Everquest II: Ascension

This post has been a long time coming. I felt like making smaller incremental posts was a bit silly, because I haven’t been devoting the sort of hours you normally would to an MMO. I don’t have the time that I used to for starters, and I also promised myself that I would continue on my streak of finishing off games from my backlog — so time is split. It’s fine though, I can afford one MMO subscription and I recently paid for my third month and basically cleared one expansion’s main questline at this point. Kunark Ascending released a year prior to the current expansion, Planes of Prophecy. It was recommended that I finish the signature questline from KA prior to heading into the new expansion’s content for one reason: Ascension. There are four Ascension classes and each can be leveled up to 15 (it was 10 at the time of KA’s release but the cap was raised with PoP). I have some baubles to help with the leveling effort, and apparently you get some books once a day so I am now at a point where I have to try to commit to logging in each day, if for no reason other that to pick up these free books.

My father explained all of the mechanics to me a while back but I’m a bit fuzzy on the details at the moment. I just know that I have to do things in a particular order or risk being stuck in the boat he is where grinding out the last bits of experience for the Ascension levels will be a pain in the ass. I’m going to follow his advice, just need to get a refresher course first. I stopped once I had finished the signature quest last night, so I’ll report back on my progress there as I get back into it and check out the new expansion finally.

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I’ve written about some of my exploits throughout KA in my past couple of EQ2 posts, and above you’ll see the scope of things — from landscapes to dungeons to other planes of existence. The storyline seemed to follow a ploy by one of the gods to take down her father Innoruuk. You were a pawn in this, doing various errands for different factions, interacting mostly with Iskar and Sarnaks, culminating in a battle with a God’s (or demi-God?) pet who is a raid boss level. She kicks your ass and the quest is over, and then you unlock the Ascension trainers. Honestly I didn’t read a lick of quest text except for the ones in the above screenshots. It was still fun, and I really enjoyed the Kunark levels, also that the new zone filled in the Kunark map and touched on all of the old school EQ1 zones that I remembered. In the end though, this was just a stepping stone. Despite doing all of that content I only netted about 11% of a level, but apparently the XP starts to flow once you start on the new zones so I’m looking forward to finally hearing DING! again.

I’m going to try and get started this week, so hopefully I’ll have some impressions of the new content for you by the weekend. Until then, happy gaming!

EQ2: Progress Report

I’ve been subbed to Everquest 2 again for about a month, and because of the holidays much of that time was wasted, but I’ve paid my next month’s subscription already and I’m making progress nonetheless. Initially I was torn with whom I wanted to use the level 100 boost on, and eventually chose my low level Wizard who has actually been around since 2009 according to my /played stats, but had only reached his mid-30s in that time due to being an alt and not getting much attention.

My Wizard “Fohs” on one of the fancy mounts that came with the expansion.

After using the boost, it turns out that boosting a character to 100 doesn’t quite work as well as one would like. Some of your skills and factions are unaffected, so there’s some potential for back tracking there. You also don’t get any of the boons you may have collected over the years like tradeskill pack animals, various teleportation devices, epic weapons, etc. You do get leveled to 100 and earn 320 AAs right off of the bat, and can also use a boost for your tradeskill level (which I did, so Fohs is also a level 100 Sage), but there are still things to work on and sometimes that means backtracking to learn languages or build faction here and there. I have spent the entirety of my play sessions doing just this, and haven’t even begun on the new expansion, but of course I don’t play as religiously as I once did. I’m still finding enjoyment in this and that’s rare for me; I typically burn out during the slog but being so close to new stuff (and actually the old stuff is still new to me) is a motivator, and seeing something new at every turn has kept me engaged.

