As I write this, 2009 is almost over. In my personal life, I've gone through a bit of an upheaval. I've moved cities and my wife and I are expecting our first child. It's good to know that our favorite MMOs are always there. Everquest II has been a rock over the years.
Except that EQII has undergone a fair few changes itself, some of them well received, some not so much. We've had four game updates this year bringing us some major changes and of course many minor ones. I'm going to take a look at what has shaken up the lands of Norrath this year:
ELEMENTS OF CORRUPTION
The first update, 'Elements of Corruption', went live on March 31st. This brought some much needed love to the 'Lavastorm' zone.
It is becoming more accepted, due in no small part to World of Warcraft, to have all the overland zones in an MMO soloable, while dungeon delving is where it's at for groups. This can be a good thing as it's good to know that when running around on my own I'm fairly confident I won't get squished. Although something can be said for the 'realism' of having epic/heroic/super (whatever you want to call them) mobs hanging around with their weaker counterparts. Some folks hate this and see it as 'forced grouping'.
Sony Online Entertainment traditionally likes to make things tough and instead of one or two mobs being challenging, whole zones will be geared toward groups. This is fine if you are adventuring with hundreds of players at the same level as you, but it becomes a bit of a pain for new players in an old game with a lot of its player base at the level cap. Many companies recognize this problem and SOE is no exception, many changes were introduced this year to make the path to level 80 more solo friendly.
Lavastorm was one of those tough zones, and when I was leveling up, I came a bit too late to find groups at that level, so I had to bypass the whole area. Now SOE has reduced the difficulty of the mobs and added new quest lines to make Lavastorm a soloer's paradise.
The Sootfoot are the deranged tribe of goblins who give you most of the new quests in Lavastorm. They do things a little differently. Every player starts out at maximum reputation with this faction and every quest completed chips away at your standing with them. They also have a vendor who only sells to folks who are hated with the tribe. The mechanics of this works the same way as regular reputation gains, but it's a nice twist.
Another addition to the game was the Threat Meter. The same thing arrived in WoW, and anyone who was checking out the forums in either game will be aware of the griping that went on. To some this change was 'pushing the easy mode button'. I for one don't mind knowing where I stand in the aggro charts. Recently I was performing at a comedy gig, and I was dealing with a persistent heckler. I clearly pushed the guy too far and I saw something snap behind his eyes. The second I left the stage the guy shot out of his seat and came for me, which I suspected he would. This is a real life threat meter, and until game graphics are realistic enough to show a mob look at me and get a furious look in its face that tells me to watch out because I'm next in line for a whupping, I'm happy with some numbers next to my name telling me how much I'm hated.
Elements of Corruption also furnished us with a new dungeon, 'Ward of Elements', again based in Lavastorm. Unlike the content outside, this is aimed at a party of 12 level 80 characters. There was also new loot and new armor sets for us to enjoy.