Friday, August 10, 2007

EQ2 Journal - 10-August-2007

The first day of really playing Everquest 2 after nearly 3 years of absence got me from level 1 to level 8. Before I started I did a small experiment, switched over to the US servers and made a fae warden there, to compare with my wood-elf warden. There are a lot more US servers than Euro English servers. And the good news is that unlike WoW, choosing a race really makes a big difference to your character stats. The fae has a lot less health, but deals more damage with the same spell, due to more intelligence. But for two reasons I went back to my wood-elf: I prefer the less fragile race, so I have actually time to use my healing spells on myself before dying. And I didn't like the look of the fae, didn't want to play a "faerie". Yeah, call me a virtual homophobe, but I don't like to play feminine looking male avatars.

Leveling up my wood-elf warden to level 8 went really quick. They must have sped up the process, my three existing characters are levels 14, 13, and 6, why didn't I get further with them in 2004? Well, I *did* do a lot more crafting than adventuring at the time. Having existing crafters came in handy when my warden leveled up and learned more and more spells. When you level up, you get the new spells with the "ding", they drop right onto your hotkey bar, no visit to a trainer required. But, in a system I didn't like in 2004 and still don't like in 2007, you only get the spell at the "apprentice I" level, and then there are a confusing multitude of other versions, apprentice I to IV, adept I to IV, and master I to IV, I think. But nowhere is that well explained, nor is it explained at what level a spell has what power. I found adept I level spells in the newbie zone, but not for my class. Then I used my alts to look for warden adept I spells on the broker, but those were prohibitively expensive, costing several gold. Finally I managed to craft apprentice IV level spells myself, as one of my existing characters was a scholar. Fortunately that was considered to be trivial, because I couldn't find back the buttons needed to react to the events happening when crafting scrolls, I only saw my potion making buttons. But even without pressing a button I managed to craft those low level scrolls at apprentice IV level. Using the spells at this higher level, plus later choosing an intelligence bonus when given the choice, improved the firepower of my warden enough to advance at a steady pace. Fighting a mob of my own level isn't trivial, but doable.

At level 5 I got a message that I'd now be able to use heroic opportunities, and that I should visit the "know your opportunities" trainer to learn more about them. Only problem is that I never found that trainer in the Nursery, I begin to suspect there isn't one. Well, I figured out how to use the heroic opportunities on my own, but was a bit disappointed by the system. A heroic opportunity is not something that happens randomly, an opportunity to grasp, as the name would suggest. I simply have a button that starts a heroic opportunity. Heroic opportunities advance by using abilities with the same symbols as shown. But my heroic opportunities show only two symbols, a hammer or a green coin, and I don't seem to have any green coin abilities. But both of my damage spells, fire and cold, have the hammer symbol. So I just hit the heroic opportunity button, then cast two of my damage spells, and get some bonus damage for the effort. As I would have used the same damage spells anyway, the heroic opportunity button boils down to just some bonus damage on every second spell. Reliable as clockwork, no interactivity or opportunity involved. Only sometimes I get some short-time buff instead of bonus damage as result. I wish I knew where that "know your opportunities" trainer was, to explain me whether there is more to that system.

I looked through my previous characters, who are now my alts, and when I logged each of them on, I now needed to choose character classes for them, as they were still on the old system, where they were just warrior, priest, and scout. I tried to use them to buy some bags for my new character, but failed. The bags I saw reasonably priced on the broker turned out to be just ammo pouches, not useable for normal items. That was annoying, because this wasn't really obvious, so I bought them and then ended up vendoring them. Everything else, useful bags, spells at adept I level, and whatever I would have wanted to twink my new character was all very, very expensive. I think that when I logged off last in 2004 my crafters were considered rich, due to profits made on making strongboxes. But there seems to have been a gallopping inflation since then, and everything is much more expensive now. The handful of gold I have isn't worth much anymore. But of course there were no level 70 characters back then, it was the first weeks after release and everybody was poor. I need to sort through all of their stuff and abilities, and see whether I can restart my alts on crafting and do some useful stuff now.

Well, meanwhile my new "main" reached Kelethin. I didn't fall off the trees yet, but once it was close, due to lag. Dammit, I have a really high-end 2007 computer, put EQ2 on balanced quality/performance setting, and the game still lags in cities. So I spent the last part of the evening downloading the alternate character models, which are a bit simpler and hopefully eat up less computing power.

All in all I was having fun. I wouldn't say EQ2 was better than WoW, but it isn't much worse either. It is maybe a bit less intuitive, with some stuff handled in a needlessly complicated way, like the spell levels. And the in-game maps in EQ2 are horrible, especially when you are in a non-instanced dungeon and there is absolutely no mini-map or map whatsoever. Following some advice from chat I downloaded a UI mod named eq2map, which helps by adding more points onto your map, but doesn't change the bad quality of the underlying in-game map, which is grey on grey for the Greater Faydark. I think I'll get my EQ2 maps from The Brasse, just like I did for LotRO.

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