Mobhunter: Return to Unrest

It's been a big week. We've seen one of the more exciting patches since the release of Dragons of Norrath and a few interesting bits of news and even a nice juicy rumor crossed my great oak desk this week so lets dig right in.

SOE released four new missions this week taking us back to some favorite old zones including Befallen, Unrest, Qeynos, and the newer but underused Hate's Fury.

I only had time to try the Unrest mission but I enjoyed it enough to do it twice last night. The mission is excellent. I'm not a fan of time travel stories; they're a bit overused in fantasy and science fiction, but to see Unrest just as evil overtakes it is quite a treat. The mission's story is quite deep and interesting. The mission mechanics take you through some of your favorite haunted spots in Unrest. The mission can be finished in about an hour if you know what you're doing.

The mission only rewards a single random item upon completion including 100 hitpoint and mana items and a 65 hitpoint and mana augment for the uberfolk. It does not reward any shards or LDON points. There are some who would like to see all of these missions and adventures share a common currency but I think its fine to offer random rewards for some, crystals for another, and LDON points for a third. It gives us reason to do them all instead of farming the easiest one.

These missions show a great way to improve old-world zones and give us a way to recapture fond days of hunting in these old-world dungeons. They also focus a party on a single goal within these old zones. We get a nice bit of story and a nice reward along the way as well. I think this is the best way I've seen to revamp a zone. I like these a lot more than the recent Mistmoore or Paw revamps.

Missions in general are my favorite feature of Everquest. It is the one feature that keeps me continually returning to Everquest after playing games like Everquest 2 and World of Warcraft. They help focus a single group of players on a single goal; they help reward players for their effort; and they break up hunting sessions into nice manageable time periods. I hope to see a lot more of these in the future.

The in-game email system got a lot of added features this week. A new address book, an ability to send email guild-wide, new sound effects and text messages upon new mail arrival, and most importantly, an ability to forward in-game email to an out-of-game email address. These changes make Everquest's email system the most robust email system of any MMOG. All it lacks is an ability to send items along with an email.

This week we finally saw the release of the Veteran rewards. Now Bristlebane Puppets turn all those people hanging around the front of the big bank in Knowledge into all sorts of stramge things. Last night alone I used five of my seven veteran rewards and found every one of them useful. The Bristlebane pet especially is quite a wacky experience.

Veteran rewards are a great way to bring people back in the game and reward those of us who have played since the beginning. Some folks had problems receiving their rewards with a mixture of strange account time calculations including time unsubscribed and transferring characters from one account to another. Some of these problems were fixed later that day.

Unfortunately, these great new features didn't come without cost. This week John Smedley announced that in June the Everquest subscription cost will go up to $14.99 a month. It's hard to understand a subscription cost increase like this for a game that's been out for six years now but the other changes this week give us a good idea of what we pay for. For the next month we have the option to buy year-long subscriptions for $100, just over eight bucks a month and nearly half of what we would have to pay monthly. This is the plan I chose myself.

Even with the increased cost, Everquest continues to be a value compared to other forms of entertainment. I just paid $15 to see "Kingdom of Heaven" and I wish I had my three hours back. Even great games like God of War end up costing about $50 for eight to ten hours of entertainment. Only the cost per hour of a paperback book runs lower than my Everquest subscription costs.

Time for a Mobhunter exclusive. On June 9th at the Las Vegas Fan Faire, SOE will announce the new and latest Everquest expansion. We already heard a few clues and rumors out of the last developer chat including words like "Werewolves" and "Drachinds", both words I like but not as much as "Vampires" and "Demons". With their typical six-month schedule, I would prepare for an expansion release sometime in August.

This week, my home world of Quellious and the fine friends of Rodcet Nife merged together into a new world. The merger went quite well, I didn't notice the change until I went into Knowledge and saw an extra one hundred people milling about. The LFG list was thick with players to pick up for groups and my guild got in four or five new recruits within the first couple of days. While I don't think server mergers are the perfect solution to problems like waning guild numbers or difficulty finding groups, I think they can help keep Everquest healthy and alive. I'm enjoying the experience with my new friends of the Nife.

It's been an exciting week. With the larger player-base on my server, the new veteran rewards, and the new excellent missions in old-world zones, we get to see a new side to Everquest. Price increases might put a frown on our faces, but these new features help dullen the pain. It's an exciting time to play.

Loral Ciriclight
14 May 2005