Monday, June 4, 2018

Attention To Detail : EQ2

When Daybreak Games decided to offer everyone yet another free Level 100 character in EQ2, Wilhelm voiced what were no doubt the thoughts of many. He wondered just how effective such offers are. The answer would seem to be... quite effective.

Wilhelm also kinda, sorta answered his own question by making a new Level 100 Shadow Knight and actually playing him. I made a free Level 100 on the couple of accounts that turned out to have a character slot left. I even paid for an extra slot on my currently subbed account. The rest that were full I left. For now. No doubt there'll be another offer along in a while.

These offers do work - at least to a degree. There were plenty of people on fresh hundreds, asking questions in general chat, commenting that they hadn't played for a while/ages/in forever. It was the chance of a free high level character that drew them in.

I hadn't been playing EQ2 much recently. Not by intention. I got distracted, first by Wizard 101, then Pirate 101 and the KingsIsle pair pushed EQ2 onto the back burner. The free 100 dragged me back, not so much because it was a chance to skip the levels but because I was curious to see how good the offer was.

Very good. Very good indeed. The gear provided is, for once, more than powerful enough to make the experience of playing in the latest content a pleasure rather than a pain for the uninitiated and inexperienced. And, indeed, for those of us who have been around the park before.

I took my new Wizard out for a stroll around Plane of Magic the other night and as a brand new Level 100 in the gifted gear she seemed about as effective as my Berserker had been at 105 or so. It will certainly make the first few dozen quests a heck of a lot less hard work than they were back in the Autumn, when the expansion was new.

That said, a lot seems to have changed, both incrementally as the expansion beds in and suddenly with GU106. All of it for the better, at least  to my way of thinking. As well as the quality of life improvements they announced, I wonder if they've tinkered with the xp curve?

My Inquisitor has been hanging around for weeks, tapping her fingers and twiddling her thumbs, waiting for me to get on with finishing her last four levels. I took her out the other day to get the final faction she needed to complete the first section of the Signature Line, which in turn opened the first Solo Dungeon in Plane of Innovation.

I remember doing that as soon as it became available with my Berserker. It wasn't particularly hard, but Telwyn, who has been doing the same thing on her Inquisitor, reported a lot more difficulty than I'd had. Still, I wasn't expecting much trouble when I took my own Inq into the instance for the first time. At Level 106 she was higher than the Berserker had been and better equipped, not least because she was wearing some of his spare armor.

She died on the first pull. It wasn't even a fight. I think the mob hit her twice. Clearly something was wrong. I tried once more to make sure it wasn't some glitch . It wasn't. So I went and did some research.

A lot of research as it turned out. I read all kinds of advice on all kinds of forums and websites. I tried a few things but nothing helped much. Without going into too many details, the "solo" dungeons in this expansion work by means of a buff, which is intended to let a single player plus an NPC Mercenary handle the same mobs as a full group.

If the buff is working, you should have over 100k Potency and over 20 million hit points. My Inq had the potency but her HPs were stuck at around 3-4 million and nothing I could do would shift them beyond that. Even grinding a few more repeatable faction quests to hit 107 didn't help.

Eventually I found out what the problem was, from the twelfth post in this thread on the official forums. I hadn't maxed Enhanced Vigor in the Prestige AA line. Actually I hadn't set any Prestige AAs, but that's the one that matters. A lot. With that done my HPs went to just over 20m and instead of me dying it was the mobs who fell over.

Telwyn, to whom I commented about my discovery, confirms that it did the same for his Inquisitor. Just in case anyone else is struggling, or if anyone has made a new Level 100 and wonders why someone seems to have built a wall between Level 105 and 106, this is the reason.


Ahem. Anyway, with that done the rest of the instance was a breeze. So was the second part.

Another design feature of the expansion is that almost all xp comes from quests, meaning you don't really see the fruits of your labor until you exit the instance, go find whoever sent you there (usually Druzil Ro) and tell her you've done the business.

