Wednesday, December 11, 2019

I Covet The Waterfront: EQII

Yesterday marked the first day of Frostfell in EverQuest II. The midwinter celebration is a huge event in Norrath's calendar, bringing a welter of quests and activities, several seasonal instances and a whole zone dedicated to games, crafts and gift-giving.

There are no new quests this year, which is probably just as well. There are already nearly two dozen, several of them multi-part, some repeatable. There are three new Collections, all of which I completed in a ninety minute session last night.

EQ2 Traders, as always, has full details. I found the gloss there very useful although I was familiar with the mechanic from previous holiday events. Each of the three Collects comprises nine items, three sets of three, to be found in three locations - a home city (Qeynos, Freeport or Neriak), a secondary starting city (New Halas, Kelethin, Gorowyn) and Frostfell Wonderland Village itself.

I started in Freeport for the very good reason that it was where I found myself when I logged in. There were purple sparkles scattered across the cobbled streets of Lucan's capital and I wasn't the only one trying to grab them. Track Harvestables came in handy once again.

It was while I was grubbing around down by the waterfront in North Freeport that I noticed the hole in the wall. I know Freeport pretty well after living there for a decade and a half but it still has the capacity to surprise. I must have passed the building in question a hundred times and yet somehow Id never noticed how different it looked from the rest.

The walls were grey stucco, patterned with swirls. Fancy. An archway opened into a small, featureless courtyard. Had it always been there? How had I never noticed it before?

Against the outer wall there leaned a crude ladder. Planks nailed together. Why was it there? Had it been forgotten by the plasterers? Left behind by burglars? More to the point, could I climb it?

Climbing in EQII is quite specific. It was added as a feature in the first expansion, Desert of Flames, back in 2005 and has been included in content ever after, albeit somewhat sporadically.

Climbable surfaces are usually easy to spot; the walls are marked with the tracks and handholds of previous climbers or there are ladders or nets. All you need to do is move close enough and your character will begin to scale the obstacle, hand over hand.

Freeport predates all that. When it was built there was no climbing in the game and as far as I know, no-one ever bothered to go back and add climbable surfaces to original game zones. But we never needed special skills to climb back in the old days. We just...climbed.

And the way we used to climb was by jumping, hoping to find a piece of geometry that extended, invisibly, far enough into the horizontal to allow a precarious perch. I looked at the ladder. The expression "thick as a plank" came to mind. Those were pretty thick planks.

My Berserker tried a standing jump with a little jink forward. He landed on the first cross-strut - and stuck. Good start. He tried again and there he was, on the next rung. Third jump he fell off. Luckily no-one was watching except his Mercenary and he's paid not to laugh.

The ladder turned out to be fully climbable - old school style. I'm not sure I've climbed a ladder that way in EQII before. I kind of think I have but I couldn't say where it was if I did. 

At the top was a wrought-iron railing and no roof. I stood and looked down into the courtyard of the room with the hole in the wall and I pondered. I knew now that the ladder could be climbed but I was no wiser as to why it was there in the first place.

And I'm still not. Does it have a role in some quest, possibly for a class I've never played? Did some designer place it there intending to add some feature they never got around to finishing? Is it some kind of in-joke? I have no idea although I'd bet someone does.

One thing occurred to me as I stood on the roof. I've known since almost the start of the game that there are buildings you can rent in Freeport which have outdoor views. I actually own one on some character or other. Unless it's in Qeynos. Whichever, that one's a closed rooftop with no real view but I've seen and visited a large Freeport house with a rooftop terrace and views of the harbor. Maybe this was it...

Not to undercut the tension but yes, it was. I went round the front and checked the door. I was outside 7, Compassion Road, one of the original Guild Houses. I took the tour and went upstairs. The six-room home has not one but two rooftop terraces, both with great views. And neither of them is the rooftop I climbed onto.

There was a time when I coveted that house. It seemed impossibly expensive. Not only did it cost three platinum to buy the lease but 250,000 status as well - and you had to be in a guild of at least Level 30. And if you could manage all that, weekly upkeep ran to fifteen gold and 50,000 status.

Well, that may have been a pipe dream in 2004 but fifteen years later it's trivial. I have almost a million platinum on my Berserker alone, his one-person guild dinged Level 63 two days ago and he has enough Personal Status to pay the upkeep for almost as long as the game has been running. Fourteen years-worth, in fact.

I did consider buying it. It's a fantastic property in its own right and I'm pretty sure it's breakoutable. I could have a whole section of the Freeport waterfront all to myself.

In the end I decided against it - for now, at least. I already have an astoundingly over-furnished mansion in Maj'Dul on that character, which he long ago broke out of, giving him access to much of the city. Plus he's in the process of landscaping his Mara Estate, a bona fide small town, complete with river, ocean and fields, no breakout required.

EQII is one of those games where it's all too easy to take on more than you can handle. I don't need another housing project right now - I still have my Inquisitor's Baubleshire to deal with and my Wizard just set up home in the Mistmoore Crags Estate.

I shut the door of 7, Compassion Road and went back to my shiny hunting. An hour or so later I'd finished all three collections and handed them in. My Berserker was the proud owner of a Bleachbone Faun Mask (the sunbleached skull of a deer, complete with antlers, set in a silver hood, covering the whole face and making him look like the first jump-scare in a 1970s horror movie), a Bleachbone Faun Cloak (a silver cloak, embroidered with an image of the same skull and quite  possibly made from the flayed skin of the same deer) and a Bleachbone Faun Staff (made, I'm guessing, from whatever bits of the deer were left over).

What connection those gruesome items have with Frostfell and its happy-go-lucky cheer I cannot begin to imagine. They're druidical, that's as much as I know, but what druids have to do with goblins, false beards and Dickens parodies beats me.

It's another culture. Who am I to impose my values?

On with the revels!


  1. That house you visited is where my Warlock has been living for at least ten years now. :-)

    Back then the balcony didn't have the upper floor yet and you couldn't see the outside world from anywhere. All you could do was look straight up into the sky.

    Still, it was great even back then. I made sure to place all kinds of stuff to reduce the weekly status-cost though, it would have chewed up the status I had all too quickly otherwise.

    1. I always forget about status reduction. I could easily bring that 50k down to nothing or near enough. Ok, I am going to buy it - justy have to decide who's going to live there.

    2. Hehe, good choice.

      In case you don't know, there's a hidden little room under the stairs to the balcony. The door is really tiny, but its colour is slightly different than the rest of the wall.

      I'm using it as a secret shrine and altar of Bertoxxulous. Not that it actually needs to be kept secret, since this is Freeport and all...I guess I just liked the room for it.

  2. I miss the housing in EQ2 the most. Loved that part of the game.


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