Sunday, 25 July 2010

EQ2: The Ratonga Who Changed Her Spots

Post soundtrack: “7 Days to Change Your Life” by Jamie Cullum

Just an aside: I was going to write a “my first impressions” post about EQ2, but after finally finishing the series of betrayal quests I wanted to put something down in pixels about the experience while it’s still fresh in my mind.  So if you feel this post is skipping over stuff, well, it kind of is.  (I’ll try get the ‘prequel’ finished soon though, to try give this one some more context)

After getting a feel for the game, leveling a cute little Froglok to 20 on another server, I decided to give another species a try.  In keeping with my “trend of falling in love with anthropomorphic animals,” I decided to give a Ratonga a try.  (The fact I had a pet rat as a kid may have something to do with their appeal)

Ringleprouse the Ratonga and her pet frostpaw kitten.

In keeping with my other trend, namely “How hard can I make things for myself?” I decided that not only was I going to play a rat, I was going to switch her to the side of all that is good and wholesome and pure and the like.  And having finished the grind, I think I’m in a good position to say “Ouch.”

First of all, let’s be quite honest about my motives: I’m never comfortable playing an “evil” character in an RPG.  In Fallout 3, I was the epitomy of heroism and all related virtues.  Ditto with Morrowind and Dragon Age.  In WoW I’m almost exclusively Alliance (although my dislike of the the aesthetic of the horde races, especially those awful anorexic blood elves, has some influence).

From humble beginnings come the...  er...  mice?

I was surprisingly comfortable being evil (or at least, evil-lite) as assassin Ringle played through the starting zone of Timorous Deep and reached the Sarnak city of Gorowyn.  The quests, while pretty straight-forward MMO fodder, had some interesting storylines that explored the very turbulent relationship between the Sarnak and the Spirocs, a race of bird-like humanoids who share the island. 

Eventually the plot within which the starter quests are framed has you contemplating whether the Sarnak will commit genocide in order to secure themselves from their opponents, giving you quests where you’re undermining the framework of Spiroc society – killing their food gatherers, and poisoning their un-hatched eggs.

This Siroc was about to get a nasty surprise.

Fortunately (for my peace of mind) you don’t take the final steps, and are summoned to Gorowyn where you speak with high-ranking NPCs who express concern that they do not wish to take such action, and thank you for all you have done on the part of the Sarnak.  (Indeed, you are given quests to meet with Spiroc ambassadors to try broker some manner of peace, but unfortunately they have been so badly brutalised by the conflict that initial efforts turn out to be unsuccessful.  Whether you’re able to do so later I don’t know.)

I was level 21 at this stage; my plan had been to reach 20 and start the betrayal questline to become a nice, friendly rat – the chain is initially available at level 10, but I wanted to spend a little more time being evil.  Anyway, I found I had to change my home city, as Gorowyn doesn’t have a betrayal chain.  So off to Freeport I went.

The Freeport sewers were more fun than the streets.  And that's a slime next to Ringle.

I’ll just take a moment here to comment on my experiences over the last couple of days, regarding travel between continents:  “Argh! Just Shoot Me Now!” sums it up fairly accurately, I believe.  I think the only thing I didn’t do wrong, was travel somewhere without first picking up the quest that I’d need to turn in when I got there.

I’ve been to the wrong city.  I’ve been to the wrong continent.  I spent so much time running back and forth (sometimes in the right direction, sometimes not) that Ringle’s boots have started earning frequent-flier miles.  And then I discovered that I could use druid circles and wizard towers to fast-travel between continents.  (I was aware of fast-travel via boat by now, but often had trouble finding the in-world item to use to access it)

The EQ hearth effect.  I used it a lot.

So, my initial opinion of world travel in the game, especially in regards to new players?  /facepalm

Anyway, back to the betrayal of all my kind stand for.

