Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Like A Ratonga, Only Bigger : EQ2

Tears of Veeshan, EQ2's tenth expansion, went live last week. Not that I've seen anything of it, even though I've been playing quite a bit of EQ2 lately. I've mostly - well, entirely - been concentrating on the previous expansion, Chains of Eternity. We skipped that one when it released around this time last year but it comes bundled with the new one. Just as well because, as far as I understand it, all ToV content is aimed squarely at max level 95s and you need a bare minimum of CoE quest gear even to get started.

After all the recent hoohah about SOE selling or even giving away instant Level 85s, those who don't keep up with EQ2 may have gotten the impression that for a few dollars in Station Cash anyone can just bootstrap themselves to the top. Not so. Very, very much not so.

Leaving aside the unpleasant truth that in EQ2, as in many MMOs, the game a lot of people want to play could be said to start at max level rather than, as one might logically expect, end there, the issue of those ten levels remains. Going from 85 to 90 is, to use a technical term, a doddle. Ninety to ninety-five, on the other hand, is not.

Now those'd fetch a bob or two down the pawnshop, right enough.

When we pre-ordered Tears of Veeshan  our accounts were immediately flagged for Chains of Eternity. I woke my ratonga Berserker from his year-long slumber, found my way to the Ethernere and began to work through the first of the two overland adventure zones, The Eidolon Jungle. On arrival he was level 92 and 320 AAs exactly.

Six weeks on I have completed the entire signature quest line for the zone, along with a goodly number of side-quests and Advanced Solo dungeon instances in The Throne of Fear. I've continued the quest sequence through several more Advanced Solo dungeons - Sleeper's Tomb, Wurmbone Crag and Chelsith. Yesterday I finally returned to speak to Al'Kabor, the wizard who's dogged all our steps through a millennium or more of Norrathian lore and who now seems to have ascended to some form of godhood that requires us to address him as "The Duality". Yeah, right, Al baby. Like that's going to happen. I still remember the crappy spells you palmed off on aspiring wizards back in the old days so do me a favor with the airs and graces, why don't you?

She's still dead then? I thought she might have got better.

Ahem. Where was I?

So, after completing more than half of the main questline in Chains of Eternity, where exactly do I stand vis a vis progress towards max level? Currently, at 92.6 and 321 AAs, that's where. At this rate, completing the entire solo quest content for the whole expansion should get me somewhere approaching the middle of level 93 and I might even have, oh, as many as 323 AAs!

Not that I'm complaining. The questline has been entertaining, if slightly demented. I recently praised the Advanced Solo instances and they continue to be extremely well tuned. The rewards have been appropriate and satisfying. Every time I log in it feels like I'm making good progress. I'm still going to be the best part of two levels short of starting ToV content when I wrap this up, but there's a couple of major Velious updates I've never seen plus a deal of Heroic content I've never done that I should be able to handle in my spiffy new quest gear.
Turn around. I need to re-program you. Yes, I do know what I'm doing!

On that note, I had a wander through the Tower of Frozen Shadows the other evening, just me and Dok my trusty clockwork mercenary. That went well enough until I hit up against some Named that has a trick to him that requires two actual people. If I can just persuade Mrs Bhagpuss to stop defending the Honor of the Yak in WvW for half an evening I'm sure we could make it to the top.

There is, though, an obvious drawback to EQ2's present predilection for combining ultra-slow leveling with a purely quest-driven approach: it's a lot of fun - once. Whether I'd want to do it a second time I'm not so sure.

Of course, I have been doing this on my Silver account, where the experience slider is firmly set to a mandatory 50/50 share between Levels and AAs. Progress doesn't have to quite as glacial as I'm making out unless you positively insist on being a complete cheapskate.

Going to need a really big frying pan.

I have a level 92 Beastlord on my Gold account. He'd be able to set the slider for full leveling speed and I have vaults full of various xp boosters so there's potential to speed the whole process up considerably when his turn rolls around, but still the thought of wading through the same quests in the same sequence so soon afterwards does put me off a little. It's one thing doing the same quests but doing them in the exact same order is where I begin to balk.

First time through, though, it's been a real pleasure, not least because some of the scenery is truly gorgeous. EQ2 is often, and often rightly, criticized for inconsistent and unappealing graphics but some of the dungeons are genuinely breathtaking. The sense of scale and depth just doesn't come across in screenshots, sadly. I spent ages trying to get some shots that did justice to the sheer. vertiginous, acrophobia-inducing cliff paths in Wurmbone Crag, for example, or the eerie, psychedelic vibe of Chelsith: The Ancient Vault. Largely without success,as you can see.

Hmm. I recognize those trousers.
Far beyond the beauty of the views along the way, however, the entire journey from Firiona Vie's pantomime demise onwards was made worthwhile by the discovery of the Giant Ratmen Of Kunark. They're called the Ashlok and my ratonga had been fighting them for quite a while before he realized the four-meter tall monstrosities he was getting a crick in his neck from looking up at were barbaric versions of his own kith and kin.

With the vile Roekilik and the pants-avoiding Chetari I make that four distinct rat races for Norrath but this latest one has a unique twist (as well as being the size of four or five ratongas standing on each others' shoulders, that is). The wiki tells us that the Ashlok "act differently during night and day".

Enquiring ratonga minds must know! What do they get up to at night? If that's not worth running through the whole thing all over again then I don't know what is!


  1. Agreed. No. Just Say No... Not being the pro completionist, no, I can't keep running toons through the same lines over and over again. I don't even like the frequent the same zone a lot. Nek Castle again? Kill Me Now....

    Otherwise, you've got me curious now, damn. I've only worked a couple of advanced solo zones -- yes, you're right about those -- but now I see from this posting there are plenty of enticing bits if I would just stay on track. Mostly, I've been doing just that over in Eidelon and vicinity, but, explorer me, I had to run up to Vesspyr. The harvestable trees are great. Having my high dps toon with pet and merc stomped repeatedly is not. At that, even with all xp going to leveling... yep, it's glacial alright.

    Your point about the CoE gear so noted. I had read something about that regarding ToV, that you'd be silly to attempt much up there without it. Okay, then, I'll just try to stick to trees and the occasionally red shiny search and save the combat for after some progression in CoE. It appeals to that explorer thang. Besides, who doesn't like killing evil mutant ratongas?

    -- 7rlsy

  2. I just started on Obol Plains tonight and the quest rewards are Level 93 so I can't equip them yet. Also I noticed that the Level 93 quest reward boots were significantly weaker in every respect than my Level 92 crafted ones, the only piece of crafted I was wearing. Makes me think full crafted might be better for leveling to 95, although I seem to remember the reason I only have the boots is something to do with the cost of the rares required. Have to look into that.

  3. I need to get on the ball and play my 85, but it's sooooo overwhelming!


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