The long and the short of things was that in order to be truly viable in the new expansion, earning “Ascension Classes” was optimal. In the last expansion, Kunark Ascending, these classes were added as another alternate form of advancement, as the prior two expansions did not raise the level cap. There are four Ascension classes, and it appears that any class can be any/all of them, and each can be leveled up using a different form of experience. Once you have unlocked all four there is a best-in-slot mythical trinket that raiders are still using even in the current meta, so apparently it’s a necessity. There is a list of prerequisites to get started here, and though my original two characters would likely have most if not all of those done already, my boosted character did not. This meant having to learn Draconic (had the tablet in the bank though, so that was less of a hassle), Goblish and Satherian languages, completing the Greenmist HQ from Rise of Kunark and also earning some faction in the Terrors of Thalumbra expansion.

ToT was an “overland” zone that was underground, and despite being mostly rock formations it still had some interesting sights to see, but I was basically in and out of there. After completing a few quests you earn enough faction to head into the city of Maldura, which is where the Ascension trainers are. Next, I had to start on the Kunark Ascending signature timeline, which sends you into ToT for a little bit before teleporting you to the Obulous Plains, the main overland zone for KA. At this point, I have completed 4-5 quests in the chain but there are a few more to go. Obulous Plains is another one of those throwback zones, much like in the original Kunark expansion where it hearkened back to EQ1 zones like The Overthere and Lake of Ill Omen, this new Kunark zone hearkens back to zones like Warslik’s Wood and I think that’s really cool. The zone design is pretty impressive as well for a 13 year old game, they seem to have figured out ways to improve use of the engine because the newer zones look damn fine.

The Kunark Ascending timeline is supposed to run me through the entirety of the zone and there are a few instances as well. After completing this timeline I will have access to the trainers, and at that point I can buy a bauble from a merchant for 100 plat that allows any alts to skip all of these prerequisites and get straight into the Plane of Magic to start on the newest content. However, I know that my Brigand is level 94 and had a couple of expansions to go before even getting to that point so perhaps he will see a bit of the older content and won’t even need the bauble. My Paladin will likely need the help though as he hasn’t been played with any regularity since the level cap was 70 or 80, so he’s probably missing some of the quests.

So far I’m enjoying my time spent in the game. I will finish off this timeline soon and immediately get involved in the new stuff. I think within a month or so I should have this character at level 110 and then can focus on bringing up my other characters. It would be nice to have three characters at the cap, so that if I do take a break again (let’s say by summer) then I can come back at expansion time and be ready to go instead of always playing catch up!

Entering The Planes of Prophecy

As promised, I was gifted a copy of the newest Everquest 2 expansion, Planes of Prophecy by my Dad as an early Christmas gift. The purchase was made last night, and I took the opportunity to jump in game and get started. The first order of business was to make my decision on who to use my level 100 boost on.

Having spent some time playing around with my Wizard earlier in the week, I had grown quite fond of the character and even leveled him a bit through his 30’s. He ended up being the character that I used the boost on, and then I received a bag of gear along with some of the other goodies provided in one of the upgraded editions. The instant level to 100 netted me a bunch of achievements based on levels, and granted me 320 AAs, which was about 200 on top of what I already had. I used one of the server side builds for now just to get the points assigned, and then finished off the other character development choices and was ready to go. Or so I thought.

My Dad was online, and started familiarizing me with other things that were new to the expansion, along with giving me a laundry list of other things I would need to do in order to really get started in the new zones. First off, we headed to the Plane of Magic, where he took me to a vendor that gives you more new gear that is supposed to be semi-raid gear from the previous expansion. I equipped that gear and my stats were through the roof compared to anything I was used to. Seeing millions of hit points on a cloth wearer was shocking!

Next up was grabbing the new Mercenary that came bundled with the expansion. Apparently this ugly little troll/goblin/thing is an Inquisitor and from what my Dad tells me he’s pretty awesome.

Not very cute though. Some of the other goodies included a familiar that can be leveled up and provides a buff, along with some rather cool looking mounts and other things like a vendor cabinet that reduces all broker fees to zero. I didn’t get to do much else in the new zones, because as I said there are some things I need to do before I can really get started. But I did get a couple of good shots of our entry:

We headed back to the guild hall afterwards, and I realized that I needed to redo all of my hotbars and make sure I had the best versions of my spells set up. Apparently I can start off in the Plane of Magic right away, but then I’d be missing out on Ascension levels and other things that were added previously. I guess there is a signature quest line that I need to complete on one character before I can skip it on others, and some faction grinding to do so I’m not KOS somewheres. Essentially a bunch of information was dumped on me in a very short amount of time so I’m just going to take his word for it that there are some pre-requisites to do and then I can level through the new zones. I’m actually pretty excited and looking forward to getting started!

