Saturday, 4 March 2017

Kunark Ascending: First Quarterly Report

I mentioned a while ago that I was just about done with EQ2's most recent expansion, Kunark Ascending, at least as far as completing solo content with my Bereserker goes. Turns out I was somewhat premature in making that assessment.

Power to add, they call it...
KA added several major new features. There were the Epic 2.0 weapon quests, the Wardrobe Tab, gear for Mercenaries and the four Ascension Classes.

Before launch I was probably most excited by the prospect of having a place to throw all the hats, cloaks and fancy robes that had piled up in my bank vaults over the last decade or so. The Wardrobe feature, sad to say, turned out to be more awkward and limited than I'd imagined.

There's nothing intrinsically wrong with it. It works. It's an improvement. From my perspective, though, the problems are threefold: it isn't infinite, it isn't free and each item added is destroyed.

You get a reasonably generous allotment of slots, half a dozen for the basic package, rising to a dozen for the Collector's and eighteen for the Premium edition. These can be expanded by way of the cash shop up to an as-yet unknown amount that's not less than sixty. Nevertheless anything short of everything means making choices and making choices was exactly what I was avoiding by dumping all the armor in the bank in  the first place.

So, apart from a couple of hats, I haven't really added anything much to my wardrobe as yet. It means going through literally hundreds of items and making a decision on every one and I keep putting it off for another day - a day that will probably never come.

Missing some Accolades, aren't we?
I've made a lot more progress on leveling and gearing my Mercenaries. My regular Merc is Zhugrus
Blightstaff, the Orc Inquisitor from last year's Zek revamp. He's a powerful and popular choice. I see copies of him running after people all over the place.

The mercenary gear system is on the simple and straightforward side as EQ2 systems go. Quick, too. There are five ranks, each of which allows your Merc to wear additional gear with stats that make him or her more powerful. The gear comes from quests, drops in PQs and instances and can be crafted.

Like most of EQ2's background upgrading processes, and there are many, it's a mixture of  Fire and Forget and hands-on micro-management.  You have to remember to activate each stage and you don't get any reminders but once you've opened the window and clicked the button you can leave your Merc to get on with it until next time.

Zhugrus finished his training some time ago but of course he's not my only Mercenary. My Berserker keeps four of them on standby and every other character I play has at least one more. I'm currently training up Rafik the pirate rat simply because I really like him and I'm also trying to remember (but mostly forgetting) to train the Mercs most used by my Warlock, Inquisitor and Necromancer.

It's a lot to keep track of although not as much as when I was leveling up three of the Tradeskill Apprentices that were added in Game Update 63 almost exactly five years ago. I'm still training up at least one even now!

Three bags full Lady Najena.
For the time being I've shelved any plans towards finishing the Crafter's Epic 2.0. I never had any intention of attempting the Adventuring ones but the tradeskill quest is definitely within my power to complete. It just takes more organizing than I can be doing with at the moment.

That leaves the Ascended Classes. I almost forgot about those. When I finished the expansion's signature questline it was several weeks before I got around to choosing which of the four to begin. Even after reading up on how it all worked I was still somewhat at sea. In the end I picked one pretty much at random and got going.

Weeks later my Berserker is still only about two-thirds of the way to Level 3. The recent Double Ascension Scrolls week struck me as deeply ironic, personally, although I know it was welcomed by people who play more than an hour or two a day.

What the scrolls effectively do is reset some of your limited capacity to acquire Ascended XP, rather like refreshing vitality or Rested XP. Since I generally run with near-full capacity anyway that makes them about as much use to me as a theremin to a badger. Or possibly less. I don't even bother to visit Najena to pick up my regular ones any more.

All the same, I am working on it. Like AAs in EverQuest or Masteries in GW2, Ascended Classes are an excellent way for characters that have capped out to carry on earning xp. I vastly prefer to see my xp going to something even if it's not anything I'm ever going to use. Much better than to see it simply dissipate.

