Saturday, September 15, 2018

In My Element : EQ2

I count myself lucky, growing up in a culture that worships irony as a god. I've have never had much difficulty holding two contradictory ideas in my head at the same time.

It seems quite normal to me and it's a skill that comes in very handy at times. With the ink scarcely dry on my last post, the one with all the entitled whining about the formulaic nature of current-day GW2, here I am again, posting in praise of something equally predictable, happening in another MMO.

The way that I found out about the upcoming EQ2 expansion and the associated event came with ironic overtones of its own. Massively OP reported it ( not once but twice), both times off the back of tips from Wilhelm at TAGN. That made me wonder about a couple of things.

How come a website like MassivelyOP, which exists primarily to recycle puff pieces from MMORPG comany PR departments, needs to be informed by a reader about the official announcement of a new expansion for a well-known game that they cover regularly? Do DBG not send out press releases any more? Or is MassivelyOP no longer on their mailing list?

Maybe it's just that no-one at M:OP has time to read them. We're all busy these days and I imagine Massively gets a lot of mail. Perhaps that's all it is; a simple oversight.

Or maybe they're having trouble with their feeds, like I seem to be. After all, how come Wilhelm, who rarely plays EQ2 these days, knows about these things before I do? Particularly since I have both EQ2Traders and the main EQ2 News from the official website in my Feedly?

You're a big man but you're out of shape.
I can at least answer that one. I just checked the RSS feeds and the EQ2 News one was dead. I fixed it and now it's fine so I should be as up to date on all things EQ2 as anyone from now on. Feedly claims there's nothing wrong with the EQ2Traders link so I guess I'll just have to keep a closer eye on it. Maybe I should add it to my Blog Roll. I use it far more than Feedly these days, anyway.

Sources nothwistanding, I do now know that there will be an expansion for EQ2 this November. Then again, contrary to Massively's suspicions, we did already know that. It was in a Producer's Letter sometime back in February. The thing we didn't know is that it will be called Chaos Descending. Odd name. Then again, we had Kunark Ascending a couple of years back and I guess what goes up must come down.

Other than the name, all we know so far is that we're staying in the Planes. In the last expansion, Planes of Prophecy, we visited the Planes of Magic, Disease and Innovation as well as dropping in on the gods Karana and Solusek Ro in their respective fortresses (Bastion of Thunder and Sol Ro's Tower).  We also got to spend time in what appeared to be the lobby to the Plane of Valor without ever setting foot in the plane itself.

Oh, and after we put Innoruuk back together we got to visit the Plane of Hate, too. Which was nice. Or rather it wasn't.

Can't say I didn't warn him.
None of those are actual elements, though. This time round we get to go to the proper Elemental Planes: Earth, Air, Fire and Water. Or as we call them in Norrath, the Earthen Badlands, the Kingdom of Wind, the Burning Lands and the Unresting Waters.

And then there's the Great Library. Is that a Plane? Oh, wait, you don't think it might be... the Plane of Knowledge? Now that really would be some nostalgia, right there. I hope that's what it is.

At this point I was going to speculate on what the expansion might contain. There's an established pattern that goes back the best part of a decade to The Shadow Odyssey in 2008: one or two overland zones, a bunch of instanced dungeons, a couple of raids and a Signature Quest to take us through all of them. Then there are a few mechanical innovations (aka gimmicks) and a new gear tier.

Every two or three expansions brings a level cap increase. We had one last time so we won't be getting another. Indeed if, as is rumored, this is the final expansion for EQ2, we'll be staying at Level 110 for ever.

For the past few years we've also had a pre-expansion event and it's always been roughly the same. Something Strange starts to happen all over Norrath. A team of investigators, representing one of the many academies, colleges, churches or governments, sets out to get to the bottom of whatever's going on.

Hit things 'til they break? I can do that.
No matter which institution is in charge they always follow the same methodolgy:  bribe a bunch of adventurers with trinkets to go and kill anything that looks weird and bring it back in bits to be experimented on. This time the Strange Thing is raging elementals and the investigating authorities are the Mage Schools of Freeport and Qeynos.