While we were in the guild hall he showed me some of the new additions he had made; new amenities that are helpful and some other ways to instantly teleport to zones that didn’t exist the last time I had played. The guild buff is nice, and being able to expedite travel is good too. He also made me an officer, so if anyone is playing the game on the Maj’dul server, I can offer you guild membership if you are interested!

There was a stack of in-game emails that came my way and will be starters for new quest chains so I’ll have more to figure out and to get started on. It’s likely that I’ll be able to put in good amounts of time before long, as I’m off from the 24th until the 2nd of January.

So I’m back in Norrath, and it feels good.

Thoughts on Character Boosts

In this age of MMORPGs, most have become so large that new players might not want to get started from scratch, and some old timers might want to skip through newbie content with an alt, or perhaps skip a couple of expansions that they missed. Took a break from your favorite game? We’ve got you covered! Introducing: Character Boosts!

Of course, savvy internet denizens such as yourselves are familiar with the terminology. You took a break from your MMO of choice, “never to return” and yet here you are a couple of years later, thinking about rejoining that guild or those friends but alas: you’re under-leveled. You know you could just buy the new expansion and slog through the old content to catch up with your friends, but by then they’d already be raiding or playing some other game altogether. It’s happened to us all. For a while, you could plunk down some cash and pay for a boost to level your character and catch up with you friends on day one, instantly. You probably wouldn’t have the same sort of gear as them, but after a zone or two you’d all be wearing the same shit and life would go on. More recently, boosts have become an add-on pack-in with expansions probably for this precise reason. An added benefit is that boosts no longer empty your wallet to the same degree unless you want to boost multiple characters. Optimally, you’d want to use a level 90 or level 100 boost on a character that is low level, because insta-leveling a character only a few levels under the cap seems like a waste.

There was only one time in the past where I used a boost:

Yeah, back before Legion released there was a bunch of hype leading up to it and I was suckered in. I figured I’d boost a brand new class and just play through the new expansion and ignore the slog. It turns out that I didn’t really like the experience, and felt like maybe I should have but more thought into the process. I didn’t really care for the Rogue’s gameplay, and I didn’t feel like he was all that great solo, and as such I didn’t play too far into the expansion. I was subbed though, so I started to level an alt but I ended up deciding I wasn’t really up for that and let my sub lapse. It was a good experience in that I got to see some new content and I had a little fun with it, but more importantly I learned what not to do when using one of these boosts. Which leads me to an upcoming decision:

As I mentioned recently, I ended up having the opportunity to get the new Everquest II expansion as a gift and was considering a return to Norrath. My dilemma was the same as I described above, where I haven’t played the game in a couple of years, but also one where I have a couple characters that aren’t too far from cap. I can clearly experience the last couple of expansions with them as a result, but I want to join guildmates who are already past those bits and would like to use the pack-in boost to join them. That means I can use the boost on a low level character that I already had, who is level 33, or I could create something new and boost it to 100, by passing everything but also having a new character to learn.

I downloaded the game and started tinkering. Unfortunately there is a lack of character slots on the free account, so I went ahead and subscribed. I was already planning to do so while I played the new expansion, and this way I could properly take my time and figure out what to use the boost on. I have my characters down to these currently:

Izlain is my main, a level 94 Brigand where I left off the last time I played a couple of years ago. Thalinos, my 90 Paladin used to be my main until I found that tanks weren’t in as much demand as dps (at least at the time), he hasn’t had much love since that was the level cap. Fohs is my 33 Wizard that I’m considering heavily for the boost, as I enjoy nuking things. The final two characters are the new creations that haven’t been played much. I can say that I’ve played both the Defiler and Illusionist classes to a point in the past, but never at the high end, though I know that I enjoyed both and would like one to get past the leveling slog. I’m torn though, because I don’t know if any of them will be all that good solo, don’t know which will fit in best for group needs, etc. The good news is if one of these gets boosted and they aren’t that great, I don’t have a problem with running one of my other characters through some new/old content to get them to the new expansion, I’d just prefer to do that after I’ve played the boosted character a while. So we’ll see. I have a few days yet to make a decision, so I’ll probably play them all a bit more to see which I enjoy most.

