Saturday, 3 September 2016

Fall Of Kunark : EQ, EQ2

At long last some information has appeared about the forthcoming expansions for EverQuest and EQ2. Wilhelm, as linked, posted about both yesterday so I won't go over the details, such as they are.

Actually, what details? There aren't any. In total, what we know so far is that both expansions are set on the continent of Kunark, and...that's about it. Oh, there's a new Sarnak model for EQ (see above) and "new zones like Scorched Woods, Chardok: War March, Lceanium, Droga, Kor’Sha, new monsters, armor, weapons, items and more!"

I'm guessing "Lceanium" is a typo, something becoming increasingly and worryingly common in press releases from Daybreak Games, although even if, as I suspect, it's meant to read "Lyceanium", that's hardly any better. Maybe it's just rendered phonetically from the original Sarnak. Also, they're really missing a trick going with "Scorched "  over "Burned" for the new "Woods" zone.

Classic box art
 Holly "Windstalker" Longdale's Producer's Letter for EQ2 is even lighter on detail than the one she wrote for the elder game (and I'd forgotten she's now Franchise Producer for both). The animated gif features an as-yet unnamed monster that I'm guessing is some kind of goblin. If you want to  see it move, and the Sarnak above, you'll have to visit the official pages. I'm not sure it's worth making a special trip.

Apart from plug-ugly up there all the information we're getting so far is that "Danger awaits you in the Crypt of Dalnir, Kaesora, Warslik’s Wood and more!" We have to wait until October for anything concrete like how many zones we're getting, whether there's a level -cap increase, any new features added to the game...

Which is fine. As Wilhelm points out, neither SOE nor DBG have ever really made much of a meal out of the run-up to expansions, the way many other MMO companies do. They prefer to, y'know, actually produce expansions. Twice a year for many years.

What's more, in the maturity (I use the term with conscious irony) of the EQ Franchise, the contents of expansions have become increasingly codified. Some might say calcified.

Looking at EQ2, The last time SOE attempted to depart substantially from the pattern was with Age of Discovery back in 2011, an expansion that was all features and no content. I liked it but I was in something of a minority and even I would admit the features it contained would have been better suited to being split up and sold individually through the Station Store.


 No, for a long time now EQ2 expansions have remained reasonably consistent. We get one -  occasionally two - open zones, suitable for solo players, a half dozen or more instanced zones that do double service for both Group and Advanced Solo (read duo or player-plus-NPC-Mercenary), a few Raid instances and sometimes an open, "Contested" dungeon for good luck.

Approximately every other expansion there's a level cap increase, these days pared down to five levels rather than the traditional ten. Bundled in there will often be some significant quality of life change or a new type of content entirely - a new class, a deity system, Public Quests...

Then, of course, there's a new "Signature" storyline, a whole bunch of new quests, including the ever-popular Heritage series, and all the general item, gear and skill power creep everyone complains about but complains even more bitterly if it's not there.

In other words, by now EQ2 players know just what to expect. I don't believe I've bought an EQ expansion since Secrets of Faydwer back in 2007 but I'm fairly sure they, too, follow a similar, set pattern.

Not so much...
Reaction is always somewhat negative because both EQ and EQ2 players tend to be curmudgeonly, grumpy and set in their ways. In the end, though, almost everyone who plays at the level cap buys each expansion as soon as it becomes available because what else are they going to do? Meanwhile, anyone like myself in EQ, lagging behind the cap, thinks "I'll skip this one" and carries on with whatever they were doing.

The opportunities for DBG to do a Blizzard each time the expansion rolls around are limited. The regularity, reliabilty and frequency of the expansions makes them less of an event, certainly for anyone not currently playing. The separation between endgame and potential returning players is immense, especially in EverQuest, and even offering a Heroic leg-up to somewhere close to the cap can backfire.

