Thursday, October 6, 2022

Renewal Of Ro Renews My Interest In EQII

I was going to post a couple of Next Fest reviews today but then Darkpaw raised the curtain on this year's EverQuest II expansion and I thought it might be more timely to take a quick look at what we have to look forward to there. It's a tasty teaser.

Wilhelm posted a run-through of the basics yesterday. I don't want to repeat what he said word for word but there are a few duplications that can't really be avoided, like the name, the price and what the expansion's about. Let's get those out of the way right now.

Name: Renewal of Ro

Cost: Standard; $34.99 Collector's; $69.99 Premium; $139.99 Family and Friends; $249.99

Location: "...the brutal island of Ro... the southern half of the flaming desert..."


  •  New Solo, Heroic I and Heroic II Dungeons
  •  All New Achievements
  •  New House Items and Recipe Books
  •  Powerful Weapons and Armor
  •  Epic Spells
  •  New Collections
  •  New Signature Quests

Those bullet points are from the official expansion reveal page. Pretty much covers the bases but there are a few new wrinkles in there, plus one rather surprising omission, all of which I'll get to later, .

Before then, I'd like to take a moment to talk about the marketing. It's top class! Really, Daybreak in general and Darkpaw in particular have upped their marketing game an order of magnitude over the last year or two. I'm genuinely impressed.

It's not like things were terrible before but they were very staid and static. There was a distinctly elderly feel to the way things looked a lot of the time. Speaking specifically to EQII, promotions tended to plod a little. They told you the facts, sure, but they didn't really zazz them up in the way other, newer games might.

These days, things just feel that bit zingier. There's an energy that wasn't there before. There's some sparkle. In the case of the signature illustration for Renewal of Ro there's actual sparkle. Look!

I did once work in marketing. It wasn't for very long and it was for an insurance company but I still like to think I have some residual appreciation for a job well done. This is one.

Moving on to the expansion itself, as a long-time player I find the lore and the storyline very intriguing. I spoke before about the history of Takish`Hiz and how little has been revealed. I'm keen to learn more. 

It's confirmed that we will be delving into "what is left of the Elddar Empire's cursed city, the long Buried Takish'Hiz" but we'll also get to explore the parts of the Desert of Ro we haven't been able to access since the Cataclysm and the Shattering. Since that means a trip to the southern half of the desert, I can only assume the areas we already know from the game's first expansion, Desert of Flames, must be what used to be known as "North Ro".

In the original EverQuest, the Desert of Ro was split into three discrete zones, popularly known as North Ro, South Ro and Oasis. Of the three, Oasis was by far the most popular with players, including as it did a number of extremely high-traffic, low-level camps like Orc Highway and the crocodiles along the water. There were also several camps of interest to mid-and high levels, either looking to make cash killing the wealthy Sand Giants or after drops and experience from the very dangerous Specters and Aqua Goblins. 

Sinking Sands, the first zone in the Desert of Flames expansion, is clearly Oasis. Not only does it have have not one but two oases slap in the middle, the orcs still march along a stretch of sand next to the Clefts of Rujark, sand giants stomp across the dunes and the specters still swirl around their tower.  


The next zone, Pillars of Flame, doesn't seem quite as obviously keyed to an earlier era, feeling much more like an original creation. Where the astonishing flying city of Maj`Dul fits in is anyone's guess. There's clearly a lot of lost territory still to be re-discovered. I'm very keen to find out what's been going on in Lost Ro these last five hundred or so years.

Just the list of creatures we're set to encounter in the new expansion all but started my mouth watering: "Raj'Dur bandits, cursed Elddar, Dunetooth goblins, the Mhyt-moo school of Yha-lei, the Stormfury and Swordfury cyclops clans, the Ortallians zealots of Ro..." The web page for Renewal of Ro contains a wealth of hard information on the geography of the region, not all of which appears to gibe with my own analysis. I'm excited to get out there for some observations in the field so I can put all the pieces together, not least how the Serpent's Spine Mountains fit into the picture. I thought they were on the other side of the continent!

