Monday, June 15, 2020

Who'll Be Your Mercenary? : EverQuest II

I was playing EverQuest II yesterday, just pottering around in a Sundayish fashion, sorting bags and trying to keep everyone's upgrade plates spinning, when I happened to look at the Guild Bank. Since I've been the only active member for well over five years, it's really just an extension of my own bank now.

I find it particularly useful for storing Lore items, "Lore" being a tag EQII uses to mean a character can only own one. For some reason it also means you can't put two of them in the shared bank, which never made to me, but there you go. You can put as many of the same Lore item as you like into the Guild bank, though, which is why I have a whole Guild vault tab filled with Blood of Luclin Mercenary claim tokens.

I deleted a bunch of Grollas only yesterday.
I should dump the lot but it seems so... wasteful.
These tokens started to drop with the introduction of the first season Overseer missions although the mercenaries and their tokens may well have been in the game already. Most, maybe all expansions come with new Mercenaries. Some can be found and hired in game, while others only feature as perks in the higher-priced Collectors editions.

I'm somewhat vague on the details because I don't generally pay much attention to new mercs. In the past I've been more than happy with the handful I've picked up from events and holidays. I still use the clockworks from Tinkerfest on several characters.

For a long time my Berserker used the obese ogre Zhugrus Blightstrike, introduced in the 2016 update The Scourge of Zek. He was a perfectly acceptable healer but he really wasn't much of a looker. (You can take a close look at him down at the foot of the post but I wouldn't recommend it). Having his bulk looming in the background - or the foreground, due to the way mercs, pets and familiars all seem to love to huddle - made taking screenshots quite awkward.

Odd thing to make the subject of a sub, isn't it?
I was happy to replace him with the much more svelte, if somewhat intense Evania Val`Sara, the mercenary whose services become available when you have sufficient faction with the Cae`Dal in the Chaos Descending expansion. She was in turn replaced by Oqdan Blisterbringer, a fire elemental with a more pleasing appearance than Zhugrus but, unfortunately, equal bulk.

There is, luckily, an ability called Shrink Mercenary, available for a nominal fee (and 150,000 status) from your class trainer. For some inexplicable reason, even though I knew that perfectly well, my berserker had never bothered to buy it until today. Sometimes I think he's been hit in the head a few times too many.

Over the years, following their introduction in 2011's Age of Discovery, mercenaries have grown from a small band of simple hirelings to a vast, shadowy network of strange and sinister accomplices. The extremely long and dauntingly complex guide on the EQII wiki attests to the extent to which these NPCs, loved by many, reviled by some, have embedded themselves deeply into both the gameplay and the commercial model.

Various expansions have added the option to dress the mercenaries in increasingly powerful and specific armor and to raise their stats and abilities with offline training. All of these things I'd been doing, sometimes diligently, sometimes less so, right up to and including the pre-expansion events for Blood of Luclin, which dropped a lot of very good merc armor. In retrospect, that was probably something of a hint.

BoL mercenaries can't even be seen until you consume their token.

BoL added two new reasons to collect mercenaries. Firstly, they're used in the Overseer feature, as are Familiars. You have the option to send one of your mercenaries along with each team of Agents you assign to a mission. Depending on the quality of the merc (they use some of the same, color-coded qualitative ratings as gear - Treasured, Legendary, Fabled, Celestial) a mercenary increases the mission's risk of success by 2%, 3%, 5% or 10% respectively.

To send mercenaries on missions you must first have unlocked them to so they can be summoned from anywhere. This is a feature for which you have to pay 150 Daybreak Cash. It's a small amount (you get 500DBC a month as part of All Access membership) and I would always unlock any merc I planned on using, because who wants to have to go all the way back to wherever you hired them, every time you fancy swapping from one to another?

What I wouldn't have done is unlock all my mercenaries, even the ones I knew I'd never trust in a fight. They have different abilities and, as anyone knows who's tried a few of them, different temperaments. Some of them my berserker quite literally trusts with his life while others he wouldn't trust to feed the pets and water the plants in his Maj'Dul mansion.

Evania Val`Sara is my favorite healer. She's extremely reliable and not at all flaky, unlike some. Even if she does have that thousand yard stare.
With Overseer missions in mind, I unlock all my mercs. I haven't yet started making any special effort to acquire new ones and I certainly won't be buying any Mercenary crates from the cash shop but I am using the tokens that drop to grab all the BoL mercs.

