Sunday, April 15, 2018

Slow Club : EQ2

Since I seem to be incapable of playing more than two MMORPGs in rotation these days, my unexpected return to EverQuest pushed EQ2 off the wheel. Prior to that I had at least been harvesting my two shrubberies for mats and rares every day and keeping up with the basic requirements of the simple daily that funds the purchase of veteran rewards for characters who haven't been around long enough to earn them the slow way.

I was also - slowly - leveling up my Inquisitor towards the level cap by way of the Signature quest line from the last expansion. Last time I saw her she was Level 106 and facing a shortish grind on repeatable quests to max her Sphinx faction. Not something I was looking forward to, although it would only take an hour or so.

The main thing I was supposed to be doing was the Tradeskill Signature line. It wasn't ready when the expansion launched. It got patched in earlier this year and I waited a while before starting it back in the middle of March.

The god Karana, looking like your grandad on a weekend when Grandma's gone to visit her sister.
It comes in four parts. All the walkthroughs make a big deal of how long it takes, suggesting you allow several hours to do the whole thing. They go on about how much running around there is, how you might die to the Heroic or Raid level mobs that you're required to sneak past and how very lengthy and slow the combines are. Part of the reason I waited so long to begin was because the walkthroughs made it sound like a nightmare.

I suspect that some of the caveats derive from the experiences of the guide-writers as they plowed through the quests on the Test Server. I know from long and bitter experience that guinea-pigging any new content on Test can be like tap dancing in snowshoes compared to the eventual, tuned, debugged and eventually nerfed-for-convenience Live version.

Part One went fairly smoothly. I made a couple of elementary errors that got me killed but really the only thing that made it occasionally seem a little slow was the way I insisted on tabbing out to read the walkthrough, just to be sure I didn't take longer than I needed to. Yes, I know...

Please stand well back from the wyvern when it breathes fire on solidified lightning. It's only common sense.
I would have carried on from there but the very next day I started messing around on the Vox server over in EQ and bang! There went a month. Yesterday I finally got around to Part Two. Once again there were all kinds of warnings on the wiki about how long it was going to take me:

"The combines for this timeline are VERY long. Without potions they are taking 3-5 minutes EACH. Plan accordingly. There is a LOT of running on the quest. Bring as many evac items as you can manage. A floaty cloak is also useful to save time getting down from the towers".

Well, not really. The combines seemed to me to take a lot nearer three minutes than five, although I didn't actually time them. The thing is, I don't think three minutes is all that long for a combine. I'm sure I've done many longer ones over the life of the game and I seem to recall there was a time when three minutes wouldn't have seemed particularly unusual for a regular combine you might do while leveling up a tradeskill.

I certainly never felt the need to blow a potion on any of them. It was a pleasant, relaxing little crafting session. As for the running around, I do more of that every single day in WvW.

Thank you, Captain Obvious. Is it any wonder Voonark gets snarky?
In point of fact, I've probably done more running between writing paragraphs of this post, chasing across the map to defend Air Keep then back to our spare Bay, the one we're holding on Sea of Sorrows Borderland, to fend off attacks there. Not to mention that it often takes me longer than either of those to run from Plane of Knowledge to wherever it is I'm going to hunt that day, pretty much any time I play EQ.

It depends what you're used to, I guess. Whoever wrote the walkthrough clearly values his gaming "downtime" more than I value mine. I do seem to spend an inordinate amount of it just moving from one place to another or watching a progress bar fill. Or moving stuff from bags to boxes and back.

I did dig out my "floaty cloak" and put it on though. And swapped into my crafting gear. It's not like I want to go slowly for the sake of it. More like my idea of slow is stuck somewhere back in the late 20th Century, when "slow" meant "probably going to take a week or two".

Far from being slow on any terms, this tradeskill quest so far has been a lot of fun. It's an exemplary erm... example...of how to design an active, involving, exciting quest without combat. There's also minimal use of puzzles and no platforming, so it doesn't lean heavily on other genres. 

Dinging three levels at once was so loud it made me jump and I messed up the screenshot.
Mostly it sticks to gathering, crafting and not getting killed, which is quite enough to keep my interest and attention engaged.There's also a generous helping of utterly nonsensical plot, some incomprehensible and confusing lore and a hefty portion of snarky NPC chat - so EQ2 questing as we have come to know and love it, really.

I did worry a little that, with Domino gone, tradeskill quests would either fade away or begin to ressemble reskinned adventure quests but this one seems both substantial and authentically crafty.It also gives a humungous amount of xp. Granted there was a double crafting xp weekend running and I used my Veteran's hammer to refill my tradeskill vitality but even so to do six levels in an hour seems extreme.

As a result my weaponsmith is now maxed at 110 with half the signature line to go. Still, despite having capped out half way through, even if I wasn't enjoying the quest itself, which I very much am, there's plenty of incentive to finish it. The next step unlocks Guild Harvesting Missions, which I had no idea were even a thing, and gives my gathering pony a couple of new tricks, while the final stage puts two extremely powerful recipes in my book.

I think I might give part three a go tomorrow.

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