Friday, April 24, 2020

Call Of The West

The new Diaku Corral instance in EverQuest II is unsusual in that I've already completed it not once but twice. In common with all too many modern MMORPGs, EQII expects players at the level cap to spend a good deal of their time running the same instances over and over in order to gear up so they can then run a slightly different version of the same instance at a higher difficulty level so they can gear up so...

You get the picture. It's not a playstyle that's ever appealed to me. I don't mind doing instances multiple times so long as there's a healthy gap between runs - a few weeks, say, or better yet months - but grinding through the same mechanics and scripts day after day seems to be taking a love of repetition a little too far.

It's not a matter of principle. It's laziness. If you're doing instances because the bosses drop items that are better than what you're wearing it's almost bound to be a bit of a slog. I will do it, but I won't do it a lot.

Diaku Corral isn't all that different to any other Blood of Luclin instance in terms of difficulty. The ogres hit hard but they prefer to stand well back and pepper you with arrows from a distance. I've died a couple of times because there are a lot of obstacles that break line of sight, which seems to confuse my mercenary. Sometimes she stops healing altogether and sometimes she runs out of range as she tries to find a path.

All the named mobs have quirky mechanics. Some of them took me a while to figure out but most of them are reasonably intuitive. There's a walkthrough up on the wiki now, which explains everything very clearly even though it's written by someone whose first language plainly isn't English. By the time I got to read it I'd already finished the whole instance but it did answer a couple of lingering questions.

For once, most of the boss scripts aren't particularly annoying. The sound effects on the bucking bronco are nerve-jarringly loud and the winds that try to blow you into the shark tank are a pain but as these things go the whole instance is quite painless. The scenery is nice, if a bit orange and the wild west theme amuses me.

Even so, I probably wouldn't have gone straight back for another run had it not been for two things. Firstly, the loot is really good. The regular drops are 165 resolve, which was going to be my baseline for calling my max level characters fully dressed, but the uncommon drops are 170 resolve. I wasn't expecting to see anything that good in solo content this side of the next round of panda quests in late summer.

The bosses also seem very happy to give up their good stuff. I had more Exquisite chests than Ornate. In two runs I've had five 170 items drop, all of which someone can use.

Even so, the main reason I went back wasn't for the loot. It was that the questline carries on. That surprised me. I was imagining the quest existed only to act as an introduction, letting you know where the new instance was but there's more.

I probably should have guessed from the name of the first quest, "A Fistful of Diaku". Naturally, there had to be "For a Few Diaku More".

The second run was, inevitably, much smoother than the first. The whole thing took little more than an hour. My berserker is starting to feel powerful enough in solo content not to need the crutch of defensive stance. I swapped him to offensive, which sped things up considerably. It's also why he died when the healing dried up but you can't have it both ways.

As well as the stat gear, all of which is wild-west themed and looks fantastic, there's also themed appearance gear and themed house items. There's even a gnomophone that plays the theme tune,  "High Noon on the Moon". When Darkpaw throw a themed party they hang out all the banners.

When you down the final boss a cannon appears that shoots a barrel all the way back to Aurelian Coast. It's your fast trip home. I haven't seen one of those since the Moors of Ykesha.  I thought at first it was out of keeping with the cowboy motif but then I realised the whole plot revolves around a gnomish inventor working for the Diaku ogres and those cannons are classic gnome tech.

The cannon is canon, if you will. You won't? Oh, please yourselves.

As my berserker stood on the docks, picking splinters of barrel stave out of his armor, he noticed an ogre standing nearby with her shingle out. Who should it be but Grol Skullwielder, one of the BoL mercenaries whose hiring tokens drop from Overseer chests.

Grol is so highly thought of as a sword for hire her token currently sells on the broker for forty silver pieces. Or doesn't, more like. She suffers from being both common as dirt and largely useless. I already have enough of her tokens to give one to every character on Skyfire and still have a few left to play tiddleywinks.

Also, Grol being a berserker herself doesn't exactly make her the best duo partner for my berserker. She'll come in handy for Overseer duties though and she joins the Mercenary Battalion, yet another feature introduced with the Blood of Luclin expansion that I don't entirely understand. I hired her and noticed immediately that she charges for her services, unlike all my pre-BoL mercs, who all apparently decided to work pro bono as soon as we landed on the moon.

When I flew back for the hand-in I was expecting to be given the third quest in what would inevitably become a trilogy to match the inspirational source material. I wasn't disappointed.

Well, I was, a bit, but only with the name they'd come up with, "The Good, The Bad and The Broken". I have to admit I couldn't come up with anything better given the quest itself but I'd have rejigged the plot a little and called it "The Good, The Bad and the Buggy". All it would take is jar of metal-eating beetles and what self-respecting gnome doesn't have a few of those lying around?

Part three means another trip to the Corral but that's fine. I like it there. I might not even need a quest to persuade me to go back next time.

For a little variation I'd run a few more characters through the instance. It would be a significantly different ecperience with each new class. Unfortunatley, entry is restricted to characters who've completed the adventure signature quest line and I've been a little lax on that. Okay, a lot lax.

Maybe it'll give me the spur I need to take a couple more of the team through the final stages . Spur! Geddit? That's a good one.

Okay, no it's not. I'll just be riding off into the sunset then. Yippee kay yay... oh, wait, wrong movie...


  1. I really miss those treasure chests in titles that don't have them (i.e. almost all of them), especially the different tiers.

    I was so happy when I saw my first exquisite chest stand there after a boss kill (I think it was Varsoon that dropped it) that it didn't matter at all what was inside. I don't even remember, so it was probably crap. That chest though!

    1. I really like the chests too but that just shows how much my attitude has changed over a decade and a half. I was in the EQII beta when those chests were introduced. Before that, looting was the same as EQ - click on the corpse of the mob you'd just killed.

      I was outraged at the change. I sent a blistering feedback report detailing all the ways having a massive chest appear out of thin air and drop to the ground broke immersion, was against the spirit of EverQuest and was evidence of the way EQII was dumbing down to try and attract an ausience. I took everything so much more seriously then.

      Now I see the chests as part of the game's charm. Even more ironically, EQ later introduced a new loot system that works entirely through the UI, where you don't have to click on the corpse at all, and I think it's the gold standard for the genre. It's also the most non-immersive and gameified of them all!


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