This is perhaps why we find ourselves returning to Kunark. As one of the most popular settings in both games and the home of two of the most successful expansions either game has ever had, the name Kunark carries a lot of weight with current and lapsed players alike. Just having "Kunark" in the title of both expansions is probably worth more in sales than a month of frenzied ANet-style promotion for some new location we've never heard of before.

If there's one thing DBG have proved they understand much, much better than SOE ever did it's how to bottle nostalgia. The former management recognized the potential but seemed to be almost ashamed of exploiting it. No such scruples for DBG, thankfully.

So, I'm looking forward to yet another trip back to Kunark. The last two didn't go as well as they might have done - I actually quit EQ2 for six months as a direct result of things I didn't like about 2007's "Rise of Kunark" expansion - but on balance my interest in and affection for the jungle continent remains  strong.

I'm particularly looking forward to seeing what they do with Warslik's Wood, a zone where I spent many happy hours camping the Forest Giant fort and hunting goblins. Anyway, I'll be buying it. Honestly, they had me at "expansion".




6 comments:

  1. I tried to post this on your "Free 95" but I do not see that it took so I repeat and appologize if it came thru on your end. I made an account on EQ2 years ago when Silver Acts still existed, never got out of the teens and deleted the character. I am between games, as it were, and thinking of giving EQ2 another try with the boosted hero.
    I am having trouble using my wordpress act to post this so posting Anon.
    Anke

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    1. Sorry about the problems with commenting - I think a lot of people are having them. I even have problems with the replies sometimes. Don't worry about any duplicate comments - I clear those up as I see them.

      You can have a lot of fun with a Level 95 although there's a risk that it might just be too much to take in all at once. I definitely wouldn't start out trying to do the level 95-100 content in Shattered Seas. Better maybe to go Withered Lands or Cobalt Scar, which are around the right level but a lot easier - also Cobalt Scar is a great zone and the questline there is very good. Or of course you can Chronomentor to any level and run around like a virtually invulnerable superhero in any lower level zone - that's always loads of fun.

      I'd definitely make one before the opportunity goes away if you have a valid account. If nothing else having a decently geared high level is really useful for earning platinum, which you can use to make life a lot easier for any lower level characters you make.

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  2. Just as a note for Bhagpuss and the anon commenter: as a Wordpress blogger, I've noticed the Wordpress "comment as" option is very unreliable and has been for some time. So I always post under Name/URL instead. It's not just this site but all Blogger sites that I have this issue with. It may well be Wordpress' fault of course...

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    1. Something very flaky is going on with commenting and has been for several months. This blog uses settings that are outside of Blogger's recommended ones (wider margins, mainly) and that has always caused a few problems, mainly not letting me do any previews before I hit "Post", but until recently the comments always worked fine.

      I didn't change anything so I figured it was Blogger but maybe it's Wordpress. Probably both of them. I apologize to anyone who's having problems - please just comment however it will let you and I'll tidy up any duplicates.

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  3. I think Kander on one of the forums said that it is a picture of "hobgoblin." No level increase or increase of AA's. I read through the comments on the forums pretty quickly so I am not sure if the AA part is accurate or not. Side note, I was thinking of taking a break from EQ2 but that 12 month membership sale was too good for me to pass on.

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    1. Oh, thanks for reminding me to look at the forum thread! Some good detailed info in there - Kander does confirm there's no level cap or AA increase but he says "There will be some new character progression...Its something different. Make sure you log into beta when it starts to check it out" which is nicely intriguing.

      He also says "1 Overland zone. Its larger than Thalumbra. We are going to be making close to the usual amount of heroic and raid content, maybe a bit more, but this expansion we will be making more Solo and Advanced Solo dungeons as well. So expect 8 to 12 solo dungeons, all in the 4 or 5 themes we are using."

      He also confirms that, as you'd expect, "Domino is working on TS content", which is always good news. All in all it sounds pretty encouraging, at least for my playstyle. And yes, the sale on 12 month subs was a very smart move, I think, especially if they plan on doing it annually just before the expansions.

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