Sunday, July 26, 2020

It's Elemental: EverQuest

There's not an MMORPG out there that can touch EverQuest for putting the fear into you when you're trying to do something as simple as buy your new spells. Even in 2020, when death in Norrath has long lost its sting, just the thought of having to travel to an unknown zone to trade with an unfamiliar vendor is enough to bring the casual player out in a cold sweat.

I've been parsimonious with my purchases while I've been levelling up by way of the daily Overseer quests. In the comfort and safety in the Guild Lobby experience rolls in so fast, comparatively speaking, it seems wasteful to spend money on spells or gear I'll barely use.

Now I've started spending more and more time out hunting, though, I've been feeling increasingly sensitive about my under-developed abilities and my undercooked ambition. Mobs in the zones where I feel comfortable are drifting from light blue to green to grey. It doesn't really matter since the huge bulk of my xp comes from those Overseer quests and the weaker the mobs become, the easier it gets to bully them out of their dinner money.

Outgrowing a zone is still an uncomfortable feeling all the same. Even though the xp I'm missing is all but insignificant it still seems somehow wasteful not to be getting it. If I'm ever going to take the next step, I'll have to equip myself adequately for the adventure. Can't put it off forever.

I've already bought several batches of spells as I've gone along. I like to have the latest nukes and as a soloing mage I rely entirely on my elemental pet (well, that and my cleric mercenary, of course) so keeping up to date on summoning spells is crucial.

Magicians get four elemental pets, the traditional Earth, Air, Wind and Fire. At lower levels the usual choice is Earth, a tank with high hit points and the ability to root enemies to prevent them running away but somewhere in the fifties preference shifts to something that can also put out decent damage.

The fire pet, a ranged caster, is the go-to for magicians who group but soloists go for either air or water. Water has decent hit points and survivability and puts out very good damage. A lot of guides recommend it. Air, however, almost matches it in those departments but adds a frequent and effective stun. Stunning isn't quite as effective as rooting when it comes to stopping runners but it comes close. Air has been my choice for as long as I can remember.

The four pet spells cycle round in a regular five-level pattern, with the spare level being taken up by a generally useless spell called Monster Summoning that calls up a weak pet using the model of a random creature from the zone you happen to be in at the time. It's fun to play with but you learn pretty quickly not to trust that pet to do anything more challenging than follow you around and make heads turn.

The air pet, by chance or design, happens to be first in the cycle. At level 96 I took another trip to Shard's Landing. The first time I made that journey was an adventure in itself.  This time I made sure to pay the fee and take the simple, safe port from my Guild Hall.

I picked up the pet but the timing was a little unfortunate, co-inciding with a bonus xp weekend. Overseer xp rolled in faster than ever and the new pet didn't last me as long as I'd thought it would. A week or so later, in another deja vu journey, I was off again to Katta Castellum: Deluge.

I'd made all my mistakes the first time around so those expeditions went as uneventfully as you'd wish. I bought the next air pet, along with some my key spells for several levels ahead while I was there. Then I ported  back and spent the next couple of weeks enjoying the fruits of my minimal labors.

Inbetween hunts I idled in the lobby soaking up buffs and since I had nothing better to do I spent some time researching upgrades. There seemed to be plenty to choose from. I almost bought several different sets of gear, any of which would have been a major improvement on the increasingly level-inappropriate choices my mage had been making do with for longer than I care to admit.

Several expansions in a row employed a system of upgradeable armor, the raw pieces of which dropped commonly from mobs, were tradeable and could be improved with items bought from an NPC when combined in a device purchased for the purpose. Those pieces often sell relatively cheaply in the Bazaar. All that's needed is a pocketful of platinum and yet another exciting trip to some far-flung, long-forgotten quest hub in unfamiliar zone to purchase the requisite reagent.

I was on the cusp of making a choice, mostly based on what I could afford, when it occured to me that level 106 marked something of a watershed. Whereas all the preceding sets had focus effects that decayed after five levels, built-in obsolesence to ensure their replacement with each new expansion, by the time 2017's Ring of Scale expansion rolled around the developers had tired of the process.

Conflagrant armor returns to the traditional upgrade route of having a player-crafter make gear for adventurers using items dropped by mobs. As a result it's significantly more expensive to buy in the Bazaar but it's very much worth the investment. The stats are very good for a solo player but most importantly the focus effects operate at full efficiency all the way to the current level cap of 115.

Almar's excellent, if outdated, guide says "Conflagrant Armor ... is the best non-prestige armor you can get for players 106 - 110 and the second best non-prestige armor at 110". A set of that will do you proud for a long while. All you need to do is make enough money to buy it.

106 is also the level the next air pet appears. For that I had to find my way to yet another new zone, albeit one that sounded eerily familiar: The Overthere. Ring of Scale is one of several expansions that re-uses older zones, in this case those originally introduced in the much-earlier Ruins of Kunark.

I remember The Overthere as the foothold of Norrath's evil races. Back at the turn of the millennium its only settlement was well-known to players as the Evil Outpost. Given its reputation, I was understandably nervous when I ported in, having bought my Miniature Worker's Sledge Mallet from the guild hall functionary and handed it imediately back to him to activate the portal.

The docks and the buildings beyond looked very familiar. I carefully conned every NPC I could see. I couldn't see many. It was too dark. Well, it was night-time, of course. Isn't it always?

Everyone seemed to be either apprehensive or indifferent. Safe enough. Although most of them also conned red. Not so re-assuring. I took a deep breath and headed into town.

It was fine. I found my vendor, bought my new air pet and all the other level 106 spells she had. Then I backed out, took a few quick screenshots and gated home. Didn't even hang around to scribe the spells into my book. Why take chances?

Back in the safety of the Lobby I had more decisions to make. I'd already researched pet focus items for my new level, the ones that let you summon pets at a higher level than the base spell affords. For the first time in pretty much the entire game there were none. No tradeable ones, at least. No affordable tradeable ones. There is one super-rare tradeable focus, the Golden Sage's Earring, which I've seen quoted at ten million plat. I have a hundred thousand to my name.

Lack of a suitable focus being a moot point, I saw no reason not to summon my pet there and then. No reason except that I already had a fully raid-buffed pet and it seemed a waste to dismiss it. I had a spare pet stashed in my invisble pet pocket courtesy of the Suspend Companion AA so I thought I'd swap those two over, dismiss the lower-level one, suspend the buffed one and summnon a shiny, new level 105 pet. Then we could loaf around for a few hours until he got buffed, too.

Only it turns out you can't swap current and suspended pets until you have all eight grades of the AA and I only had seven. Which is a problem, because as a free player I can't earn any more AAs.

Next time I'll explain exactly how I fixed that. Hint: it cost me. Although not as much as I expected.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Wider Two Column Modification courtesy of The Blogger Guide