Lord Seru's Fool.
Now he's mine.
More fool me.
And boy, do those tokens drop. Well, most of them. They're all Lore and they're all tradeable and the Broker is stuffed with them.

The commonest, Grolla Skullwielder, is worthless, both financially and practically. She's a Diaku Berserker, only Treasured quality. Mercenary dps has, sadly, failed miserably to keep up with recent developments. You can barely notice the damage they do on at-level mobs. If you want her, you can currently pick up her token on the brokerage for five copper.

Melban Pindleclasp, a Troubador, drops almost as frequently and is nearly as useless. His buffs are of some value but you can still snap up his token for a silver. He is, at least, Legendary. Not that you'd know it.

Rosa Dod is a Fabled Dirge. Her buffs are worth having as is her 5% bonus to Overseer missions. She's still changing hands for a hundred plat or so, which is pocket lint, not even pocket change, by current EQII economic standards. I have several of her tokens in the Guild Bank but I haven't yet found out where to go to hire her. I'll add that to the list of things I have to do.

Oor of Umbra, a mysterious black cloud of smoke with piercing blue eyes, was selling for good money for a while. It's a Fabled Fury, which makes it reasonably useful for healing, although personally I'd always rather have an inquisitor for the Verdict (a  spell, which instantly kills mobs on low health and has for me, on occasion, meant the difference between success and failure in a tough fight). Oor's value is still holding at over a thousand platinum. The drop rate is fairly generous but the spawn spot, inaccessible without Luclin flying, is probably keeping quite a few people from adding Oor to their collection on multiple characters. I only have it on two, so far.

The spooky and uncommunicative Oor. Would you trust it?
Zel`Kriaz is a Shissar Inquisitor of Celestial quality. At one point he was trading for millions but he's down to just under 40k plat now. I'm in the process of training him up. I tried him as a healer when I first acquired him and he got me killed on the first pull. I don't know if he's an idiot or if he just needs to be upgraded and equipped before he's useable. I'll find out in a few weeks. If he ends up having to stay in barracks, he's still worth 10% to Overeer missions, and I don't even have to pay him for that.

Vylkorin the Vile, yet another inquisitor is Celestial, top of the shop for BoL mercs. So far I have seen his token drop just once. It's still in the bank because I can't decide who's going to to use it so I don't even know what race or gender Vyl might be. If you want to buy the token it's going to cost you more than a million plat. It also looks completely different from all the others. I don't know if that means anything.

The final reason to build up a large collection of unlocked mercenaries is the Mercenary Battalion. This somewhat confusing and currently slightly buggy feature, also introduced with Blood of Luclin, allows your mercenaries to apply a collective buff, the strength of which depends on how far you've upgraded them through training.

I don't propose to explain it here. It took me long enough just to understand it. Here's the EQ2 Traders page, the simplest explanation I've seen so far.

All in all mercenaries are a very clever and entertaining way for Darkpaw to make some money. In common with most things added to the game in the last decade there's an element of pay to win but I'm absolutely fine with that. The company has to make money or the games won't exist. I find the way Daybreak, and now Darkpaw, balance what you can get for paying versus what you can get for playing significantly enhances my enjoyment. I quite like buying little treats for myself. And I always loved the mercenary feature. I thought it was one of the best things ever added to both EverQuest and EQII.

The more useful and versatile they make them, the more satisfying and interesting the mercenaries become. As Telwyn was saying in the post I linked earlier, talking in that case about familiars, "It’s a reminder of just how much depth the game has, and how little adaptations like this make all the difference to this daily activity".

Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I'm going to go look for Rosa Dod.


  1. I still use Evania as my main merc. Like you mentioned, she heals and cures well. Plus the verdict is helpful. I also have her at lvl 20 and fully geared so it is a big difference compared to other mercs I have. I do have the celestial BoL merc training at the same time. I'll give it a try once he has gained a few levels.

  2. Oh the point about unlocking mercenaries to use them in Overseer is very useful. I'd just not realised that was why I could only use one mercenary on one character in Overseer - all my other mercenaries were locked still. Now I have them unlocked I can actually make proper use of them as well as the familiars!


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