Sunday, December 17, 2017

Free Kittens! : EQ2

We're getting towards that time of year when awards get handed out and everyone talks about what they liked or didn't like over the last twelve months. I'm not going to do that.

Frankly, its a lot of work and I don't have the time or the energy. If Awards season rolled around at the end of the financial year, then maybe we could talk. I'll be sitting around doing not very much at all by then - with any luck.

What I am going to say is this: as of the end of 2017, my favorite MMORPG is EverQuest 2. What's more, I think that as things stand right now EQ2 is my favorite MMORPG of all time.

Talk about character...
My top three MMORPGs haven't changed in forever. Well, technically not since 2007, when Vanguard: Saga of Heroes launched.

The three games in question are, of course, EverQuest, EverQuest 2 and Vanguard. A very strong argument could be made that my favorite MMORPG is, in fact, just the one game. I like what I like, there's no getting around it.

Over the years the order of the top three has changed a few times. EQ has the prior claim, the history and the gravitas. Vanguard has the grandeur and the bittersweet feels. EQ2, though...EQ2 has everything.

It's not just the sweeping scale. Most MMOs that survive have that. They have to. It's grow or die.

Neither is it just the depth, the variety, the breadth: the sheer, insurmountable volume of content that's beyond overwhelming by now. There's so much to do the only way a new player can hope to cope is to take the free boost to 100 and pretend the tip of the iceberg they see at end-game is the entire world.

No, what clinches it for me is the character that shines from every surface. The graphics may be aging, the visual aesthetic may be uncertain but this is a place that's a true place from end to end.
Proud to be a two-gnomophone household.

And, what's more important, it's a friendly, welcoming place. No matter how dire the situation, how pressing the need, how near the end times, NPCs tend to speak in full, measured sentences, to address you by your given name and note your concerns.

Freeport may be a den of thieves ruled by a tyrant, Neriak a dark, forbidding underworld, but everyone somehow finds time to chat and life goes brightly on, hourly executions notwithstanding. Everywhere you travel you'll likely be working with boffins or brainiacs lost in the labyrinthine complexities of their genius, or with ancient masters who somehow find time to discuss the mysteries of the universe with you as an equal. There's none of that nonsense about making you the center of the story - you just are and it feels completely natural because the entire game has worked forever to make that make sense.

Aurora Frostfellearis.

Norrath is a world surprisingly filled with whimsy, particularly given the privations of the Cataclysm and the Shattering, not to mention the ever-present threat of imminent destruction from Dragons and Demi-Gods. There's a festival around every corner and a holiday bound to be coming along right after.

I know I'm not alone in finding Frostfell the most engaging of the MMO winter festivals but really it's just the frosting on EQ2's festival cake. And this year we get kittens! Kittens wearing hats!

Norrath is packed right now. The expansion is popular and so is Frostfell. People who play are playing and people who haven't played for a while are dropping by to see what they might be missing.

Stop looking at me!

After my Warlock picked up his kitten I tried to get a screenshot. I kept getting photobombed by passing players but when I found some white space it occurred to me that I'm never really alone in Norrath, not even when I'm the only player in the zone.

There's the Warlock, standing in a ring. Going clockwise there's his old, class-based familiar (some kind of tiny drake), good old Stamper Jeralf (the original ratonga healer Mercenary), a Wicked Gumdrop (vanity pet courtesy of Santa Glug) and the new Frostfell Merry Kitten (new-style Familiar, with stat boosts).

Being a ratonga and therefore something of a techie, the Warlock likes to ride a hover disc. Otherwise you could add some kind of riding animal to the party. And naturally if I'd chosen to take the screenshot with my Necro or my Beastlord there'd have been a combat pet or two somewhere in the mix.

I liked to sleep al fresco on these balmy desert nights. Plenty of room for a kitten or two on the cushions.
When a solo player swings past in EQ2 it often looks like a full party going by - or maybe a small raid getting started. I love that. 

