Saturday, November 17, 2018

Some Things Never Change: EQ2

Chaos Descending, the new EverQuest 2 expansion, is turning out familiar yet different. An odd feeling; new and old at the same time.

For several years, all EQ2 expansions have followed the same pattern. A hub zone with services, an open zone, occasionally two. The main storyline progresses through solo quests and exploration.

At nodal points in the narrative there's access to instanced zones. They come in solo and group versions. You complete either to forward the story, then you farm whichever you prefer for gear upgrades, collections and similar forms of character progression.

On top come Raid instances, Duos and several other flavors of difficulty and reward, plus Public Quests, a separate and detailed Crafting questline and a new feature or two. This time it's gear for your mount.

My practice, going back to when I returned after a longish break to play catch-up through several expansions I'd missed, has been to open the Wiki from the start and follow the Signature Timeline to the end. EQ2 has a very well-maintained, authoritative and accurate wiki so playing with it open leads to a thoroughly smooth and streamlined journey through what feels like heavily curated content.

That has suited me very well. For the last few expansions I've been playing EQ2 mostly at the end of the evening, dropping in for an hour or two after I've finished in Guild Wars 2. I've been very happy to follow the guides, see the content, enjoy the story, gear up as I go.

This year, just by chance, EQ2 happened to drop its expansion in a week when I was at home with more time to play than usual. I also just happen to be on maintenance mode with GW2, popping in to do my dailies and then mostly popping out again. At the same time the EQ2 team also decided, for reasons unexplained, to give us the most open zones we've had since 2007's Rise of Kunark.

With plenty of time on my hands and sucked in as I was by the best introduction to an expansion in many years, somehow I found myself playing in the way I used to play a decade ago. After putting in something like ten hours I have yet to consult the Wiki on anything at all, let alone to follow the intended storyline in logical order.

Instead I've taken whatever quests I've happened across, which includes a significant number that open up from items dropped by mobs. Many - perhaps most - of those would seem to be side-quests or one-offs that have little or nothing to do with the main narrative.

For example, I spent nearly three hours ingratiating myself with an Iksar in the Great Library. His questline, which appears to have little to do with anything else, sent me to Detroxxulous, The Plaguelands. It counts as one of the four "new" zones athough it's actually a re-skinned version of a  zone from the last expansion. It's entirely new in content and feels very different, so I'm happy to give Daybreak a pass on including it in the count.

The Planes of Earth, Air and Fire are properly new. I've partially explored all of them after quests suggested I should. In each case I've rapidly wandered off-piste, sidelining my supposed purpose in favor of completing missions for the ubiquitous Dr. Arcana or just flying around, taking screenshots and battling Named monsters.

I haven't really played brand-new content in EQ2 this way since 2011's Destiny of Velious. I'm not sure there's any reason I couldn't have approached subsequent expansions in such a cavalier fashion. I just haven't, until now.

I'm not yet sure whether Chaos Descending is objectively larger in scope than recent expansion or whether it feels that way because of how I'm playing. Whichever it is, I like it. After several lengthy sessions I have yet to reach the point where the narrative moves into instanced, solo dungeons and I'm quite happy to leave that point some way off in the future.

EQ2's solo dungeons are very good, on the whole. They tend to be graphically gorgeous, thematically intriguing and mechanically sound. I usually find the difficulty level just on the right side of challenging; I can't always complete them first time through and I sometimes have to adjust tactics or gear to succeed. In the end, though, I have never run into one I couldn't finish.

That said, I prefer open zone play. For the bosses and sub-bosses, the solo dungeons incorporate variants of the kind of scripted behavior that has dominated group and raid play for a decade and more. It tends to involve a lot of gimmicks and/or dance moves and I can live without that quite happily.

I'm a tank&spank player at heart, or a kiter. I'll root-rot or nuke and run. If you can sum it up in a phrase, I'll do it. Just don't make me learn dance moves or break codes. It makes me glad I've not rushed down the storyline when I see Kaozz saying:

"The bosses take forever to kill on solo mode and there are mechanics you have to pay attention to or you'll end up dead, swarmed or out of mana, not terrible but the slow pace of killing a boss is really excruciating"
The solo Fabled dungeons are like that. I haven'tf inished some of those, although mostly because I couldn't be bothered, not because I found them unmanageable.

Storyline is a greater incentive than loot so I'm confident I'll be able to step up when I need to but I'll get there soon enough, no need to hurry. For now I'm enjoying the much looser, slower pace, exploring the beautiful new zones (well, Eryslai, the Kingdom of Wind is beautiful - the others are more like imposing or terrifying...), picking up bits and pieces of the story as I go.


  1. Say, it occurs to me to actually ASK you, because I know no one who knows the Everquest 2 landscape as well as you --

    Some time ago, I heard that one of the things in some content expansion or other was a "crafting raid" of sorts, to break into a dragon's cave and redecorate before they came back. This idea has always fascinated me, but I've never seen any evidence that it actually exists. Do I have the right game, did this ever happen in (either) Everquest?

    1. Hmm... I think you're probably thinking of the Frostfell quest The Frostfell Decoration Committee: Permafrost . That fits the exact description in that you have to help a bunchof goblins decorate the lair of their boss, the dragon Lady Vox. It has to be completed before she gets back and al the goblins run away.

      It isn't a raid, though. It's a solo quest. However, I have a vague memory that it might have been a crafting "raid" back when it was first introduced. There was a time when crafting raids were a big thing in EQ2. I did quite a few of them. I guess they are probably still in the game. From memory I think they had a two or three hour timer and they they required the skills of several (maybe all?) tradeskill classes. They could be soloed, though, if you had the patience and I did duo them on occasion. They were certainly intended to be done by at least a full group, though - maybe more.

      For the sake of curiosity I just did a bit of research on this: there are these missions which are definitely some of the ones I remember. They were introduced all the way back in the Fallen Dynasty Adventure Pack in 2006 and then rolled into the Shadow Odyssey expansion several years later. There may have been others - I seem to remember one Ii can't see on that list. We did use to refer tothem as "crafting raids" back in the day.

    2. Thank you for that. That's been gnawing at the back of my mind for ages.


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