Sunday began with a bang. I woke up to find Mrs Bhagpuss already logged in, answering an APB to defend Valley from the surging JQ hordes. I snatched breakfast and joined the defense effort and that was the morning gone.
After lunch I pottered for a bit and then moved across to Norrath for what I expected to be a more relaxing, laid-back session. It was entertaining, engaging and enormously satisfying but perhaps not quite as relaxed as all that.
I don't have much that's bad to say about the current EQ2 expansion, Kunark Ascending. So far I've found it to be well paced, intriguing, amusing and fun. Also gorgeous. One thing it isn't, however, is straightforward. Or easy.
In common with every MMO expansion ever, KA comes with a deal of tinkering to the systems. In this case there's more to it than just the whims and fancies of The New Item Guy.
For quite a while the EQ2 team delighted in adding exotic, complex and spectacular effects to gear and weaponry, harking back, no doubt, to the great EverQuest tradition of Things That Proc. Unfortunately, the infrastructure that underpins the game was beginning to struggle under the load of so many ifs, buts and maybes so the current trend favors simple effects and huge boosts to base stats.
EQ2 has a lot of stats but it seems there's always room for one more. We got Fervor a while back. Couldn't tell you what that does without looking it up. I checked mine last night and it was zero so it probably doesn't matter much to soloists like me.
The big, new must-have for the current expansion is Resolve, one of those "must be this tall to ride" stats so beloved of Heroic Content designers everywhere. Chat is already filled with people citing their qualifications under the new regime - "100 SK LFG 198 Resolve". Again, as far as I can tell, it's a stat solo players can safely ignore, at least for now.
That just leaves the other several hundred numbers to consider, then. Okay, I exaggerate. It's only just over three dozen for combat and another eighteen for tradeskills. Granted you have to scroll through three full pages in the in-game window to see them all but what's a little scrolling, eh?
I confess I tend to glaze over when trying to compare items. Is this an upgrade to that? Do I need more of this stat or more of the other? It's a common problem, which is why people often link items in chat and throw the discussion open to the wisdom of crowds. Or just beg for help.
That's what happened last night. A returning player, stepping into The Obolus Frontier for the first time, was questioning whether his gear might be the reason his Time To Kill was pushing five minutes. General chat has, of late, been exceptionally responsive and helpful, a sure sign that people are enjoying themselves, so instead of being told to L2P or Git Gud a very informative round-table debate on the best way to approach the new content ensued.
One particular player took the chair and laid out the precise dos and don'ts, going so far as to link the most easily accessible, cheapest Best In Slot items, with explanations of why and how they were preferred over alternatives. I chipped in with a couple of suggestions of my own and asked a few questions about things that had been puzzling me.
It all answered a number of questions and my Berserker will be making some changes to his outfit as a result. The timing wasn't ideal. It was hard to pay full attention to the details because the whole thing kicked off just as I reached the conclusion of the Signature questline.
As a result I missed some key dialog and the completely unexpected and quite stunning conclusion almost passed me by altogether. I'll have to pay a lot more attention when I take a second character through it - or else watch it on YouTube if someone's been kind enough to post the finale.
In the usual way of things I couldn't really discuss it here anyway because SPOILERS!! Better stick with the stats. It's one hell of a shock ending, though, I'll say that much.
So, those stats. Here's what I learned:
For Kunark Ascending the stats that matter are Resolve (for Heroic and Raid Content), Potency and Ability Mod
For a relaxed, leisurely soloing through the main questline it's recommended that you hit 8k Potency and 100k Ability Mod.
You can do that by spending no more than a few hundred platinum on the Broker for a set of Handcrafted "Twark" Gear and accessories.
And that's pretty much it. For extensive detail on everything else you might want to know I recommend the invaluable, accurate and authoritative EQ2 Library but the above will get you started nicely.
I'd add that if EQ2's hyper-inflationary economy is making you feel even these "cheap" items are insanely over-priced there are several very easy ways you can join the super-rich. A month ago I had less than 50 platinum to my name. Now I have just under 70k.
If you have All Access Membership (and if you are buying the current expansion you most probably do) then five of the Loyalty Tokens you earn for your very simple dailies will buy you a Small Bag Of Platinum Coins from the Loyalty section of the store. Each bag contains 500p, more than enough to kit you out in KA basics, head to toe.
Alternatively you could buy a three-pack of Experience Vials with your 500 DB Cash monthly stipend, spend an hour or so filling one up and sell it on the Broker for the going rate of around 30,000 plat.
And if you are planning on doing the KA crafting line as well as the Adventure one, do the crafting quests first. They require no special gear and half way through you get the plant I mentioned yesterday which will give you an income stream of several thousand platinum a day for the foreseeable future.
All of this begs the question, which was raised in the discussion in game yesterday, of whether a new expansion should require players to prepare in advance, whether by doing old content, saving money or buying gear. The answer is it doesn't.
As I said, I only learned the above as I was finishing the very final stages of the Signature questline. I did the entire thing wearing the gear I had on the day it launched and the upgrades I acquired from the KA quests and drops themselves. Even by the end I only had around 5.5k Potency and 75k Ability Mod.
There were very short periods when things were genuinely difficult, but none of those were out of line with the difficulty I have experienced in previous expansions. A little lateral thinking, a single session doing some side-quests and swapping some already-acquired items around and those speed bumps soon vanished in the rear-view mirror.
What I had done coming in, however, was complete the whole of the Signature line from the previous expansion, Terrors of Thalumbra. I can confirm that, without question, as a Berserker, the gear from the previous expansion is entirely sufficient to get you rolling in the current one. And that, I think, is entirely reasonable.