I switched my citizenship from Gorowyn to Freeport, and I encountered a little piece of flavour/lore that set the scene for the location quite effectively.  Namely, I’d walk past city guards, and they would kick me and knock me off my feet.  Apparently it’s something justified by lore, but it’s really put me off the city in a major way, and made the decision to go through with the betrayal an easy one.  (Seriously, I’m normally a very even-tempered person, but that was really starting to get under my skin)

I think this quest-giver would have been a guard if he'd been able to meet the weight requirements in the application...

It was doing this chain where I really encountered the first problem with the online resources for EQ2 – often they weren’t timestamped, and the older resources were sometimes slightly (or in some cases, completely) out of date.  One example was this brief guide: A Ratonga’s guide for Freeport to Kelethin Betrayal

The basic details (such as they were) are accurate, and this was where I learnt about both Druid Circles and Wizard Spires as transport methods.  But the circles and spires are now usable without any need to discover them before you access them from other sites – reach one, and you have access to the entire network (yay!).  Other instances were when I was trying to find quest info for my initial character, doing the New Halas starting zone, and having my searches keep giving me results for quests of the same name that are no longer in the game.

Similar results have come from searching for guides (such as for tradeskills and classes), where mostly unusable information tops the search results.  Unfortunately it’s a case of search-and-verify, when looking for information.

I knew I should have asked directions...

And back, yet again, to Ringle’s blackheartedness.

The initial stage, becoming exiled from Freeport, was fairly straightforward.  After speaking with Ambassador Brutus, I worked through a 5-quest chain in Freeport that left me exiled, and a resident of Haven.

The second stage was the most time-consuming.  Eventually I managed to make my way from Haven, via Thundering Steppes, to Gil McMartin in The Commonlands (which was, amusingly enough) just outside Freeport.  There Ringle started the quests in the Qeynos Faction Timeline.

I decided to work through the bounty hunting quests first, as it was easier to find a single target in a zone than spend an hour looking for multiple unknown locations with a zone the was some of the sabotage quests appeared.  Once I worked out where I was going and how to get there, it was simply a matter of ‘Pick up the quest, run to the wizard spire, port to Antonica, set up waypoint, hit Stealth, and start running.’

"Become an Assassin," they said.  "Meet interesting people," they said.

The mobs you have to kill are scaled to your level, so they’re (mostly) not too hard – at least, not until #14, but I’ll get to him.  The first five are all in Antonica, although they’re all over the map.  Numbers six through eight are in Nektulos Forest, fortunately not too far from a wizard spire.  Nine and ten are in the Thundering Steppes.  Eleven and twelve were interesting – West and North Freeport respectively.  (I’m soooo glad Ringle has stealth)

Number thirteen was more difficult, as the zone the target is located in (Zek) is level 30-40, and the wizard spire is some distance from his location.  Needless to say, death occurred – Ringle’s.  Fortunately the target is a lot easier to reach when you travel by boat, which I tried next.  Then came number fourteen.  And he wiped the floor with me, and repeatedly.

My nemesis, the map boss.

After the last death, I decided to go back to ‘grinding’ the last few faction that I needed – luckily there’s a very easy, high-faction, quest that’s not too difficult.  After maybe half an hour running Extracting the Defector, Ringle reached ‘amiable’ and then it was off to Qeynos to do the final stages of the chain.

Now, I don’t know whose decision it was to have you start to prove yourself by picking up garbage off the main highway out of Qeynos, but it…  Well, it makes for an interesting start to the process.  The quest-giver describes it as an act of humility, which I guess is accurate.  Then you donate a gold to charity (it’s ok, they give you back a receipt that you can sell for about 85 silver), and it’s on to one last combat mission and ding! citizenship.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I can catch up on Ringle’s crafting – and see if I can pick up some dangling quest starters so she can get into the swing of things as one of these new-fangled hero people.

Are we lost yet?  Are we lost yet?  Are we lost yet?

And maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to work out how to get there.