Friday, December 20, 2019

We Choose To Go To The Moon: EQII

I am having a wonderful time in EverQuest II's latest expansion, Blood of Luclin. So much so that I wish I had at least a week off  to give it the time and attention it clearly deserves.

Playing it in short sessions after I get home from work, tired and with other demands on my time, is far from ideal but it brings back those feelings from a decade, a decade and a half ago, when a new expansion or a new game would drop and there just wouldn't be enough hours in the day to play.

I was always pre-disposed to love this expansion. I've been waiting for a return to the shattered moon for fifteen years, pretty much since EQII launched in 2004. Looking up at the scar of Luclin's ruin night after night, I always believed we'd make it back there one day.

When the rogue dragon Kerafyrm was sealed inside a remade Luclin in final fulfilment of the epic Age's End prophecy, driver of  EQII's lore since inception, and we looked up to see the moon made whole, I knew we be going back. And now here we are.

For me, the nostalgic impact of Blood of Luclin dwarfs anything I felt during my time in WoW Classic. I have only ever been a tourist in Azeroth and any frisson of familiarity is on the level of revisiting a town where I once spent a happy holiday, years ago.

I lived on Luclin for a long time. It was the current expansion when I returned to EverQuest after a year in Dark Age of Camelot. It was also where Mrs Bhagpuss and I began, yet again, returning once more from adventures elsewhere, at the launch of one of my favorite server-homes, Stromm, where we went on to found a guild and make many new friends.

It's fair to say Luclin and I have history. And now we have more. If there's one thing Daybreak know how to do it's to haul on those levers of memory. My last few evenings have been an unceasing procession of "Oh wow!", "Is that...?" "OMG!". Every time I see a familiar mob - Thought Horrors, ShikNar, Lightcrawlers, Sambata - it's like seeing an old friend. Well, if by "friend" you mean someone who'd kill you as soon as look at you.

I have so much to say I have no idea where to begin. I also have just one day off work before Christmas and for once I'd really rather spend it playing the game than writing about it. I think I'll just stick to an introduction, rather than digging into the incredible amount of detail that's whirling around my mind right now.

How about how I got there? As Wilhelm says, one does not simply walk to the moon. Getting to Luclin turned out to be both simple and complicated. There was a reason the prequel events all related to the Wizard Spires, Norrath's longstanding means of cross-continental travel. All the work we did these last few months was to upgrade the Spires for interplanetary transport.

The Duality (and who died and made him boss I'm still not sure - I remember him when he was plain old Al'Kabor. Or half of him was, anyway...) doesn't pass out tickets to the moon to just anyone. Before you can see the new link on the spire map you have to have completed either the Adventure or Tradeskill prequel quests that were added back in September.

I'd done the crafting quest on both my Berserker/Weaponsmith and my Warlock/Alchemist so all I had to do was chat briefly to a couple of crafters in Teren's Grasp and off I went. A click on the spires and there I was in The Blinding, the entrance zone for the expansion.

For the first hour I was so gosh-wowed out, running about taking screenshots, figuring out I was in Mons Letalis, finding my way to The Grey, now re-named The Wracklands (no doubt incorporating other areas remembered fondly or otherwise from the elder game) that I didn't exactly notice all I was being given were crafting quests. It turns out that while you can get to Luclin on just your crafter cred, no-one wants to trust a tailor or a carpenter with kill missions. Go figure!

By then it was bedtime so I camped out on the terrace overlooking The Umbral Ocean (quite an upgrade from The Twilight Sea). The next evening, like Wilhelm, I found myself backtracking to complete the prequel I'd neglected. It turned out I had the quest in my journal, I'd just never bothered to do it.

I had a reason for that other than laziness. I vaguely remember hearing it was pretty tough going for casual solo players back when it was introduced. Wilhelm's post makes it very plain that was no exaggeration. Solo instances in EQII can be brutal if you're undergeared or underprepared.

