Thursday, September 24, 2020

It's All Panda Panda Now : EverQuest II

As you can see from the screenshot above, Yun Zi the panda is a popular chap. It's not so much his friendly, affable personality or his open, childlike enthusiasm. It's more that he gives you stuff.

It's pretty good stuff, too. For any casual player who hasn't been putting in the hours since last year, the gear Yun Zi hands out is likely to offer some serious upgrades. And even if you have made the effort, the fact that he's happy to equip as many of your characters as you care to bring makes doing his simple runaround quests an annual ritual no-one wants to skip.

He's always surrounded by players, digging through his stockpile, but he's starting to develop a bit of an entourage of his own as well. When he first appeared, back in 2017, he was on his own but when we saw him again the following year he'd acquired an assistant, Pas Yu, to handle the merchandise. 

This year Yun Zi isn't giving out quests at all. He seems to have sated his thirst for third-party adventure. He's basking in the reflected glory of being the only panda who knows anything at all about the world outside the secluded village where he and his friends and family live.

He's become such a local celebrity, off the back of the tales we've told him, that a panda by the name of Mei Lan has been tasked with arranging a celebratory feast in his honor. Naturally, since Yun Zi is such a well-travelled explorer, albeit vicariously, she wants the menu to reflect all the myriad places he's visited. Or had us visit, I should say.

It's a delightful conceit. I was wondering how long Yun Zi could hold up the narrative of the naive rich kid blowing the family fortune on a personal obsession. The story was starting to get a little threadbare but this refreshes it perfectly.

This year, instead of zipping around the world each week in search of stories to tell, we're tasked with finding ingredients for Mei Lan to turn into amazing "local" dishes. The first excursion takes us to Antonica, where we need to find the makings for Coldwind Clam Chowder.

I know Antonica pretty well. A quick glance at the list told me just about everything I needed to know. 

I figured the giant Coldwind clams would be on the wide, desolate beach just down from Archer's Wood, where Mrs. Bhagpuss, myself and a friend spent hours hunting crabs for spell drops in beta and after launch. And yes, that's where they were.

I went for the old oak potatoes next, thinking they might be in the woods above the beach. Silly of me. Yes, those are oak trees, but who ever heard of potatoes growing in a forest? They are, of course, in the tilled fields just outside gates of Qeynos, where the bugs are so huge you can make a good living killing them for the farmers nearby.

The last ingredient on Mei Lan's list was wild Coven onions. There's only one coven I know in Antonica and that's along the riverside between the bridge and the aquaduct. 

The onions were there, sure enough, but so was something I wasn't expecting at all. As I said, I reckon to know Antonica pretty well. I must have spent hundreds of hours there over a decade and a half. I know I don't have the greatest memory but I think I'd have remembered if there'd been molehills the size of hobbit houses all over the fields next to the stream.

I stopped and looked at those for quite a while before I noticed something else I swear wasn't there before. A farmhouse, in the typical Antonican log cabin style, up a path in the low hills looking down on the river.

I don't know. There are a lot of farmhouses like that in Antonica. Maybe it was always there? I'd believe that before I believed those molehills were, that's for sure. 

The farmer was standing by his porch, gazing out at his fields. I thought maybe he'd have something to say about the infestation so I went to talk to him. He was happy enough to tell me how he felt about his lot in life but on the topic of the giant molehills peppering his land he remained strangely silent.

I filed it away as another of Norrath's mysteries. Must have been some event I missed. Forgotten, abandoned debris from those litters the lands from Qeynos to Freeport and far beyond. Everyone likes to organize events but no-one wants to clean up afterwards.

Back in Sundered Frontier I gave Mei Lan her makings and moved on to see what Pas Yu had new for us this year. I've been a lot more diligent than usual since the return to Luclin so I wasn't expecting much in the way of upgrades on my berserker, who's had first pick of all the goodies from instances and Overseer missions.

The items become available week by week as the questline continues but you can see everything from the start. There are some very nice adornments to be had, which is good because one area where I have been lax is in making top-notch white adorns. My berserker is a maxed-level Adorner and he has almost every recipe but the mats are a bit expensive. Also I kind of forgot.

I noted those for the future and carried on sorting through the new "Shadowed Excursion" gear. I followed my usual policy of checking the Resolve to see if anything was worth equipping. Resolve isn't specifically intended as a gear score but it acts as a very reliable benchmark. 

As I expected, there was nothing with resolve much higher than 170. My berserker isn't wearing anything lower than that and much of his gear is 175 or 180. Most of my roster have similar although I'm sure there must be a few 165s and even 160s lurking here and there.

I'd all but dismissed the idea of taking anything for the berserker when I happened to notice some of the rest of the stats. In EQII, as you mouse over gear, an automatic comparison with what you're wearing in that slot pops up. It seemed that although these new items had a lower Resolve rating, some - if not most - of the other stats were higher.

I spent a while doing a close compare on several slots and the conclusion was inescapable: the panda's gear was better than most of my berserker's, whatever the difference in resolve. What's more, the base stats on the Shadowed Excursion were often better than the enhanced stats on the gear I'd poured platinum and infusers into improving.

Even the rather nice 350 resolve, planar level six, two-hander the berserker had wasn't as good as the 340 resolve, planar level one Heavy Staff of the Shadowed Excursion that becomes available right after you complete the first of this year's quests. With the Two Handed Shadowed Excursion Rune: Power of the Planes that also opens up after the first quest installed, it was a serious upgrade. 

It looks as though I'll be swapping out almost everything for panda gear once more, after all. Maybe not the 180 resolve stuff. Definitely not the 200 resolve ethereal cloak. But most of it.

And then, quite possibly, that will get replaced with free stuff from the box beside the first questgiver in the new expansion. And that will get swapped out for the first set of quest rewards. Which will soon give way to drops from Overseer missions and instances.

You could be forgiven for wondering what the point of it all might be. It does seem a little self-defeating, all this built-in obsolescence. Only, having played a game for eight years where I haven't needed new gear for almost as long, I know which I prefer.

EQII's a funny old game, but I like it.

I just wish I know where those giant moles went.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Wider Two Column Modification courtesy of The Blogger Guide