Three Weeks of Everquest Free to Play

It’s been three weeks already? Time flies when you are having fun. And I am certainly having fun getting back to Norrath and Everquest. I’ve made a few characters on the brand new “Vox” server, while hardly looking at my old ones. I just don’t think I’d be able to play them very well at their level. Creating new characters gives me time to relearn the game and to get familiar with the changes since I left. Besides, new characters are fun, at least for me.

For the F2P start SOE created “Hero’s Journey”, a guide and a set of achievements through the leveling process. It took me a while until I found out about this, but once I noticed it, all was good. It leads you through the Crescent Reach zone and all other zones of that expansion. It gets you great gear along the path. If you are going to restart, I recommend to do just a few steps in the tutorial, just enough to get you 3 pieces of armor, and continue with Hero’s Journey.

Not following Hero’s Journey lead me to the level 10+ armor quests and my first encounter with the old competitiveness of the game, namely kill stealing. Old Everquest hands will know that loot rights and experience gain for a kill go to the player or group who do the most damage, not the person who tagged the mob first. Which of course happened to me, trying to kill tarantulas in the Desert of Ro. They are kind of rare and all of a sudden, the tarantula I just had engaged was dead. Some higher level shaman had killed it and continued to clear out the area without giving others the chance to finish their quests.

Lots of drama has ensued over this in the past and obviously will continue. This extended into raiding as well, since dungeons and raids were not instanced. Guilds and players had to compete for the kill. I could already experience my dose of hardcore behavior while visiting Project 99 a while back, and just hope this doesn’t extend into the new end game. Time will tell.

But now to the nicer sides of the game. You can notice much more cooperative behavior among the players than anyplace else, even if you take the competitiveness into account. Players offer buffs in the Plane of Knowledge and asking for buffs is accepted as well. Group play happens, although with the limitations of not having a LFD tool. But the players are far more willing to group up and share. Experienced and higher level players will run up to you and hand you loot, or just offer it for free in chat. And as it used to happen, valuable loot that nobody in a group or raid wanted is often offered to the public in general chat.

Speaking of POK, since F2P players can’t sell their goods in the bazaar, they have to rely on /auction chat. Which gives the already humming Plane of Knowledge even more traffic and there’s some hope it will become like East Commonlands, the market place of old. However, it seems to slow down a bit, as subscribers offer their guild mates to sell their gear through the subscribers traders.

So far, I haven’t run into killer issues with free-to-play. Most of the gear on my old characters is unusable, due to having bad augments, but that’s more of a bug than intention. There is a limit on the amount of money a character can have and there is no shared bank. F2P players can’t send mail or parcels. This limits the ability to transfer items between characters, but nothing keeps you from creating a second account and using it to hold a few bags. The number of bags is limited, which initially seems like an issue, but in the end, with a bit more organisation, you’ll get by.

I am a bard of old. I did crowd control in Solusek A and Karnor’s Castle and I charm kited in the Plane of Nightmares. So I asked in the bard channel what instruments are now in easy reach for my level. The answer made me cringe: Use the instrument modifiers that come with your defiant armor. Modifiers not even half the strength of your standard store bought lute or hand drum. On the other hand, it shouldn’t be to much of a surprise, with leveling now being so easy, there isn’t much need to squeeze out an edge through 10% more damage output with you drum. At least they confirmed that the higher run speed coming from a better drum is useful.

And lastly, something I am far from mastering, yet. The game mechanics of the solo and group game are much more dynamic than modern games. Even though, you can chat a lot while on auto attack, you still need to pay attention to what’s going on. Roaming mobs for instance. Crowd control. Managing pets and MERCs. Your focus is not on what button to push next in your spell rotation, but you look around and react to what’s going on. This might be a bard specific thing, but I had to be on the lookout with my beastlord as well.

Anyway, it’s been a lot of fun so far. I am still rediscovering all the old places like the Ry’Gorr Fort in Eastern Wastes or Warsliks Wood. I am not expecting to stick around for 6 years, though. Probably more like 6 weeks and then on and off. Which is the great thing with F2P. No need to go through subscribe/unsubscribe. Just play.

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