Monday, September 18, 2023

In The Event

To no-one's surprise more than my own, I have now completed all the solo content in the recent Shattered Overture update in EverQuest II

Okay, no I haven't... not really. According to the press release there are fifteen new Collections and seven solo missions (Five daily, two weekly.) as well as an unspecifed number of achievements. But that's busy work. I'm not bothered with any of that.

What I have done is completed both of the solo instances. I recorded my experiences in the first, Shattered Unrest, in a post last week, along with my thoughts about the pre-expansion event, Fractured Skies. Today I finished the second instance, Imprinted Memory: Origins of the Felfeather.

It didn't take long. Around half an hour or so. That's because it's what's known as an "Event Solo" dungeon. Event Solos differ from regular solo instances in several  important respects. They're smaller,  have fewer bosses and those bosses are significantly tougher. They're PvE fight clubs, basically.

I'd love to go into a bit more detail about what makes Event Solo dungeons diferent from regular Solo or from Advanced Solo, the third kind of "solo" instance, sometimes also known as Duo Dungeons because they're tuned for two players or a player plus a mercenary. Unfortunately, specific information seems to be exceedingly hard to come by. 

Indeed, if I hadn't been there, when all of these things were added to the game, I'm not sure I'd even know they existed. It's only when you come to click on the portal and find yourself confronted with a long list of options that you realise just how many flavors of dungeon EQII has.

Yes, but what?

It's harder than you'd imagine to find out just what they all are, too. The wiki has a Dungeon Timeline that I used to use a lot. I haven't looked at it for a while so I was surprised to see how apallingly out of date it's fallen. The page supposedly listing Solo instances is even worse. MassivelyOP published a very thorough guide to all of EQII's dungeons back in 2015. Now long out of date, it appears to be the last time anyone even attempted anything of the kind.

In a moment of madness, I thought I might ask Bard to bring me up to speed. I asked it

 "What are all the types of instanced dungeons in the MMORPG EverQuest II and how do they differ in difficulty?" 

The reply was so staggeringly inaccurate, I shudder even to summarise it here for fear some of the misinformation it contains might feed back into the system and self-perpetuate, somehow.

I'll just pick out a few of Bard's choicest flights of fantasy:

"Adventure Dungeons are designed for groups of 6-12 players and provide a more challenging experience. They often require players to work together to solve puzzles and defeat difficult bosses."

No, they don't, for the simple reason they don't exist! There's nothing in EQII called an "Adventure Dungeon" and never has been. If an instance allows two groups to enter ("6-12 players".) it's called a Raid X 2 , not an "Adventure".

"Lairs are designed for groups of 3-6 players and are similar to Heroic Dungeons, but they typically have a single boss encounter as their focus."

Excuse me? Lairs? 3-6 players? A single boss? What the hell is this? It's not EQII, that's for sure.

"Group Challenges are short, one-room dungeons that are designed to be completed quickly. They are a good way to test your group's skills or to earn quick rewards."

To be fair, that is kind of what an Event Heroic is like... I think. I've never actually been inside one but it sounds like the general idea. The Event Solo I did today all takes place in one location and doesn't take long. "Group Challenge" is not a term I've ever heard used in EQII, though.

Positively the most egregious error in Bard's typically confident outline of the available options, however, is this utterly wrong-headed, extremely dangerous piece of advice:

Heroic Dungeons: Heroic Dungeons are the easiest type of instanced dungeon in EverQuest II. They are a good starting point for players who are new to instanced dungeons or who are looking for a more casual experience.

That is literally the opposite of the truth. Heroic dungeons are instant death for new players, quite literally. If you enter an at-level Heroic instance as a new player, chances are the very first trash mob you pull will one-shot you. Well, they will over Level 100, anyway, which is the last decade of content.

Even in a group of experienced players a newcomer will probably not survive. It's one of the main complaints made by the few who try. Before you start running heroics, you need to do a lot of prep work just to get your Resolve high enough to be allowed through the door and that's just the start of it. A casual experience is the very last thing anyone would call Heroics in EQII.

So, Bard doesn't know what it's talking about. No surprise there. I sent some appropriate feedback explaining what was wrong with the answer, the first time I've felt motivated to do so. I can't imagine it will make the smallest iota of difference.

Nope. Still none the wiser.