I also love that my Berserker's Maj'Dul mansion, once so huge I wondered how I'd ever furnish it, is now so full of keepsakes, curios and house-pets it looks like a cross between the British Museum storerooms and the Dearly household at the end of 101 Dalmatians.

Meandering through the latest, excellent expansion my Berserker is closing in on the new level cap of 110. With just half a level to go he's finished up the first four Planes on offer - Magic, Innovation, Disease and Storms. Just Sol Ro's Tower left to do although judging from the walkthrough that could take a while.

Everything in this expansion is huge. I guess this guy at least has the excuse of being an actual giant.
I haven't needed to touch two of the three factions for experience. I'm leaving those to give a little variety for whoever makes the run to 110 next. I did do the separate, standalone sequence of music-based quests though. That was...odd. And fun. And incomprehensible. And occasionally emotionally affecting.

I haven't touched the crafting levels yet. Plenty of crafters have ground their way to cap on writs but I'm content to wait for the New Year and the promised tradeskill questline. I'm quite glad it wasn't ready for inclusion in the expansion itself - I wouldn't have had time to do both that and the adventure line before Christmas anyway.

Crafting is another jewel in EQ2's crown, of course. By now it surely must be the most complete, full-featured tradeskill offer in MMOs. Is there anything even close? But then, in EQ2, even gathering gets its own series of multi-part questlines.

Proper sad, this bit was...

I can't think of any MMO that so richly rewards just wandering about picking things up off the floor. Yes, they all do it to some degree, or many of them, but not with such vigor and vim. Shiny hunting alone could keep a player occupied for months.

The older EQ2 becomes, the richer the experience gets, which is definitely not something I'd say about GW2, which was bizarrely - and entirely inappropriately in my opinion - voted Most Improved MMO by Massively OP this week. Improved, sure -  if by "improved" you mean "moved ever-closer to becoming exactly the kind of game it set out to replace", I guess.

Wilhelm was looking back at the list of upcoming MMOs of interest he made at the beginning of the year, observing how far we still are from being able to play any of them for real. I have decided I don't care any more. I'm not in the market for novelty right now.

A title might have been nice. Bird-whistler, maybe?
What I want is more of the same. Planes of Prophecy is more of the same and it feels really good.

But then, of course, I also remember how I was feeling six years ago, when GW2 was still not quite in open beta and I was playing EQ2 every day and had been for years. I felt enervated, exhausted, ready for something new.

Right now the polarities are reversed but that could always change. In this hobby its usually when you feel the most comfortable that you need to start worrying.

Oh well. If nothing else, at least I got a kitten.


  1. Nice post =)

    I finally made an EQ character, a Coercer, and am on the starting Isle. I have no clue how long or often I will play there but the best part is there really is no rush for me. Seems like it will probably always be waiting for those who want to be there.

    (Quick question - good idea to finish off the starting island?)

    1. Thanks! The thing about the starter isle these days is you can go back there whenever you want. They added it to the World Bell a while back.

      I don't think even before that there was any particular reason to stay til you'd done it all but now you don't even have to make the choice.

    2. There was a story there I ended up concluding, although I far outlevelled it by the time I did. :)

  2. Replies
    1. You're welcome! Maybe it'll make up for me trashing your tower!

  3. I really did deeply love EQ2 during the time I played it duo with the BF, but I've had a really hard time sticking to it solo.

    Maybe I just need to grab the expansion that activates Mercenaries.

    1. Mercenaries are great. They aren't quite the game-changer they are in EQ1 but they do make a huge difference. They also make you feel like soloing isn't quite such a solitary activity. Although not as much as having all the pets out at once does!

  4. I got the encouragement email to come back for Frostfell, but all that came to my mind was that those were some oddly scrawny kittens. But we have a 9 month old kitten in our family, so I might be making unfair comparisons.

    1. That elongated look has been a thing for felines in EQ2 ever since the original, controversial Station Cash cat mount. I used to find it very off-putting but I am so used to it now I barely notice it. The Frostfell kitten is endearingly goofy, I think, but certainly no-one would ever mistake it for an actual cat!


Wider Two Column Modification courtesy of The Blogger Guide