase. In fact - and I found it hard to believe this when I looked it up - the last time EQ2 players got a fix of a full ten level increase in a single expansion was all the way back in 2010, with Sentinel's Fate.

I remember the launch of Sentinel's Fate. It was so long ago it seems like another lifetime. Since then we've made do with AAs, Prestige Points, Ascension Levels and who can remember how many other quasi-leveling systems. We've had actual levels doled out in teaspoon-sized doses - two levels here, five levels there. We've had experience stretched out so that doing one 20% bubble of a level was meant to feel like doing the full thing.

Look out below!

We've had every kind of palliative and placebo but now we have the real thing and boy, does it feel good! I purely love having ten full levels to climb. I love the way that many new levels make my characters really very much more powerful. I love the way all my spells and combat arts get an upgrade. I love the way every new piece of gear is visibly superior to the last.

The whole thing feels solid, satisfying and right. This is the MMORPG gameplay I know, want and will stay around for as long as it keeps coming. I don't care about "power creep" or trivializing older content. I want to trivialize older content. If I want to play through the old content un-trivialized I'll make a new character and do just that. Meanwhile just give me those bigger numbers!

The difficulty level of Planes of Prophecy - the solo content at least - might as well have been tailor-made for me. It's nigh-on perfect. I would call it easy and I like easy. I come here for easy. That said, it's not remotely dull or tedious.

Several of the Bosses in Plane of Innovation are too big to get in a screenshot.
They're all fantastic to watch as they try to kill you!

There have been complaints about the number of "trash mobs" in the Heroic dungeons and there are certainly plenty in the solo instances of Plane of Innovation that I've done so far, but not too many for my tastes. I wish they'd drop a bit more loot - particularly some Adept spell books to upgrade my new abilities - but they die fast and they're fun to kill.

Thing is, I like that classic MMORPG gameplay. I like killing a lot of mobs before I get to see a Named or a Boss. I like stacking quests that ask me to kill five of this and eight of that and six of the other so I can roam around, pull everything and hear a lot of little dopamine bells chiming as they all die.

Is it my imagination or has Meldrath put his Frostfell lights up?
Plane of Prophecy gives me all that in spades. I'm playing every chance I get and I wish I could play more. I want to get the Berserker to 110 and finish the Signature quest but I'm already looking forward to taking my Inquisitor and my Warlock and my Necromancer through as well.

No convenience spared.
I have two Level 100 boosts to use, which I might give to my Beastlord and Channeler. My Bruiser is leveling up the hard way. I might even buy another character slot and roll someone new; there are plenty of classes I've not played at this level yet.

Overall I have to say I feel enthused. I have an order of magnitude more desire to play EQ2 right now than GW2, which isn't to say I'm not enjoying GW2 as well - I am, but it just feels like there's so much more to do in Norrath than in Tyria this winter.

In fact, if I could persuade Mrs Bhagpuss to make a return to EQ2 I would probably take a break from GW2 for a while. Far from that happening, though, she's just begun to make inroads on the Path of Fire storyline in preparation for starting Living Story 4 so it looks as though I'll be splitting my time between the two games for now.

Enough of all that. When I stopped to write this post I'd just finished up the storyline in Plane of Innovation. PoI was a real treat. It evoked the original wonderfully and Meldrath was a hoot. I'm itching to see what they've done with Plane of Disease.

Erm...maybe "itching" wasn't the best choice of words there...


  1. Glad to hear it is turning out well. I wish this had been the case last year when that would have really gone down well with me. Now I'm all tied up in WoW for a while.

    1. If it wasn't for the obvious uncertainty over the whole Columbus Nova situation I'd be quite optimistic about EQ2's medium-term future. I wasn't aware of any change of leadership in the development team but this does feel like a step-change from the direction they've been taking for the last two or three years.

      So long as they're in a position to keep putting out expansions once a year I'm not going to complain too much about the quality but it's certainly nice to get something as enjoyable as this.

  2. The more you write about this and the more I read the more excited I get to check things out. I'm just torn on boosting a character -- not sure which class I should boost to start on the new stuff right away. I know that I'd love to bring my Brigand and Paladin up to the cap as well, but that will require some grinding because they're back at levels 94 and 90 respectively. Regardless, I have reinstalled and should hopefully have the next expansion by Xmas time. Looking forward to seeing the Planes!

    1. I'm in Plane of Disease now, which is very familiar from the original, mostly in the colors and overal atmosphere. Looking forward to meeting Bertoxxulous. The whole Ascension Class thing might take some getting used to but I don't think that needs to get in the way of the expansion whne it comes to the solo timeline. I'm mostly just using my regular skills and it's fine. I kind of regret not making more of an effort with Ascension during the last year but they seem to have made a good job of letting solo/returning players catch up without it being too painful. I don't see me getting my Tome of Ascension (all 4 ascended classes at level 10) any time soon though!


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