Getting back to the purpose of the post, which I seem to have very successfully derailed, today marks the first time I have ever successfully completed an at-level Event Solo instance. I can't remember the last time I even tried. I just know that they're always much too tough so I never bother with them. So how did I manage it this time and why did I even bother? 

Well, I gave it a go because the first Shattered Overture dungeon seemed surprisingly easy and I got five upgrades out of it, meaning I'd be even stronger going into the second. More cogently, though, I didn't know it was going to be an "Event Solo" until I got there.

First I had to find the damn thing. I was expecting Dr. Arcana to send me there but it turns out the two dungeons have absolutely nothing to do with each other. In fact, if anything, Imprinted Memory seems to relate to the expansion prequel, Fractured Skies, inasmuch as it involves the Hooluk again. 

There doesn't appear to be any obvious lead-in to the dungeon from the storyline. I didn't get a letter and none of the NPCs I'd spoken to gave me any kind of hint on where to go next, let alone an actual breadcrumb quest. In the end I googled it and found the information I needed in Kaitheel's post on the beta test forums. It's a bit of a back-assward way to go about things. Surely I must have missed something that provides a pointer in the game itself?

I was always good at history.

Once I knew where to go it was very easy to get started. I spoke to the Hooluk questgiver, Tento Felfeather, at his roost above the Nest of the Great Egg. He gave me a rundown on what to expect and told me to look at a book on a lectern next to him. I clicked on it and the option of Event Solo or Event Heroic appeared.

I thought "Oh, what the hell... I can only die" and went in. 

And die I did. Three times in total. But that was fine. Twice, my merc rezzed me and I went on to win the fight. Once he rezzed me and I died again immediately and had to take a do-over. Even with the deaths it was all quite manageable, mostly because the whole thing takes place on a small sky island with no mobs at all other than the NPCs and the elementals they summon for you to fight. No running back, no trash to clear. Die, get up, start over.

I won't bore anyone with the complicated set-up involving Hooluk deities, ritual magic and imprinted memories. I found it quite interesting if also mostly incomprehensible. The Hooluk god uses a four-winged model I hadn't seen before although I imagine it's pulled from some raid or other. Impressive, anyway.

After the first death, which happened when I had the boss down to less than ten percent, I decided to swap out of offensive stance so I could have the full beneifit of all my many Berserker Get Out Of Dying Free tricks. Most of them require you to be set up for tanking not DPS.

I'd also recently taken the trouble to read through a whole lot of my abilities that I never use and it seems I have about three times as many "Oh, Shit!" buttons as I though I had. I also discovered that by judicious use of their various non-stacking timers I can use them a lot more freely than I've been in the habit of doing.

Pass the pickaxe!

I made full use of that knowledge during all three big fights and it made a huge difference. My aging mercenary isn't really up to the job of keeping me alive through the kind of beating I was taking so he was very grateful to have some of the responsibility taken off of his hands.

Better still, even though I died several times, I managed to so some proper tanking, positioning the mob away from the healer, meaning my Merc stayed alive throughout. It's the first real test I've given him since the fairly recent change to mercenary AI supposedly improved their reaction time for things like rezzzing and curing. He certainly seemed on the ball today so I think whatever they tweaked must have done the trick.

Part of the event involves not letting two owl brothers die and I managed that as well. All in all, my three deaths seemed like a pretty solid performance, especially for a first run. The instance is repeatable and I could probably make some improvements but even though it went much better than expected, I'm not sure I'll be doing it again. 

It would be profitable to go back. Once again, I got several good upgrades and every time that happens, the next time theoretically becomes easier. I'm very aware, however, that any advances I make now will be overwritten in a matter of weeks so my motivation to go again and again, in search of the increasingly unlikely drops I'd need to replace everything I'm wearing, isn't great.

Why We Fight.

I'm very pleased with myself for having done the two dungeons at all, not least because the upgrades should definitely make finishing the Adventure Signature questline from the current expansion a lot easier. That's something I do plan on doing before the next Xpack drops.

I think my main focus now, in terms of preparation, probably ought to be replacing my mercenary with another Inquisitor. Gotta have one of those for Verdict, the insta-kill spell that finishes off many a fight just in time. There's a chance I might pick up a new Inquisitor in the forthcoming expansion but I didn't get one last time or the time before that so I'm not counting on it. 

Of course, when the new expansion goes on sale, I could always consider stumping up for something better than the basic version. The higher-cost packs usually include a new merc. Maybe I'll consider it this time.

That'd be another first...

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