Monday 2 May 2011

The clearest way to the Universe is through a forest wilderness.

After a week of holiday pleasantness I’ve once more picked up my adventuring in otherly worlds. I’m definitely in a Good Place with respect to my MMO habit at the moment, finding myself able to go out and wander around a zoo or arboretum without that subtle cloying feeling tugging away at me, whispering serpent-tongued tales of the levels and loot on which I am missing out. What would happen to the rat let out of its operant conditioning chamber and released to the wild? Would it run around the woods desperately pulling at every plant branch and stem, hoping for a pellet of food to drop out? Does the rat adapt once more to the new world that surrounds it, or does the world take on the form and function of the Skinner Box to the rat’s heavily conditioned mind?

Thankfully my own operant conditioning machine was waiting for me when I returned home, and so it was that I found myself staring at a desktop full of icons and not knowing what to do. The rat, thoroughly confused to be back in the chamber after its brief sojourn into the wilds, is now overwhelmed by the choice of levers to pull. So I played a sort of Russian roulette and the icon which ended up being highlighted was that of Everquest II Extended. I’ve dabbled in the game a few times, but this time I resolved to actually get somewhere, rather than spending seven straight nights in the character creator and then getting to level five before burning out. It helps that EQIIe has a limited selection of races and classes to choose from, and based on the fact that you have to purchase the others from the store or subscribe to the game, I made the assumption that these are the runt races and crap classes, from a popularity point of view. Then again, you never know with SOE, they hardly seem to be the Kings of Common Sense based on current events, after the debacle of the PSN break-in, their website currently reads:

We have had to take the SOE service down temporarily. In the course of our investigation into the intrusion into our systems we have discovered an issue that warrants enough concern for us to take the service down effective immediately. We will provide an update later today (Monday).

If the intruders had any sense of humour they’d break into that page and change it to an Epic Fail demotivational poster.

I picked a Half Elf from the runt races because it was the only race where I could make a female who didn’t look as though she was suffering the anaphylactic aftershock of being attacked repeatedly in the face by a bunch of botox-injecting bees. I did however have some free Station Cash from when I, like the rest of the world, logged in and played the revolutionaryTM Free Realms for the seven and a half minutes it took to complete the first four mini-games and reach the inevitable interminable grind. So I thanked my past self for suffering yet another massively multiplayer disappointment in order to give my future self (my future self in the past that is, who is currently my present self. Well, I say currently, but of course the self of me that typed ‘currently my present self’ is now a past self and this is my current self. This is my current self. This is my current se… okay, this could take a while) some Station Cash, and I went ahead and plumped for a Mystic, a shaman class of the usual sort: melee, healing, buffs, a familiar, the usual sort of hybrid affair. It seemed like the sort of class I could get on with, and if all else failed I could spend my time pretending to be a member of the Board of Shaman, DJing with my familiar, and shouting at random passers-by that they know nothing of The Crunch.

The previous time I tried EQIIe I went for the new starter area, assuming that it would be the best of the lot, and so I found myself at Pilgrims’ Landing in New Halas, the winter wonderland. Of course, there’s a slight issue when it comes to wonderlands and the wintriness thereof: snow tends to make everything look a bit… bland. Adventuring in a land where everything is white and indistinct because all the white blends into all the other white, and the few landmarks are big white things, next to large expanses of flat whiteness, tends to get me down a bit, a snow-blinding of the soul. My dreams were of fields full of vivacious colour and dappled light over which a cackling God of Winter came and ejaculated his cold whiteness until it blanketed the land. I decided to stop playing. Not least of which because I was always expecting to find a chapter of the K.K.K. around the next corner, and I was worried that my character was going to look to them like she was their Grand Poobah.

This time around I settled on the Nursery in Greater Faydark. I’ve always enjoyed the myth and legend behind the Fae in their many incarnations, so I headed to their home in EQIIe to see how the fair folk fared there. I haven’t got terribly far yet, but that’s because I’m taking my time and enjoying the journey. The class is fine enough, I’m low level so I can’t expect too much from it, but there are perhaps too many buffs and heals at this stage, and not enough attacks; obviously it is a support class, and support it shall, but EQII is not EQ, and despite EQ requiring players to group up just to navigate themselves past the login screen, EQII is quite eminently soloable, and thus the developers could perhaps have better considered the need for the more useful soloing abilities to be lavished upon the player before the more group oriented abilities were revealed. Still, the class can solo quite well, albeit in a terribly repetitive 1-2-3, loot, rinse, repeat, fashion for the time being. The joy I’m getting at the moment is from the forest of Faydark, with its tree city of Kelethin, and the atmosphere that has been created there. It’s very much the same sense of awe and wonder that I remember feeling when I entered Ashenvale Forest for the first time as a lowly Tauren, having spent my time up to that point running around the dry and desolate Barrens. It’s a combination of many things, the reverent ethereal ambient music, the magnificent magnitude of the expanse of ancient groves, and the fact that I’m probably just a sucker for the abundant mythical allusions that can be drawn from ancient woodland.

Of course it all broke down fairly quickly, stunned out of my reverie by NPCs who wanted me to run curious errands for them. More on that in the next post, but suffice it to say: they know nothing of The Crunch.

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