Don't talk to me about dwarves.The rest of the crew I found face-down on the floor but come dawn next day this rat was still propping up the bar. Ratonga power!
It's looking unlikely that I'll have even one Ascended Class maxed before the next expansion arrives and there are four of them. That makes me happy. I like filling bars.

It's just as well, really, because EQ2 is all about the bars. I'm not talking about Brewday, either, which is back right now, bringing with it a fine new quest that I knocked off in half an hour before I began this post.

I've pointed this out before but every returning Holiday hammers it home - the EQ2 dev team is exemplary when it comes to making the most out of not very much at all. We get a new quest for every holiday, every year. They may be simple but they are always fun and often funny, too. If DBG can do it with a handful of people, why GW2 can't manage it with hundreds...well, there really is no excuse, is there?

Don't look left. That's not for you.
Be that as it may it's progress bars I'm talking about. There's yet another one with the new Deity system. Well, it's more of a circle than a bar but it's the same principle. Fill it up. Spend it. Start again. And like all the others you have to pay attention. If you let the meter hit the top of the dial you're spilling god-juice into the ether until you do something to tap it off.

There are consumable Miracles, similar to the old system (which, I think, is also still in-game) if you want them, but the real attraction here is a permanent boost to your choice of three key stats, Potency, Stamina and Crit Bonus. Everyone, without exception, can always use more of all three so this is another simple, accessible, desirable path to upgrading your character.

That's more stats on one item than some MMOs
give you on a whole character!
EQ2 has a lot of those. It makes it a desperately satisfying game to play, whether casually or obsessively. In addition to all of the above I am also still working on improving my Berserker's gear.

By the time he finished the main KA questline he felt very powerful in all appropriate content but since then he's been able to swap out several items for superior PQ drops. He's also used the Infusion system, lottery though it is, to enhance some even further and he finally got around to crafting Adornments for every available slot.

As it stands he's able to solo much of the Heroic content from 2014's Altar of Malice expansion. I even felt confident enough of his survivablilty to accept a group invite in an AoM contested dungeon the other night, something I haven't done for a long time.

Overall, my strongly positive impression of Kunark Ascending continues to strengthen even further. It's fun, there's a ton of stuff to do and it feels very accessible for a casual player. My server, Skyfire, is still bustling with activity nearly four months after the expansion dropped. PQs are very well attended, there are multiple instances of the new zones and most importantly the tone and tenor of general chat is more cheerful and upbeat than I've heard it for years.

No word yet about either the next expansion or another major interim Game Update. On the evidence before me, though, I expect good things.

There! If that doesn't jinx it I don't know what will!

2 comments:

  1. I am still enjoying the expansion. It is starting to get a little repetitive for me. I have set a few new goals for myself and then I might take a break after that. I want to get one ascended class to level 10 and then see how far I can get into the epic 2.0 quest. This expansion all but killed off PUG heroic groups which I what normally would be doing this far into an expansion.

    My main gripe is the lack of communication from the devs. If you are not on the new Discord server, not really sure what that even is, you get zero communication. Apparently there are some big xp changes coming to the new zones. Also, everyone was under the impression that after you get one ascended class, the next one would take 50% of the xp. We were wrong, it was said it would take half the time. The ascended scrolls you can get are just worth double the xp. So it will take just as much grinding. Why would the devs months ago not correct the players on the misunderstanding?

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    Replies
    1. I haven't done any real group content in an expansion at the time it came out since...hmm...y'know, in EQ2 I don't think I ever have. I was on Test for a lot of them and I mostly duoed there. Later on Freeport I did group with the small guild we built up, which actually had enough people to make a group quite often, but we mostly did content form one or two expansions in arrears.

      What's different about this expansion that means there aren't as many PUGs doing Heroics? I see a lot of /lfg calls for them although they do seem to take a while to fill, so someone seems to be doing them on Skyfire.

      As for Ascension Classes I really don't understand them very well - either how they work or how you level them or indeed what the point of them is so I would be none the wiser if the Devs did explain that something was different to how it was expected. I doubt I'll get even one to 10 before the next expansion although I'll probably get there one day..

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