Thursday, September 29, 2022

Expansions, Pandas, Events... It's All Happening In EQII

So, we know the name of the next EverQuest II expansion at last. It's Renewal of Ro. Jenn Chan slipped it in at the end of her latest Producer's Letter.  

Darkpaw seems to be developing some kind of slow release, drip feed for expansion news, a technique I find rather effective. There's just enough new information each time to keep the appetite piqued and it takes several bites out of the news cycle. Like most things Daybreak is doing these days, it feels like a solid, competent effort from a significantly more focused marketing department than we've been used to seeing in the past.

There's still very little detail on the exact setting or storyline for EQII's nineteenth expansion, other than the hint hidden in the very last sentence - if you can call something hidden that's been both bolded and italicized. "Get ready to Tack on your best gear and establish yourself as one of the greatest of spelunkers in hiztory". Jenn does love her puns.

You could engrave everything I know about Takish Hiz on the head of a pin - if you were a gnome with one of those sets of magnifying goggles they all seem to wear. I have a passable grounding in Norrathian lore, myth and history but the first I ever remember hearing of the legendary home of the elves was in 2003's Lost Dungeons of Norrath, the sixth (And in my opinion one of the best.) expansions to the original EverQuest.

Takish Hiz was one of the LDoN dungeons, where I spent a great deal of time in the six months before the next bi-annual expansion suddenly made getting groups to go there all but impossible. I remember it clearly as a complex of marble halls and corridors entombed beneath the desert sands. Of the sylvan forests so dear to the elves who once ruled Norrath during the eponymous Takish Age, there was no sign at all.

How long Takish Hiz has lain beneath the sands I'm not sure but by the time Renewal of Ro drops it has to have been a millennium at least. EQII is set five hundred years after EverQuest. EverQuest Online Adventures, the iteration of Norrath created for Playstation 2, was set five hundred years before. Much to my regret, I never played EQOA but from the wiki I can see that Takish Hiz was a zone in that game and the pictures and descriptions clearly show it long abandoned, the desert already in the process of reclaiming a land left empty by the vanished forests of the elves.

I have to say I am very interested by the choice of location for this year's expansion. While I do like to see and explore brand new places, I feel one of EQII's strongest cards is its connection with EQ . Every time we're offered the chance to re-visit old haunts there's a powerful emotional charge freighted in that frisson of familiarity, combined with curiosity. 

It's subtly different from pure nostalgia, more like the odd, disconcerting sensation that comes from seeing how things have changed when you go back to a place you once knew well, after a long time away. I find that feeling compelling in the real world and it's no less energizing in virtuality.

Added to that, the EQII expansion which the new one references, Prophecy of Ro, was very good indeed. It had a truly huge amount of content, much of which I've completed more than once, and it had a strong, consistent theme that held everything together. I had many good times there and still do, whenever I go back.

The last expansion, Visions of Vetrovia, was lots of fun. It ticked all the expected boxes for an EQII expansion and I got several months of quality entertainment from it but perhaps the only thing I felt a little unsatisfied by was the supposed connection with the troubled EQ expansions Gates of Discord and Omens of War. I was looking forward to revisiting some of those locations - Wall of Slaughter maybe, Natimbi certainly, but in the end there was barely a namecheck for any of the places I knew.

Takish Hiz is much more of an unknown quantity. It was already lost in the mists of history the first time around. The Desert of Ro, on the other hand, has already had its day in the sun in PoR. I'm very curious to know just what the balance between new, old and new-old will be this time around.

Before the expansion arrives I probably need to do some work on whichever characters I intend to take through it first. I haven't been neglecting the game entirely but these last few months my activity there has tailed off a lot. I'm substantially further behind than I have been for a couple of years.

One way I've been able to benchmark is by the new gear available from 2022's Panda, Panda, Panda! event, which was patched into the game earlier this week. The event itself was always on the schedule, but it hadn't been entirely clear whether there would be a new set of quests this time.

There will. Nine weeks of quests, just like usual. This year they take the format of Creature Catalogs, a very smart way of reducing the workload for the team, while still giving players a similar experience to previous years.

This morning I did the first, a series of identifications around Kylong Plains in Kunark. With instant travel, flight and a surprisingly accurate memory for the exact locations of all the creatures needed, the whole thing took me about five minutes. If you did it old school and weren't familiar with the area I'd guess it might take fifteen or twenty.

Either way, it's a very good return on time invested. The first tier of rewards includes weapons which, at 315 resolve, will be upgrades for all but one of my characters. Browsing through the very large selection of gear, augments and sundry items available from the full sequence of nine quests, I can see that I'll need to pick up most of what's on offer, even for my best-equipped character.

Last year, for the first time, most of the Panda gear wasn't really an upgrade for the character I was planning on taking into Visions of Vetorvia so it shows how much I've let things slip. Of course, these days, the panda gear itself tends to be made obsolete by the hand-outs from the box on the floor next to the first questgiver in a new expansion, so it's a moot point whether I really need to take this short-term, interim upgrade. Since I'm going to be doing the quests for the fun of it anyway, it would be crazy not to pick up the rewards.

There's also a huge number of housing items to be had, all of which you'll be able to see at EQ2Traders as the event progresses. Niami Denmother also always has the best walkthroughs for the panda quests, should you need any handholding.

As well as the pandas there's also the other "get you ready for the expansion" event that always runs alongside it: Gear Up, Level Up. It comes in three phases and this time its available on all servers (Emphasized as "yes, all servers".

The schedule, should you need it, is as follows:

  • September 27 – October 10 = Double Loot
  • October 11 – October 17 = Mount Training Drops
  • October 18 – October 24 = Spell Research Drops

I don't usually bother with Gear Up, Level Up but I might this year. Spell research boosts are always the most souhgt-after but to take full advantage I really need to get on and make all those Expert spells I've been avoiding.

Mount training boosts I already have in abundance, thanks to Overseer, but unusually, there's still content I haven't finished in the last expansion. Those double drops from instance bosses might have some things I want, even if I don't techically need them at this stage.

Either way, it's great to have options. Now all I have to do is find some time to excercise them.


  1. For a minute there I thought "Pandas? As in WoW's Mists of Pandaria expac? Oh wait, EQII..."

    I wonder how much of the focus by the marketing is because it isn't Holly Longdale there, or whether that was simply not part of her oversight umbrella.

    1. It's hard to unpack all the changes that happened close together - Holly leaving, Jenn Chan taking over, EG7 buying DBG and DBG assimilating EG7. My gut feeling is that the initial shift to EG7 changed something fundemental behind the scenes, mostly to do with money, because all the titles suddenly seemed to be adding staff rather than cutting jobs. Added to that, I think Jenn Chan has a somewhat different approach to Holly and a radically different approach to the old Smed-led administration, in that she's much more of an engineering/tech type than a (would-be) creative. She seems a lot more inclined to stick to what can be done and then see it through rather than follow elusive willowisps into the outer reaches of probability (Smed, that was, not so much Holly.) I'd guess the marketing department is following that lead.

      It's a good direction to be heading, anyway. I hope it lasts.


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