I spent more than two hours helping Freeport’s Academy of Arcane Science this morning. The introduction to the event was even more perfunctory than usual and the quest itself took less than ten minutes, half of which was finding the main questgiver, who was hidden away in the sub-basement of the Academy in a room whose intentionally obscure access protocols reminded me what very different games MMOs were back when EQ2 was young.

This looks like a good spot, Hattie.
None of that mattered a jot when I got stuck into the gameplay. It's exactly what I want from an MMO. There are Elemental Tempests in over thirty of EQ2's open world zones, allowing characters of any level to join in. Each spawns a series of raging elementals, which you get to kill for pleasure and profit, before you deal with the Tempest itself.

The Elementals need to con at least green to your character so I went to the highest-level zone, Plane of Magic with my max-level Berserker. Even though most of the mobs are two-ups and flagged "Heroic", they turned out to be so weak I had trouble targeting them before my Mercenary finished them for me.
Got. Got. Got. Want!

I found a lovely spot on the East zone rim where there are four spawns in a row. The Tempests have a five minute respawn timer which was just about right for doing them continuously. All the elementals drop whatever any elemental might and the Tempest always drops one Elemental Storm Shred, the event currency.

There's also a collection which requires twelve body drops from the elementals. That was how I came to spend two hours there. Collections have that annoying diminsihing returns thing going on, where the more items you have, the harder it seems to be to get the ones you still need.

And of course it often is harder, because developers set the drop rates and they like to make some rarer than others. I set myself a limit of one hundred Shreds and when I hit that buffer I still had one spot in my collection unfilled.

I am very glad I stayed as long as I did because although I didn't know it at the time the rewards are fantastic. Not in the way the Days of Summer rewards are (those are very significant combat and progression upgrades for any casual or semi-casual player) but in the exact way GW2 rewards almost never manage to be.

Cool and refreshing!

EQ2Traders has a great gallery of the full list of things you can buy but even there the pictures don't do them justice. Lots of the house items have particle effects or moving parts and many of them just look beautiful.

The two outfits are truly splendid, with glorious elemental effects. I am going to get them for a few of my magical types - they do look very wizardly. And it goes without saying I have to have the kitten. Prices are extremely reasonable and at the rate I was getting the Shreds I foresee no problems in farming as many as I need. And enjoying it, too.

As the lead-up to the expansion continues we can look forward to the now-traditional Gear Up, Level Up event, intended "to help you get your characters ready" for the expansion. What with that and Yun Zi's help it does make me wonder just how tough the new zones and instances are going to be if we need all this gearing up before we even get there.

Whther my characters are ready or not, I definitely am. The simple fact is, I'm more energized and excited by this underwritten, under-resourced content,  predictable and formulaic as it undoubtedly is, than anything I know of coming down the pipe in GW2. It's not that content needs to be original or fresh or inspired - it just has to be what I want. And this is exactly what I want.

It's going to be very sad if this time next year I can't sit down and bash out a post about how much I'm looking forward to the next EQ2 expansion. That's very much been a theme of this blog almost since the beginning. Fingers crossed those rumors are wrong. Maintenance mode would be fine for GW2 but EQ2 can do so much better - and deserves to.


  1. The Daybreak method seems to be to post something to their site, wait a few hours, post it to social media, wait a couple of days, then send out an email. As I have their news feed in my RSS reader, I tend to be one of the early informed. You might well ask why MOP doesn't do the same, but that is why I got the early news not once but twice.

    Of course, this is completely bust if Daybreak goes back to the old SOE habit of hiding announcements in the forums. I never look there. That used to be Feldon's beat, and with him gone we might never hear anything from that vector.

    1. Well, I thought I had EQ2News in my feed too but when I deleted and re-added it Feedly loaded the last ten posts so I guess it's been broken for a long time. Hopefully it will work now.

      Even I never read the forums any more and I used to live there once upon a time. The only time I ever look at them at all is if I'm checking something for a post. Apparently Discord is the place to get the latest info these days. Hmm... I have Discord installed from Blaugust. Maybe I should look into that.

  2. I like the event very much too. Working on those 80 shreds for the recipe at the moment. My carpenter wants that. :-)


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