Overall I think boosts can be a curse and a blessing. I’m hoping to enjoy using this one more than the one I used in WoW.

Considering a Return to Norrath

Like the little engine that could, Daybreak Games keeps churning out new expansion content for the old guard of MMOs, Everquest, along with its heir Everquest II. It’s been a long thirteen years since the sequel released and like clockwork, the 14th expansion is upon us. I can usually count on Wilhelm over at The Ancient Gaming Noob to report on these sorts of things, and can get more in depth looks at what’s going on in Norrath from Bhagpuss over at Inventory Full. Their writing piqued my interest to say the least.

Reading up on the new expansion and seeing that there is in fact a level cap increase and some other interesting features (plus the return of more Planes, which I never got to experience in the original EQ, though I’ve been to those present in the sequel to this point) got me thinking about a return to my MMO home of sorts. It was EQ2 that had me addicted to the genre, and as Bhagpuss points out, “After all these years I still can’t find an MMO to compete with EQ2 when it comes to settling down in a virtual world” — a sentiment I can certainly relate to. When I do come back around after a year or two break (and have invariably done so since 2006) it still feels like home and I miss being as addicted to it as I once was. I’ll never be that same addict and the game will never be the way it was in its hey day, but it’s still the one game I can’t seem to stay away from for long.

It seems that the last time I wrote about it was a little over two years ago. I remember having the itch and going back to do some leveling while on a free account, taking my Brigand from level 90 to 94 while clearing out a couple of the expansions between where I had left off the time before, and the current expansion of the day, Altar of Malice. I know that I was in Tears of Veeshan at that time, and shortly thereafter I wrote a post about the announcement of Terrors of Thalumbra, and then my EQ2 stretch was over again for a while. That expansion would have released a couple of months after I stopped playing again, and since then there was also another expansion in 2016 and now the Planes of Prophecy. It seems that it was probably a good time to leave the game, if for no other reason than they didn’t really do much to add to the leveling content of the game. Two expansions in a row and no cap increases, only new zones and other bits and bobs.

Planes of Prophecy changes that. The cap has increased to 110. There is a level 100 boost you can use right out of the gate. My thoughts intensified. I could theoretically boost a brand new or low level alt and immediately experience the new content without the slog of catching up. Granted, my level 94 Brigand and my level 90 Paladin would need to be shown some love, but I imagine that wouldn’t be too bad give the fact that I would still have a couple of expansions worth of content to explore anyway, but could actually check out the new expansion “while it’s hot” rather than years after release.

Turns out my Father has resubscribed and is already in the new expansion (he tends to stay more current with the game than I do). It also seems that members of his guild are returning and there’s a real chance at being able to experience the end game again, which is something I haven’t done since the cap was 90 and we’re talking 5 years ago probably, if not more. He’s also offered to purchase the expansion for me for Christmas, one of the higher priced packages to boot, because apparently some of the add-on loot is highly desirable.

So here I am, two years removed from the game (again) and very much considering a return to the game. As I said, a level 100 boost on one of my existing alts or a new character could be a blast, and would put me right at the beginning of the new content. Then I could take my time with my mains and grind them through some of the older content that would still be new. It would be an interesting experiment one way or the other and at this point I think I’m going to go for it.

I reinstalled last night. I’m thinking I might log in and see where I left off. Maybe tinker around a bit before Christmas comes. The itch has been there and every other MMO I try just doesn’t hold my interest. This one has its ups and downs too, and I’m sure I’ll break away from it again in the future but right now I really feel like going back.

Hello Norrath. It’s been a while.