I caved in and reinstalled Everquest 2, fully expecting that I would be uninstalling it again shortly afterwards. Yet somehow the damn game has got it's hooks into me once more.
|Back once again, with the ill behavior|
Coming back to a mature MMO like EQ2 is never a simple thing. So much had changed since I last played, but before I could deal with any of that I had to spend a couple of hours sorting out my hotbars, setting up my UI mods and fiddling with chat settings and graphics options.
Only then could I turn my attention to my old character, an 83rd level warden. I had to reallocate all my AA points and then try to figure out what all my abilities did. In a game where every high level character has in the order of 50 or more abilities this is no easy task, especially when you're specced as a main healer, a rather important role.
I found the best way to learn was to jump in the deep end, so I joined some friends for a new (to me) instance called Mistmyr Manor. Our tank was the estimable Haxalot (an old friend who also recently joined our adventures in The Old Republic as Hawkwyn the Imperial Agent). Haxalot's tanking style falls into what I would term "the Leeroy" school of pulling. Basically it involves charging in and pulling everything before anyone is ready.
It may have been annoying and frustrating (and admittedly very amusing and fun), but it was also the quickest way to relearn all my skills I could have hoped for. By the end of the dungeon I had a good handle on all my abilities and what they did, and I was starting to learn the nuances and rotations to maximise my effectiveness again.
My return was also made easier by the continued presence of many old friends from my previous times playing with the guild. All the major players from Acolytes of Valor are still present and almost correct, and a few friendly voices can really help make the game feel like home again.
A lot has changed in Everquest 2 in the past two years, but a lot remains the same, and not all of them good. The graphics engine is showing it's age now, and despite having upgraded my machine many times since I first played, the graphics engine is still clunky and slow. Environmental shadows can still kill my frame rate even though my graphics and processing power are ten years more advanced.
The game still has plenty of bugs, many of which are the same ones I first encountered ten years ago! Quests often randomly disappear off my quest tracker, my character name often turns red for no reason, and my auto-attack often fails. I even got stuck as a ghost for an hour whilst playing one dungeon. I thought I was doomed to haunt Norrath for ever more!
Despite all that, as well as the remnants of the grindy content (admittedly much reduced) and the fact PvE quests can be uninspired and repetitive, EQ2 remains one of the very best MMOs out there. There is so much content it's intimidating, and so many progression systems it can be confusing. The housing system is still one of the best in the genre and there are so many character customisation options it can be hard deciding how to dress!
In the last two years there have been three expansions and a whole host of new systems added to the game, including mercenaries, adornments, solo instances, a dungeon maker and further improvements to housing. I'm only just starting to get a handle on these changes.
The biggest change since I left the game last time is the move to free-to-play. I understand that the system has been extensively tweaked since the first iteration, and apart from the odd reminder it isn't too bad a system. It's certainly nothing like as harsh as the SWTOR free-to-play model. As a subscriber it hasn't really impacted me at all. The only real negative point is that the price of the many of the free-to-play items seems quite extortionate.
I have no idea how long I'll continue to play for. There are plenty of single-player games on my "to do" list, and in the longer term I am interested in playing Camelot Unchained and Star Citizen. For now however, despite a few awkward shuffles at first, coming back to EQ2 has been like putting on an old, favourite jacket, and I'm enjoying the comforting, warm glow.