Fortunately, thanks to my crafter pass, I was all kitted out in the free expansion gear from the Tishan's box I found next to me right where I zoned into The Blinding. It doesn't really look like much of an upgrade from the 2019 Panda quest gear but this is not my first expansion rodeo and stats don't fool me.

I took the trouble to take some notes when I swapped my gear. Moving from Bold Crusade gear to Veilwalker took my Berserker's hit points from 62 million to just over 80 million. His potency went from 54k to 76k.

The key to judging whether gear is an upgrade is usually Resolve. Ironically, it's a stat solo players don't even need. It applies only when you move up to Heroic (Group) content but it serves as a kind of shorthand for the kind of Item Level other games use.

It's not an exact science - there are lower Resolve pieces I still wear for various reasons - but it's a decent rule of thumb. All the new starter gear has a lot more Resolve so I figured it would be an upgrade and so it proved. Wearing that lot I had no trouble with the prequel instance. It took me about forty minutes, at least ten of which were taken up with backtracking to find bosses I'd missed.

With my Adventure qualifications established it was back to Teren's Grasp for a short briefing. Then off I went to the moon! Again!

As Wilhelm points out, just completing the first entrance quest gives a huge amount of xp. And huge amounts of quest xp seem to be a feature of Blood of Luclin. Looking at the wiki walkthrough for the Signature Quest for adventurers (which, I might add, I have not yet needed, so clear and straightforward are the in-game instructions) I see I'm only on Step Three of thirteen and yet I'm already Level 117.

It's true I've done some non-Signature quests but compared to any previous expansion this is astoundingly fast progress. It highlights one of the things I'm finding most appealing about this excellent expansion: it's fun!

Although I personally have enjoyed all of EQII's post-SoE expansions, it is definitely true that around the time of Terrors of Thalumbra and, especially, Rise of Kunark, there seemed to be a desire at Daybreak both to slow people down and make the content seem more "important". It led to things like the removal of map-markers for quests, a boatload of pre-reqs involving ancient quests going back years, a lot of language-learning and a heavy focus on NPC faction.

That approach really began to shift around the release of Planes of Prophecy in 2017 and the trend ever since has been towards a more alt-friendly, inclusive approach - at least for the casual player. Apparently, for the Heroic and Raid gamer, not so much, but that's not my thing so I won't comment.

Blood of Luclin, from what I've seen so far, doubles down on casual fun. It's really great to hear a deafening DING! and see your character gain two levels. Far from being concerned that it might mean nothing to do in a week or two I'm thinking how easy it's going to be to get all six of my 110s to 120.

Then there are the fights. In the open world, so far, I haven't experienced anything of that expansion hump, where you struggle through the first few days until you manage to cobble together enough gear to hold your own with a badger. In the free gear from the box, time to kill on overland mobs was measured in seconds from the start. For my Berserker, that is. Not tried anyone else yet.

Crafting xp is just as generous and as for gathering... Words fail me here. I am so used to rare crafting materials in current expansions being, well, rare. As in almost never seen. In Blood of Luclin I'm getting two rares from a single node! And not just as a one-time, freakish rng miracle. It's happened several times.

I'm already at the point where, if I don't get a rare every five minutes that I forage I think something's gone wrong. In the last several expansions I'd have been lucky to get one a week!

Once again, this could backfire. If rares aren't rare do we care about rares? Except that they do actually have a use. In the last few expansions, rares have been so valuable in the marketplace I've never known whether to use them or sell them. This time it looks as though that won't be an issue. I can finally put my crafters to work making stuff. Seems like better design to me.

The needles for progress, acquisition and combat are all set very firmly in the green, then, but the real joy of Blood of Luclin so far is the way it harks back to the kind of expansions we haven't seen since at least 2014's Altar of Malice. Arguably since 2007's Rise of Kunark.

According to an article in Forbes, Blood of Luclin has no fewer than six new, non-instanced zones: "The Blinding, Sanctus Seru, Aurelian Coast, Fordel Midst, Wracklands, as well as the Ssraeshza Ruins and Vault." That's far more than any expansion for a long, long time. (And that's seven, Forbes... I don't think Fordel Midst should be in there).

