Monday, November 11, 2019

Underpromise, Overdeliver: EverQuest II

When I first read the official announcement  outlining the events Daybreak had scheduled for EverQuest II's fifteenth anniversary celebrations I was underwhelmed. Granted, anniversaries that end in five generally carry less significance than those that end with a zero - and fifteen is definitely neither ten nor twenty. Still, fifteen years of continual operation is a notable achievement for an MMORPG. It deserves recognition and respect.

For what was described as "our big 15th Anniversary event" we were promised something called "Dragon Attack": dragons were scheduled to attack the Ulteran Spires in four zones, Thundering Steppes, Everfrost, Loping Plains, and Nektulos Forest. Backing this up came a tradeskill event, in which we would be tasked with "constructing permanent, impressive statues commemorating the 15 years that have passed since the Age of Destiny".

Is he looking at me? He's not, is he?
The list of rewards from the crafting quest looked a tad thin and there was no mention of the pay-off for protecting the spires from dragons. The press release also tied the annual Heroes Festival, which falls at this time each year, into the anniversary celebrations as if it was part of them. That seemed a bit cheeky to me.

It didn't help that there was a 15th Aniversary Celebration Bundle in the store, stuffed to bursting with really tempting treats including a crafting table that works for any tradeskill, a 66-slot bag, a 100% fee-reducing, 100 slot broker crate, speed-enhancing boots, a mount and lots more. Very good value at $34.99 but perhaps a little galling when compared with what I thought were rather lackluster in-game rewards.

And then I logged in and discovered I was wrong on every count. The event is excellent and so are the rewards. I spent most of yesterday killing dragons and having a rare old time. As I sit here now I'm alternating between writing this post and killing more. Whether by good fortune or good design, EQII's fifteenth birthday party is turning out to be one of the most enjoyable I've attended for quite a while.

Note bunny and shovel from previous events. Cloak too, probably.


Dragon Attack and Heroes Festival mesh a little chaotically but work well together. Structurally very similar, they each consist of a series of public quests in which very large creatures with quadrillions of hit points appear at easy-to-access locations on a fairly predictable schedule.

All the mobs are raid-level so it relies on a good turnout if things are going to go smoothly. We certainly have that for now. Heroes Festival is a little more forgiving on numbers, although not by much.

It features "clothwork" puppets representing famous villains from the lore. They're notionally operated by a theater troupe of NPCS and are nothing more than giant pinatas. I'm not sure if they even fight back. Dragon Attack features guess what? Dragons. They do fight and there are even some tactics required, as outlined in the wiki.

You can't fool me. You're not a real dragon!
All of the dragons and most of the puppets appear right next to a wizard spire, meaning anyone can get to them with the minimal of travel time. There's a ten minute warning before they arrive and once they're in place there's a nominal timeframe in which they have to be killed, something like 90 minutes.

Each dragon has a one-hour respawn time and right now they're taking five or ten minutes to die. With people doing them in a fairly strict rotation that means the next is along in about the same time it takes to kill one, if not sooner.

Indeed, because the two events are on different schedules, there's frequently a dragon and a puppet up at the same time. It's possible to chain-kill with no more than a few five or ten minute intervals now and again. I did that for about four hours at a stretch yesterday and it was a lot of fun.

Everyone lines up along the crater rim for this one. People are weird.

There's a real carnival atmosphere at the moment, on this first weekend. Every dragon and puppet draws a crowd, even on my low-pop server, Skyfire. Yesterday afternoon and evening there were sometimes enough people to spawn second instances of the zones. I crashed twice because of the strain a hundred players, their pets and minions put on my graphics card.

General chat is busy with people asking which dragons or puppets are up and with people who are killing them reporting the progress. We even had someone roleplaying a TV reporter for a while. I've heard no complaints save one - someone was moaning that having these two events plus the expansion beta all at once meant there was too much to do!

My haul from Saturday,
not including the stuff I equipped.
As for the rewards, which I turned my nose up at when I read about them, I was completely wrong. They're great! Very generous and sufficiently desirable to bring people out of their usual instances to get them.

The Dragons drop very good gear for Mercenaries (every piece I've had has been a major upgrade), Illegible Spell Scrolls (needed for spell upgrades and something I virtually never see drop as a solo player), and Infusers for gear (which I'm saving to use on the inevitable upgrades from questlines in the upcoming expansion).

The most important drop for me, though, is Mount equipment. Levels and gear for mounts was a keynote feature of last year's expansion, Chaos Descending, but it was one that I spent most of the year ignoring. Until this weekend none of my mounts had a single piece. Now I have a saddle and some barding equipped and more than a dozen more mount items in my bags.

Last, and very much not least, there's an Achievement for killing all four dragons. I'm not much for Achievements in general but it's different when they come with one of the best "mounts" I've ever seen in the game.

It may seem odd that I'm sounding so enthusiastic about a mount when only a few weeks ago I was bemoaning their very existence but the name of the mount in question should go some way to explaining why that is: Reveal Inner Dragon.

Technically an actual mount, this is really an illusion. You place it in your Mount Appearance slot (you can put it in the main Mount slot if you want but it doesn't have very good stats) and you become a dragon. A really good-looking dragon at that.

Look at me! I'm a dragon!

I want one for all my Level 110s. The Berserker has one and the Warlock will before I finish this post. That leaves four more. I may well get it for the lower level characters on other servers too. While the dragons are Level 110 Epic X3 raid mobs, you get credit for just being there when the kill happens so any level can complete the achievement provided they don't mind dying now and again.

That's the adventurer side of Dragon Attack. To keep this post to a manageable length for once I'll cover the crafter's version separately. Suffice to say it's pretty good, too.

As for the returning Heroes Festival, which I so glibly dismissed on sight as "more of the same", I'd completely missed the part of the press release that mentions the five new collections added this year. Even if I'd seen it, I wouldn't have known that the rewards for those include three new mounts.

Not really! Don't kill me!
As for the new items added to the Heroes Festival vendors to be bought with the currency you get for doing the event, if it wasn't for the invaluable EQ2 Traders I wouldn't have known there were some wonderful old school paintings (the ones without the horrible new frames) and one of the best sets of appearance armor I've seen in the game for years. The PR team might have mentioned that...

Dragon Attack runs until December 6th and Heroes Festival to November 19 so there's plenty of time to get everything done. At the moment everything is buzzing and it's easy and fun but as people run their alts through the cycles and get all the rewards they want I imagine it will quieten down considerably.

I wouldn't leave it too long - all the targets are raid mobs and I can tell you from experience that even with the puppets that don't fight back it takes a handful of players an awfully long time to whittle one down. I imagine that's why the event allows an hour and a half for the kill.

All in all I give this anniversary celebration a hearty cheer. So much better than I thought it was going to be. Thanks and congratulations to the dev team once again. Maybe someone needs to pop round to the PR department and have a quiet word...



(IntPiPoMo count 55)

3 comments:

  1. Sounds great! I'm happy that quality content for the game keeps rolling in still.

    If I weren't deep into ArcheAge Unchained at the moment (now that my server is back up again ^^) I'd definitely check it out. Although I'm not sure how much of it I'd actually be able to do at level 93, or if I'd be able to use the rewards should I get them.

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    1. There was a Level One character doing Dragon Attack last night. Well, he was Level One when he started. After the first dragon he was Level 14 and after the second level 20. He didn't mention if the rewards scaled.

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