All of this is designed to appeal to students of Norrathian history but that's a particular niche among the playerbase. A lot of potential customers are going to be much more interested in what's going to make their characters more powerful. Mmorpgs really are a "One Louder" culture, something developers ignore at their peril.

Daybreak never forget where their core audience lives: in the numbers. As well as the horizontal content for the game's broader audience of explorers, homemakers and collectors, there are a couple very significant power-ups to be had from RoR. This being an odd numbered expansion, there's no level cap increase but we are getting five new Ascension Levels. 


That news really floored me when I saw it. I was sure we were done with the whole Ascension mechanic, which hasn't seen any real attention since 2018's Chaos Descending. The system effectively turns all classes into casters, melees included, and was never all that popular, although it had its supporters. 

I always believed the main reason it was introduced was to ameliorate the serious technical  problems caused by raids using dozens of fast-casting abilities over short timescales, causing huge lag throughout the game. Having everyone use a much smaller number of much longer-casting abilities was a stop-gap fix to a long-running issue that has arguably now been improved by more deep-seated, technological solutions. Whether the shift of focus back to Ascension suggests a resurgence of the problem or whether it just seemed like a good way to hand out power between level-cap expansions is unclear.

Personally, I like Ascension abilities. I still use some of mine every time I do more challenging content, even though the once-superior damage capabilities of Ascension spells have begun to wilt in comparison to the newer class abilities. It remains to be seen what route RoR will take with the upgrades, something that has changed a number of times in the past. I just hope it doesn't involve the irritating mechanic that had me flying back to a cave in Kunark to talk to Najena every time I wanted to change my Ascension Class.

As well as Ascension we're also getting "Epic Spells". From the information on the web page, these would seem to be a spell-oriented version of the familiar "Epic Weapon" feature: "Epic Spell Quests - Embark on an adventure to discover and upgrade an all new powerful epic spell for your class." I'm less than enthusiastic about this one, having rigorously avoided almost all previous "Epic" quests in both versions of EQ. I can't stand long, complicated quests, especially ones that involve really tough fights. I'll defer a final judgment until I see exactly how "Epic" these quests are. I'm not sure the word carries the same weight of inconvenience and frustration it once did. 


Other than that, everything looks just peachy. All the usual fun and games of an EQII expansion, present and correct. I'll be pre-ordering just as soon as I finish writing this post. I'm even tempted to go for the Collector's Edition, which would be a first. I could do with the Mercenary and the Prestige Home looks good. Also, I note you need at least the Collector's Edition to get the Overseer quests for Ro.

Other than the now-inevitable level boost potion, the only freebie that comes with the Standard edition is the admittedly spectacular Takish`Hiz Peafowl Pet, as seen in all its glory at the top of this post. That's going to cause no end of issues in the East Freeport bank. 

I was amused to note the name. I imagine they chose to go with "Peafowl" rather then the much more obvious "Peacock" for the very sound reason that the latter would be blocked by the in-game bad language filter, something that regularly caused problems in the original Ro expansion, when people were asking for help and advice on the long and complicated "Peacock Club" questline. Nice to see someone thinking ahead.

I'll probably be too mean to stump up the extra cash for the Collector's Edition, especially since I can always change my mind later and pay for the upgrade option. Beta access comes with the pre-order, so once I've made my mind up I could also log in and see for myself just how everything fits together. 

I'm not going to do that. My days of playing through unpolished, unfinished beta content just so I can say I saw it first are over. These days, I rarely even have the enthusiasm to play through the live version more than once. That's no fault of the content, which I think is better than ever. It's purely the accumulated ennui of more than two decades spent playing variations of the same game, by which I mean not just EQII or the EverQuest titles but the entire mmorpg genre.

I'm still very much up for one more run, all the same. I find the combination of familiarity and novelty inherent in these expansions almost tailor-made to whet my enthusiasm for more. It really is a case of "Give the punters what they want" and that suits me perfectly.

Roll on launch day!

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