When I'm really involved in an MMO and enjoying myself, things get a bit quiet around here. And such has been the case recently in EQ2. My husband and I returned a couple months back. We were each doing our own thing with alts until the release of Rise of Kunark. So I brushed off the dust from my 70 Mystic and he from his Berserker and we set out exploring. A little over two weeks later we hit level 80. Well dang.
This has definitely not been the EQ2 of the past which involved some solo quests, lots of heroic quests and lots of slaughter, which some refer to as grinding. Typically, the zones after level 40 contained higher and higher concentrations of heroic mobs as you leveled, making soloing progressively more difficult. This changed somewhat with the release of Echoes of Faydwer, making it a bit easier to get through those levels. Rise of Kunark is completely different from them all.
Kylong Plains - The boat ride arrives here and within view of Karnor's Castle. While the names of places from EQ1 are familiar, there is very little visual familiarity to be found. Echoes of Faydwer had captured that familiarity and nostalgia; however, Kunark has none of that. I usually love the music in EQ2 and have it turned up. The Kunark music, however, does not evoke any sort of emotion and for the first time, I have the music turned down.
Ok so on to exploring. You will be loaded up with quests on arrival and will soon notice mobs hit quite hard. There are no heroics to be found anywhere, but these are not your typical solo mobs. This is more reminiscent of EQ1 where you had to be sure to single pull, because two of these can result in a quick trip to the resurrection point. The quests flow fairly nicely here. You rarely are sent back to kill the same thing, so everything is kept fresh and new. This changes later on though.
Quest rewards for the first time have effects instead of just stats. You might find health or power regeneration on them, or some sort of buff effect to proc on occasion. The non-legendary rewards are getting tweaked in an upcoming patch. It seems they didn't intend the effects to be quite so good. This will affect about half of the items I have currently equipped. Ah well. Also, certain classes have been a bit shafted in the rewards. Nearly all priest rewards have been leather. Unfortunately, the way mitigation is calculated, you are penalized for wearing armor not designed for you. So, a chain class wearing leather actually gets hit for more damage than a leather class in leather. I've been able to upgrade to some nice jewelry, but as far as armor goes, I'm still in the old stuff. They will be adding items to the faction merchants in the future to address this.
Speaking of faction, this expansion highly revolves around faction and progressively so. Kylong Plains just has one main faction to work up and it goes up very quickly. The faction here enables you to deal with the merchants and buy advanced mounts if your guild level is high enough.
Fens of Nathsar - Once you are done with Kylong Plains, you are sent here. There are two factions here and they are kill on sight until you complete a quest. Time to start stocking up on lots of invisibility totems as you sneak your way around to get this quest done. The repetitive quests start kicking in as you must kill chickens, cats and rhinos over and over and over. Also, the two factions don't like each other either. While you are working on gaining faction with them, they are asking you to kill the other side in some quests which knocks your faction back down. I'm one of those people who hates killing things that aren't aggressive to me, even more so when it involves a faction hit. I want everyone to like me! Yeah I know it's just a game. I put these type of quests off for awhile until I realized both sides were pretty darn nasty and said oh heck with it.
Kunzar Jungle - This is your next stop and I just hated this zone. It's small and mountains are put in your way so you must travel long distances to get anywhere. It felt like a confusing maze jam packed with mobs. I honestly had claustrophobia here and couldn't wait to get out. Now you have several factions to work up and you need to do so quickly because these aggressive npc's are pathing around everywhere. There were some quests here that I actually avoided. I had been doing some quests for the frogloks. Seems the iksar think they make good slaves and can be seen threatening and taunting them in their camps. So I was sent to help some frogs escape. Then the iksar gave me a quest about some escaped frogs I was to go out and kill to send a message to the others who might be thinking about escaping. I felt sorry for these little frogs and just couldn't do it. Quest deleted.
Jarsath Wastes - We still had quests left in Kunzar but were desperate to leave so off to Jarsath we went. Ah, wide open spaces....freedom! Again you have some aggressive factional npc's in your way you need to quest for first. And again you're killing lots of chickens, cats and rhinos. By this point, I was disgusted with both the sarnak and iksar and could care less about ruining faction to kill one or the other. Just give me my reward. Your initial quests are in what was called Overthere to anyone familiar with EQ1 and finally you are sent to the Skyfire Mountains section of the zone. Here is where it is a bit tough. While these are considered solo mobs, they are all level 80 plus. These would be very difficult to solo and everyone I have come across has been in a group.
So in summary, for my play style which is mostly duoing with my husband, it's been very easy to get through this expansion. Honestly, I've never leveled this fast in EQ2 ever. Ten levels in two weeks? We play for an hour or two at night and then bigger chunks on weekends. Unfortunately, for most players though this expansion has been a bit frustrating. The quests are all chains and people are really having trouble finding others on the same step to help them. While they are considered solo quests, they are not easily soloable at all. My guildmates have gotten frustrated with having to do the same quests over and over to help others catch up and many of them don't like having to constantly ask others to help them, so a good percentage of them have given up and are playing lower level alts for the time being.
I have some mixed feelings about the expansion. I realize once everyone is 80, it won't matter. We'll just be exploring the dungeons together and heck with questing. But I really hope this doesn't turn current players away from the game. EQ2 has always had a different breed of players. Some like not having to do quests and just grinding mobs. Many like having lots of group content that didn't previously involve all these prerequisite quest steps. Adding this type of play only at level 70 certainly isn't going to be bringing in the WoW players as they will still have to get through the early levels the old fashioned way, so I'm not sure what the actual intent was. Time will tell.