Back in Norrath (Again)

Everquest 2 has been free to play for a few years now, but every time I played the game in the past I was always a subscriber. After my initial stint I would almost always come back for an expansion, during a promotion, or just because I felt like it. But I always resubscribed to the game. With many of the limitations having been lifted from the free to play version of the game, and knowing that I have two expansions worth of content ahead of me just to get caught up to the latest expansion (which I would have to buy, mind you), I figured free was a viable option this time. So far, it has been. I don’t have that subscription guilt where I feel like I need to play the game to get my money’s worth, and I can still experience parts of the game that are new to me.

The new login screen

When I took a trip back to Norrath last year, I managed to get my Brigand past a barrier to entry for the next expansion, which was having 280 AAs. That was the point in which you could finally level beyond 90. However, playing through a bunch of old content I hadn’t seen before sort of gave me my fill for the game, and I was distracted by friends who were playing Rift. That also lead to a bunch of other MMO experimentation which I’ve written about over the course of the last year. I am still playing a few of the MMOs I’ve tried since then, and currently have about 5 or 6 installed on my system, so I can jump between them all at a whim. But I’m getting off point. Since my last excursion, the game has seen another expansion and a DLC (which is the model Daybreak has since chosen to follow), and that meant another balancing of the experience curve. As such, my Paladin who would have needed to grind out another 60+ AAs to be able to level past 90 earned them all just for logging in. So basically what I did last year on the Brigand doesn’t have to be done over again, but it kind of makes me wish I would have waited. However, there were tons of dungeons we cleared that I wouldn’t have been able to solo and hadn’t seen, so I suppose it was worth the experience.

Anyway, I had left off in the Withered Lands, which was a free content patch that came out somewhere between the release of Velious and Chains of Eternity. It’s a full zone with everything you’d expect, including quests galore, collections, named and raid mobs, and a series of dungeons at the end which are designed to be soloable, however I’m not quite to that point yet. This is supposed to get you prepared for the next expansion and so far it has been more of what I’ve come to expect from the game, but for some reason it’s grabbing me like it hasn’t in a long time. However, I know writing this won’t mean that I will stick with it… I’m still rather fickle when it comes to how I want to spend my gaming time. There’s something about the depth of systems within the game that keeps me interested, even if I’m just spamming abilities and skipping quest text. I just like Norrath. It feels like home.

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As you can see the Withered Lands are rather dark and foreboding, but this doesn’t stop flashes of brilliance it their design. The questlines lead  you through the zone in typical themepark fashion, but I still enjoyed clearing the zone slowly but surely. There were raid bosses who crossed my path, named that I killed who also dropped some nice fabled gear, a quest that rewarded a new fluff pet, and I even picked up a new elite mercenary who heals but also churns out steady DPS.

The overall lore of the zone deals with the Remnants of Growth faction (followers of Tunare) who are trying to push back the corruption of what was once a lush land. Dragons have over taken part of the zone and are maintaining a spell that causes the corruption, but it is supposedly for a good cause. More is learned from the Dragon who resides in the Village of Alivan with the Droag. I sort of know what comes next, but I won’t talk about it til I know more.

During my travels I picked up quite a few shinies and ended up completing one of the collections for the zone, which ended up being all I needed to hit level 91. I still have a few quests left to round out the zone before moving on to Skyshrine, but all told I ended up with 5 extra AAs and 5 prestige AAs along with the level.

EQ2_000034

It took quite a bit of time to make this last level, much longer than I remember levels taking to earn in the past. However, this was during a time when the game stopped doing ten level incremental increases with expansions, and instead only raised the cap two levels, opting to added extra AAs instead. This is a process I’m aware of and I don’t mind, because the AAs really feel like you can full customize your character, and its a feature many games seem to lack. But I’ve droned on about horizontal progression in the past so I won’t do it again now. It also took a bit longer because I’ve had my AA slider at 50%, so half of my earned adventure xp converts into AA, since there are a lot more of those to earn than levels at this point, and because I know that I have a lot of content ahead of me, so leveling shouldn’t be an issue. For posterity, here’s my AA trees as they stand now:

That’s all I have for this update. I will add more as I progress through more content that’s not necessarily new, but new to me and probably most of my readers, who probably don’t play the game.

#everquest2 #daybreakgames #mmorpg

Walking the Path of Exile

I’ve only written about Path of Exile once before (a quick search of my posts revealed as much) and the last time I had mentioned opting in for the closed beta, back in late 2011. At that point in time, I had only read little bits about the game, and hadn’t even played it yet. I never did get selected for that beta. Later in 2012 Grinding Gear Games had a “founder” option or a sort-of “kickstarter” type deal, where if you paid a particular price you would get access to the closed beta along with other perks. I opted to pay $10 and received the equivalent amount in “points” (the currency used for microtransactions in the store). I don’t remember what the other options gave, but I just wanted to see the game in action without having to wait for open beta. I actually just went and checked, and I have 100 points which is 4 more points than you can buy for $10 right now.

I tried out the game, and I liked what I had seen, but being closed beta, the character I was playing would be wiped when they prepared for the open beta, and I didn’t want to get too far along just to have to start over again. I started out as a Duelist, and only played for a few short hours before I shelved the game. Just the other day I was reading about the game, and realized that it is now in open beta, and there will be no more server wipes. So I decided it was time to get back into, starting last night. This time around, I decided that I wanted to play something a little different. In most fantasy-based games, I typically play a tank or a rogue-like class. I rarely play healers or casters, and since there isn’t a true healer class in this game, I went with the glass cannon “Witch.” Keeping with the glass cannon theme, I am building her with light armor a wand, and elemental spells. But I’m getting ahead of myself. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the game at all, here’s the Open Beta Trailer:

It shows a bit of what the Passive Skill Tree looks like, and man it’s huge. Definitely the largest I’ve seen in an action RPG, and allows for some deep customization. Being the Witch, I am starting off from the Intelligence postion, and branching upwards. Until you see it, it really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, so I can’t really describe to you the path in which I am taking. The other part of the game that allows for some awesome customization is the way the gems that socket into your items are actually the spells/abilities that you can cast/use. If you ever played Final Fantasy VII, it works much like materia. Socket a gem, get the ability, and as long as the gem is socketed, it gains experience as you do. There is a lot more to it than that, but I’m just throwing out some of the info in layman’s terms. Take a look at the skill tree here.

The game is completely free to play, and from what I’ve seen there is absolutely no “pay to win” scenario. Everything in the store is something you can go without. The developers even said that they are strictly against microtransactions becoming pay to win. But because it is free to play and open to anyone right now, that means if you’re interested, you can check it out right now. I’m pretty cheap, so when it comes to free games, why not?

Graphically, PoE stands up to its competitors. I can’t speak about Diablo III, because I have yet to play it. I have played Torchlight II however, and it’s cheesy graphics pale in comparison. I don’t have a top end machine, but it runs just fine, and looks pretty to boot. I imagine on a better rig it would look downright beautiful. I prefer the darker tone to the story line and how that is represented graphically. The lore, the systems, everything just makes games like Torchlight seem as if they were made for children. The devs said it best:

We’re sick of the recent trend towards bright, cartoony RPGs. The art style we chose for Path of Exile is dark, gritty and realistic. Wraeclast is terrifying, and we’ve tried hard to do it justice.

I haven’t gotten too far into the game thus far, but already I can tell it’s one that will suck me in. The level of depth still amazes me. More on this game to come in the near future.