I had considered returning to Everquest II more than once during the last two years or so. The main deterrent was always the prospect of having to get back into a highly complex game that already had more content than a normal human being could ever hope to consume when I left in 2011.
Indeed I was pretty overwhelmed during the first hours. Alienated. Everything felt strange and kind of wrong. I couldn’t even find my house at first! While looking for it I stumbled across Queen Antonia Bayle herself making a speech to the citizens of Qeynos.
It was obvious that aimlessly wandering around wasn’t gonna do the trick, so I made a plan. First I finished setting up the UI the way I was used to and reacquainted myself with my Bruiser’s plethora of skills and abilities. Then I’d do some things I was so famlilar with back in the day that I could’ve done them with my eyes closed. This should help to acclimate myself again.
To get back into questing and fighting I picked a Heritage quest around my level that I had already completed with two characters before, The Wondrous Inventions of a Crazed Gnome, and headed to the Bonemire, a zone I once knew in and out.
It turned out to be the perfect pick. I had to run around a lot, collect stuff and kill some mobs. Before long everything started to feel familiar again and I even ended up successfully fighting ^^^ (heroic) named mobs for their loot and AA experience.
In EQII you have to return to the quest giver after every completed step, which are usually quite a lot when you do Heritage or Signature quests. It’s pretty archaic game design by today’s standards, but I didn’t mind because it helped me to find my bearings again. I also rediscovered the game’s humorous side.
The quest’s last boss kicked my butt, but the exercise had already served it’s purpose very well, so I saved the conclusion for another time and decided to engage in another formerly familiar activity: crafting.
When I left I had a level 90 carpenter, a level 80 alchemist and a level 64 sage. Admittedly not quite as dedicated as people with all tradeskills on max level, but I’d done my fair share of crafting. The former two characters had already completed the artisan epic quest (how awesome is a game where something like this exists?), now it’s the sage’s turn. First I’d have to level him up to 80 though.
My tried and true method for leveling tradeskills are rush orders. An NPC in your local crafting association tasks you with manufacturing six items within 8 1/2 minutes. Having materials and fuel in sufficient quantities on hand is your own responsibility, once the timer runs it can’t be paused. The reward is enough gold to pay for the needed fuel with a bit extra and a hefty chunk of XP. There are no actual items crafted, so you don’t end up with hundreds of basically worthless leveling-byproducts you have to dispose of.
The crafting process itself is a fun little minigame where you have to keep crafting progress and the item’s durability in balance. You have six buffs at your disposal that boost either at the expense of a) the other, b) mana or c) success chance. Every now and then unforseen events happen that you have to counter by using one of the two buffs with the corresponding symbol within three seconds or so.
Failing to do so in time or using the wrong buff results in a failure cycle costing progress and durability, and you taking a bit of damage. Yes, theoretically crafting can actually kill you.
There’s a bit of RNG involved because it depends on the level of the item you’re trying to make and your corresponding crafting skill if a cycle fails or succeeds. Fortunately that’s completely negligible once you’re past level 20 or so because you can compensate for all but the biggest failure streaks with proper use of those buffs.
For me this crafting system really hits the sweet spot right in the middle between too simple (press button, wait, done), which doesn’t really count as crafting in my book, and overly complicated, where it can take ten minutes or more to craft a single finished product, maybe with a hefty dose of RNG on top making it doubtful if you succeed at all.
I since leveled all three crafters quite a bit this way and have begun preparations for the epic quest with the sage.
I did all of this during the weekend, and since then I feel right at home and comfy in the game again. The plan to initially stick to my comfort zones worked out quite well it seems.