MONUMENT AND MIGHT
This was the next update and again there were a couple of new dungeons: A new group zone, Emperor's Athenaeum, was added as well as a new raid zone, Kurn's Tower. Some new solo quest lines for the continent of Kunark came with these ending in dungeon quests.
One of the big additions were the Research Assistants. Spells and abilities in EQII come with different levels of mastery, from apprentice to master. The best versions of each spell drop from bosses and fetch high prices. Not everybody has the time to raid, so SOE introduced the research assistants to help us out. They will upgrade a spell for you so now master versions are within the reach of everyone. This isn't the free ride that it sounds as higher level spells take a long time to research, my last one took 21 days, and only one character per account can have research done at any given time.
Spells were also renamed. Prior to this update, when you dinged and got a new version of an existing spell, it would have a different name, now they all share the same name and are differentiated with a numerical rank. Phew, good news for those of us without exceptional memories.
GOOD TOMES WERE HAD BY ALL
Monument and Might also gave us user created books. You can buy a blank book and fill it with your wonderful thoughts or document your adventures. These can be copied and/or traded to other players.
SHARDS OF DESTINY
Again some new zones came with this update: The raid zone 'Miragul's Planar Shard' and the 'Shard of Love' a group zone which scales from level 50 to 80.
The Shards of Destiny also brought more shake-ups. First EQII got achievements. Anyone who saw the SOE Fanfaire video when this was announced will remember the muted response from the crowd. This is hardly surprising as achievements are old hat now; Microsoft and Blizzard beat us to the punch. But it was still inevitable that they would show up one day, and they do make playing the game that little bit sweeter.
We also had the 'Quellithulian Spire Event'. The spires were used long ago to teleport all around Norrath, but they have long since fallen into disrepair. Now they are being rebuilt and players' help is needed for the task. The long and short of this event is that we now have another way to dart around the world. Making it that bit smaller, but at the same time more accessible.
Chronomagic was one of my favorite changes. For a long time now, EQII has had a mentoring system. Need a hand with a quest and all your friends are too high level? No problem, just form a group and one of your buddies can mentor you. This reduces his level to the same as yours. This is open to a bit of abuse as you can mentor down to another player's level then enter a dungeon which scales to your level and then leave the group. This returns you to your original level while the mobs stay at the lower one. This is now possible without the aid of a group by talking to a Chronomage in your home city. These guys can reduce your level in decrements of five and you can go and explore older content without everything being grey to you. Again this is open for a bit of a cheat, but it has enabled me to solo a few instances when groups have been hard to find.
The final update this year was 'Will of a Tyrant'. As this is part of the run up to the new expansion due in February, I'll be taking a look at that separately.
There were many other changes to the game, but these were the biggest ones, many geared toward making the solo game as enjoyable of possible. This hasn't appealed to everyone, but with ever increasing level caps, something has to be done to keep new players from despairing. You can't please all of the players even some of the time, but SOE has worked hard to make sure we can be happy while we grind.
Happy new year!