Thursday, August 6, 2020

There's Been A Change Of Plan: EverQuest

All the shots in this post come from the aptly-named Beast's Domain, a Tier 3 zone from the Veil of Alaris expansion. Zam describes it as "a lush, wild land where the beasts rule".

I never really planned to go there. It just happens to be right next to the Level 95 Hot Zone, Sarith, City of Tides.

Sarith is the final Hot Zone. After this there are no more. I don't know why. Maybe Hot Zones always ran a few expansions behind the cap. I haven't been near enough to the top of the ladder to notice since 2004 and we didn't have Hot Zones back then. I can't say I've been paying attention to what happens when you get this close.

I'm paying attention now, though. My magician dinged 107 a couple of days ago and she's already 20% in. The next gear change comes at 110 but her focus effects already reach to the cap, five levels above that. She's not at endgame yet but she can see it from where she's standing.

With that in mind and planning ahead, I thought I ought to start investigating where she might go when Franklin Teek runs out of tasks to give her. Some of the mobs in Sarin already turned green when she dinged, although most are still a comfortable light blue. Another level, though, and it will definitely be time to move on.

With EverQuest as my focus game, things are changing. I'm finding it quite strange. I've been putting in a lot of work, upgrading gear, spells and AAs and it's paying off. XP per kill still crawls but time to kill has never been shorter. Quite possibly literally.

Instead of the familiar, sedate pace I've been used to, the mage is burning mobs down in seconds. She's started pulling aggro from her pet even on single targets, something that hasn't happened in forever. I'm having to hold back a little, which takes some getting used to.

With the buffs from the pile and the ever-increasing mana regeneration provided by high-level gear it's all but impossible to run out of mana. When I'm burning hard for maximum flow during my daily half-hour, double xp Lesson, I can chain-nuke and never go under half mana. I can kill mobs faster than I can find them - and there are plenty of mobs in Sarith.

With all that in mind, I went exploring in Beast's Domain. Hot Zones have always been unreliable when it comes to levelling efficiency. They have a bonus, it's true, but all EQ zones used to have separate Zone Experience Modifiers and some of them were already better than the Hot Zones for the level.

Something was done about that a few years ago, or I seem to remember it was. I think I might even have posted about it. This kind of thing is notoriously difficult to research, though, and I don't feel like spending the time right now.

Luckily, these days it's easy to test the proposition with a practical experiment. The default UI now renders xp to three decimal places. No more squinting at an analog "xp bar" and trying to guess how many pixels moved.

Another thing I don't know and can't be bothered to research just at the moment is when EQ expansions started using a "Tier" system for zones. It's long been common practice to refer to "T1" or "T2" zones but I always used to associate it with raiding. Now that I'm looking stuff up I realize it also applies to open zones.

I finally began to pay attention to tiers when I subbed my Magician's account at the end of last month. Subscribers can equip "Prestige" items. F2P players can't. I'd been wondering why she could use some of the drops from named mobs and not others.

As Zam explains, "Prestige Items in EverQuest are items obtained from higher-end content in the Seeds of Destruction™ expansion and later". "Higher-end content" is a little vague but a little digging suggests it means T3 zones and above.

Since I don't plan on keeping up the sub for more than a month and since almost all the drops are No Trade, being able to get Prestige items isn't of much practical use, even if anything the mage can kill was likely to drop anything she'd want, which is exceptionally unlikely. What's of more interest to me is a) how much harder the higher tier zones in the same expansion might be and b) whether the xp there is enough to to make any extra risk and effort worth taking. On the basis of my initial experiments the answers to those questions would seem to be "not much" and "just about", respectively.

Mobs in Beast's Landing take a little longer to kill but they give a little more xp. It probably balances out but BL is a really nice zone to hunt in and the drops are worth more. Also, it's visually very impressive - for an EverQuest zone. It's almost pretty in places and it's fun to explore. I like it there.

I even bumbled into the next zone on, the bizarrely named Evantil, the Vile Oak. I walked up an inclined tree-trunk, thinking it led to a raised area in Beast's Domain and half way up I hit a zone line.

When you find yourself in an unfamiliar zone in EverQuest it's best not to wander about. I hugged the trunk on the other side and conned the mobs. They were all aggressive but they were also all light-blue so I chanced it and sent the pet to poke the nearest.

They were tougher but quite manageable. I spent about half an hour there, gradually clearing the area around the zone line and venturing further in. Respawns were fast and there were plenty of roamers. I didn't get far. Eventually, inevitably, I got more adds than I felt equipped to handle, so I took the discretionary path and gated out.

It was good xp while it lasted and the loot sold nicely. I plan on going back but first I want to explore the whole of Beast's Domain. That could take a while. BD is huge. I mean really, really huge. It feels as though you could put several of the Karanas in there and still have space left over. 

That's the current plan, anyway. It's nice to have a plan but you always have to be ready to throw it out, particularly if it goes far better than you expected.

The whole reason I subbed was so I could grind AAs instead of xp, since I was making almost all my xp on Overseer quests anyway. And that's been going beautifully. I spent all my saved AAs and since then I've ground out over a hundred more. I've been saving them until I found out whether or not I'd get any of the free, auto-granted AAs when I dinged 107.

Well... I did. I got thousands of them. I'm not sure exactly how many it was but my Magician currently has 17,385. A week ago, before she subbed, she had about five thousand.

Those auto-granted AAs, automatically assigned to the abilities the developers consider key, make an immense difference. I went out right after I received them to see if I could tell the difference and it was as if the mage had been supercharged. I guess she had. No wonder everyone says the higher game is all about how many AAs you have.

So, change of plan. From now until my sub runs out I'm going to focus on leveling. I can get one more level for sure. Maybe two if I really go at it. If I get auto-grants for those it's going to make one heck of an impact.

And I'm going to see how much further up the expansion ladder I can climb. I had no idea when I was there, but checking it today for this post I realized Evantil, the Vile Oak is a zone from 2012's Rain of Fear. A Tier 2 zone, no less.

That's the most recent expansion I've ever hunted in (albeit not visited) and it was eminently doable. Maybe I'll try Call of the Forsaken's Dead Hills next. People keep suggesting that one in chat.

I can only die, right?


  1. Thankfully death in Everquest isn't as punishing as it once was. Speaking of Everquest I should log in and check what level I was at when I left the game.

    1. 96% NPC rez is guaranteed these days, if required. It's the disruption and wasted time that's the penalty. That can still sting.

  2. I am very tempted to log back in and see where I was too. Think I am low 90's and xp really started to crawl and I eventually stopped logging in. Maybe it's time to check it out again.

    1. Last time around, before Overseer, the low 90s was where I stopped because it was just too slow to be fun. It still would be if it wasn't for Overseer but that makes an incredible difference. In essence, as a soloist, with Overseer xp you can make what feels like very decent progress without having to go grind for hours, leaving you free to spend that time doing something more satisfying.

      Even with my newfound killing power I'd still only be making maybe 4 or 5% of level 107 in a two-hour solo session including the Lesson, although at least with the speed of kills it feels a lot more fun. With Overseer adding another 10%, though, that starts to feel a lot more like steady progress.


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