As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I’ve gotten hooked on Everquest 2 again. This is my third or fourth time playing, I think, starting when Sony gave me a free copy back in 2006 as an apology for buying Vanguard. It didn’t really stick with me at the time, but I gave it another try in 2010 and developed a real liking for it – particularly when they released the Destiny of Velious expansion, which dug its hooks HARD into the fond memories I had of Velious back in the EQ1 days, and then there were a couple of years of hardcore play interspersed with months-long-breaks before I finally stepped away.
What drove me away, despite the EQ1 nostalgia, were some design choices that were terribly unfriendly to anyone not playing at the top end of the game, and I originally wrote several paragraphs about them here before realizing that a) they wouldn’t make any sense to a non-player without a ton of explanation and b) thinking about them was getting my hackles up and that’s not healthy.
So let me get back to what I implied by the title of this post, which is a discussion about what it’s like playing TODAY and why I’m having so much fun.
First, a little bit of background: It’s important to know that every EQ expansion has had something called a “Signature” quest, which takes you through the story of the expansion. It’s supposed to set up the major conflicts so you have a justification for WHY you’re killing people and taking their stuff, as opposed to the actual reason which is that the stuff they have is slightly better than the stuff you have and you want it. For years and years, these signature quests were not doable without needing to periodically get several other people together for a group dungeon – so, if you were behind the curve, you were stalled out. Lord of the Rings Online had the same problem, as an aside, so it’s not unique to EQ2.
EQ2 still has a ton of group dungeons, full of hard-hitting nasties and heavily-scripted boss encounters, but in modern EQ2 they’re set kind of to the side of the signature quests. Now, when you reach the point in the signature quest where you would previously have been sent into one of these dungeons, you’re sent into something called an “Advanced Solo” version, which is… well, it can still be pretty tough for a solo character, and you may need to look stuff up online if you get stymied by a boss, but it’s doable and you get loot out of it (some of it pretty good!) and then you get to continue the signature quest. If you decide to make these Advanced solo versions even easier, you can take a second player in with you.
Later, if you feel like you want the tougher experience and loot with bigger numbers, you can get together with five other people and do the “Heroic” version of the same dungeons – and even these “Heroic” versions are tuned so you can probably get them done with any six people as long as at least one of you is a healer. You don’t need to have Exactly The Right Classes to make progress in EQ2 any more, and it means that, every time you log in, you log in knowing that you can Get Stuff Done.
To add to this, there has been a crazy amount of mudflation in the last couple of years, to the point where any single player is the equivalent of an entire group – or more! – of characters from the Bad Old Days, so if you decide you want to go back and see the old content that pushed you into group dungeons to progress, you now CAN go through those old dungeons and laugh at the idea that they were ever challenging.
So, the short version of all of the above: EQ2 is fun right now because it has twelve years of content to pick and choose from, and almost all of it is accessible to anyone with the inclination to log in and play. There IS challenging content to do, and it’s not hard to find if you want to go looking for it, but you could happily play for months or years just doing your own thing and occasionally seeing other players running around.