I would guess that Ssrashza Ruins and Vault are dungeons of some sort - not found them yet. The other four, though, are proper open-world zones and I've at least set foot in all of them. They're not as sprawling as the immense zones of old but they are big enough. And the exploration potential is huge.

Sanctus Seru is a glorious city. We haven't had a new urban hub like this since Thalumbra and the last time we had a city on this scale that was also open to the skies must have been Sentinel's Fate's Paineel.

I took a lot of screenshots but it's hard to do justice to this kind of monumental architecture, so overwhelming in game. In fact, none of my EQII screenshots ever seem to look anywhere near as good as the same scenes appear inside the game itself. I wonder if there are quality settings I should be tweaking?

I'll go look into that when I play next, which is going to be right now! I have a ton more to say but I feel the hands of time moving ever faster. I want to go... Back to the Moon!


  1. Sounds really great. Dang, I wish I had more time to play. EQII just doesn't fit in right now.

    Interesting thing, those rates of rare drops you've experienced.
    I haven't really been into the last couple expansions, so I can't comment on those. When I was traversing zones of the level 90-95 range I found rares aplenty though, if I remember correctly.

    Do you always wear all that stuff with bonuses to rare drop-chance when you're gathering? Coldain prayer shawl, harvester's cloak etc.?

    1. Rares are interesting. Lately, rares seem exceptionally common in lower level zones. A long time ago SOE changed Tier 1 and 2 gathering to give rares at an accelerated rate but above that it was unchanged. Now everwhere up to at least Tears of Veeshan seems to have much higher rare chances.

      That didn't seem to apply to Rise of Kunark and onwards but I haven't been back to test it since Blood of Luclin dropped. I will, though. BoL today seemed less generous than the first few sessions, although still higher than usual. SoE did have a history of turning drop rates up at the start of an expansion to create a buzz, then turning them back down again in a few days but I haven't seen any sign of that under DBG. (It was never admitted by SOE but it was pretty much undisputed by players that it happened). Hard to tell with rng as always.

      I do have a lot of AAs and gear with +rare harvesting chances but it never seemed to make much differecne until fairly recently. I don't swap stuff out to bump it up even more unless I'm specifically looking for something.

      One thing to note is that, as I heard in chat today, spells and CAs from 111-120 use anything up to four different rares per spell. I was wondering if the trade-off for more rares dropping might be that you needed more rares and that would seem to be the case. I'd far rather have it that way than just needing a single rare and having to wait days between seeing one drop though.

  2. Did you get your Overseer to work yet? The release notes said that once you claimed your overseer you should get a tutorial quest. I claimed, selected, added, and now have an overseer in the Overseer UI that doesn't do anything. Hrmm...

    1. Of course, I wrote that than immediately found the answer deep in the forums. You need to claim the one under "promotions" to get the tutorial and quests. Anything under BoL doesn't trigger that. Nice going Daybreak.

    2. Yet another post-in-waiting! I knew it was in /claim but when I looked I couldn't see it. Even when i filtered it by BoL, all that came up was the 110 Boost.

      I went and googled it and one of the top links was a YouTube tutorial by Niami Denmother, who is exemplary at explaining things. I watched the first few minutes and went back to try /Claim again and guess what? The item I needed was there all the time. No clue how I missed it. Then I did the first few missions and it all seemed quite straightforward.

      I'm going to have to get into the habit of sending the minions out on quests. I can see me forgetting that a lot...

    3. Another post to come here too. My was a bit different as I splurged on the collector's edition, which gave you three more overseer crates. Those appeared in the BoL section, but do NOT trigger the tutorial, and without the tutorial you do not get any missions. So I had three overseer's and nothing working. (Also, if I had opened them on day one I would have gotten all the overseer options possible rather than having to pick one from a list for each crate according to the forums. Some people got a big perk and now people are angry that Daybreak took that away. So the usual forum stuff.)


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