Based on my previous run as a Berserker I knew I'd get a fair chunk of xp. I know he hit 110 before he'd done all the instanced dungeons in the Sig.line. He did not, however, hit 110 after he finished the first of them.

My Inquisitor did. She went from 107 to 110 in a single hand-in. I couldn't believe it. At first I thought it must be because of the double XP event but that had ended days before. I checked. What I did have was full vitality (110% bonus) and a 20% Veteran Bonus from the 'Zerker having hit max level.

That should not have turned a single quest into three full levels (I'd barely started 107) but it did. Something's up but I'm not complaining.

The way EQ2 works now, max level is only the start. As well as your AAs, which you probably have alreeady, you need your Ascension Levels. The xp that would have gone to Adventure Levels transfers directly to Ascension instead, although there's a convoluted gating process to make sure you keep at it most of the year until the next XPack arrives.

My Berserker has been slacking on Ascension so I thought I might try the new Solo version of Shard of Hate that came with GU106. He could do with the gear, which would be sure to be upgrades or else why would anyone bother? Even if he didn't get anything good, the xp would be useful.

It was a mixed experience. The Solo Shard of Hate is brilliantly designed. There are two dozen Named mobs, split into several groups, each with a method to spawn them. Every time you create a new instance you get a subset of the total. It differs each time, which strongly enhances replayability.

All of this is explained on this wiki page...which hadn't been written the first time I went in. I went in blind, floundered about, found a Named near the start and killed it after a very long fight which ended with me flat out of power. I autoattacked it to death!

Emboldened, I pushed further in until I ran up against a cleric mob that I simply could not kill. It was only a regular mob, not any kind of boss or sub-boss, but it easily outhealed what I had thought was my respectable solo DPS. Eventually I gave up and left.

On my second run I had the wiki to work from. I killed the Mimic-style chests and spawned the Trapped Bellhop. Then he killed me. It was a DPS issue again. That and he has fiddly mechanics that meant I wasn't even doing any DPS half the time.

I didn't give up. I was pulling regular mobs by the roomful and AEing them to death in short order and the xp was coming in so I carried on. I picked another Named to spawn - this time the Anarchic Obscenity. I killed a load of what looked like skeletal spiders and he spawned. And I killed him.

I ran out of Power again but for once I had the presence of mind to drink a potion to restore it. I never remember there are potions in EQ2. It took two full bars of Power and I was flat out at the end but the Obscenity was on 1% health and again I auto-attacked him to death. I clearly have a lot more work to do on improving my DPS. And my Power. And my Health pool. And my resistances.

Two nameds out of three down, though, and each dropped an upgrade, so that's a start. It was hard work, I died a few times, and reading the strats suggests most of the Nameds will take more effort than I'm likely to want to put in, but I have to say this is an excellent piece of solo content. I look forward to picking away at it until the inevitable day when power creep means I can waltz in on a whim and kick the backsides of the lot of them.

If the next EQ2 expansion really is the last, as the rumor has it, it's a shame. The quality is still top-notch. Oh well, enjoy it while it lasts...


  1. My Inquisitor wasn't power-levelled so suffered from having mish-mash gear from the previous expansion's levelling content, it'll be interesting to see how a fresh level 100 Berserker faires in comparison.

  2. Oh and given the post's title, if you wouldn't mind changing the two personal pronouns referencing me to 'he' since I am male ;-) (feel free to delete this comment after).

    1. Ooops! Sorry about that! Also sorry I didn't see this until I came back from holiday so it looked like I was ignoring you! I really shouldn't be assuming anyone's gender, this being 2018, but the grammar nazi in me always balks at "they" for a singular.

  3. 'If the next EQ2 expansion really is the last, as the rumor has it, it's a shame.'

    Oh no! I really hope that isn't the case. :-(

    1. It was one of the rumors that emerged during the "we were never part of Columbus Nova" debacle. Nothing official has been said so let's hope it's not genuine.

  4. A legendary tattered burlap cloak. Must have been the one Maximus Decimus Meridius wore when he slew Commodus.


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