Thursday, December 8, 2022

I Almost Didn't Recognise You With That Beard!

This afternoon, I made it to the first dungeon in the new EverQuest II expansion, Renewal of Ro. That makes it sound as though it was a bit of a trek but in fact the entrance was right there in the harbor. It's one of the first things that catches your eye as soon as you arrive.

I haven't been keeping an exact track of how long I've been playing since the expansion dropped. I know it probably hasn't been as much as other years. There seems to be more pressure on my time than usual right now, which seems odd, given I'm only working a couple of days a week. 

Most of what slack there might have been seems to have been taken up by Beryl and her many daily walks; more than she'd probably choose for herself if she was in charge, to be honest. We really enjoy going out with her, even if the weather has been less than amenable. I'm clocking up three hours a day, more days than not and never less than two.

Dog walking hours, that is, not EQII playing. I'd guess EQII is getting about half that. Even allowing for the difference, progress seems to have been quite sedate, which is in no way a criticism. I'm taking my time to savor the atmosphere. I have yet to step beyond the first zone, although I believe that I have now at least opened the whole map. 

It's behind you!
I made a comment in an earlier post, suggesting the embargo on flying mounts didn't particularly matter due to the relative flatness of the terrain. With more experience, I need to revise that observation. It's true that the desert itself is easy to explore on foot but the expansion so far is unusual in its inclusion of what I can only describe as a number of jumping puzzle elements. 

There's nothing to ressemble the kind of formal set-pieces seen in games like Guild Wars 2 but several quests require you to find some way up cliffs or onto the tops of mesas. EQII has a fully-fledged climbing mechanic that's been much employed since it was introduced back in the game's first expansion, Desert of Flames, but even though we've returned to that same desert seventeen years later, this time around it seems we're expected to clamber and scramble our own way to the top, not follow in the scuffed bootprints of those who climbed before us.

I've been enjoying the challenge. EQII's movement mechanics don't really have the facility for finely tuned jumps but the game does have a couple of advantages othes lack. One is a peculiar, floaty adhesiveness to vertical surfaces that allows you to move forward while sliding along walls and the other is the ability to glide almost weightlessly by use of any item with the spell effect Featherfall, found mostly, if not exclusively, on magical cloaks.

If this was Noah's Heart I'd use my grappling hook.

In that fashion, I've so far been able to reach everything and go everywhere I've been asked. This afternoon I spent an enjoyable twenty miutes figuring out a workable glide path to get to a quest item on top of an otherwise inaccessable rock formation. I imagine some players find it irritating (A few comments in General chat have certainly suggested it.) but I have to say it's working for me. Sure, I'll be glad to get back to flying when the appropriate point in the narrative arrives but for now I'm having fun doing it the old-fashioned way.

Speaking of the narrative, the plot has held together quite well so far, in a slow-build, low-key kind of way. It makes a pleasant change from the end of the world scenarios we usually get. Yes, there are some bigger issues looming in the background that I'm sure we'll get to eventually but for now it's all about bandit attacks and Djinns with mysterious agendas. Standard desert fare and all the better for it.

For example, there's a lengthy sequence involving infiltration into a bandit camp while disgused as..., well, what would you disguise yourself as if you wanted bandits not to notice you? Another bandit, of course.

Who are you and what have you done with the boss?

Normally I have "Hide your illusion form" toggled on at all times because I'm proud to be a ratonga but there's a practical side to be considered, too. If you're not seeing yourself as others see you, sometimes you forget whether you've put your disguise on or not. Well, you do if you have a memory like mine.

Having been set upon by angry bandits one time too often, (Admiteddly, I do stand out rather as a ratonga. Desert bandit clans don't seem to practicethe kind of racial integration - or at least grudging acceptance - that's de rigeur almost everywhere else in Norrath) I flipped the switch so I could see my illusion and I have to say I found it rather fetching. I wouldn't generally go out dressed like that but I think the beard kind of suits me. Not to mention the turban.

The visuals in RoR are generally very pleasing. There's a quest where you have to wander in and out of tents playing the flute. When I "used" the flute, I was surprised to see and hear my character actually playing it. Also, there were musical notes floating in the air - but I think that might have been heatstroke. 

In retrospect, I wish I'd thought of hiding the illusion so I could see if the animation works for a ratonga. That'd be like the Pied Piper in reverse. Sadly, I didn't think of it until after I'd finished the quest and now I don't have the flute any more. I'll have to try and remember, if and when I do it again on my Bruiser.

That's great, Zel! Now we just need to find a good pitch and put down a hat and we'll soon be raking it in!

It's all been very entertaining so far and the difficulty level has been just about right for me. I've run into several more solo Named mobs on my travels and added a notch to my sword for each of them. No particularly good drops so far, although even the common drops are upgrades at this stage. 

I was apprehensive going into the new dungeon, actually an instanced version of the entire zone, now overrun by bandits. The last few expansions have been a bit hit and miss when it comes to solo difficulty in instanced content. By and large it's been fine but there have been occasional difficulty spikes, often right at the start.

I'm pleased to report that the regular mobs in the opening instance are very manageable. They don't take too long to clear and I never felt overwhelmed. The first Boss (Or "Named" as we Norrathians would have it.) posed no problem at all. I took him on without first reading up on tactics and although he had several tricks I was able to power through them all and treat him as a plain tank'n'spank. He didn't drop anything very special either but it's early days. 

I would have gone on to try the next Named but I foolishly clicked on the wrong X when I was trying to close the map and closed the whole game instead. Not the first time I've done that. I really shouldn't play in Windowed mode. It's asking for trouble.

Seeing I was at desktop anyway, I though I'd come here and write this, so here I am. Solo instances persist for three days in EQII and I'm not working until Sunday so I should have plenty of time to get through the whole dungeon before it time-expires. Wish me luck!

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