The Tattered Notebook: Duking it out in EQII's level-agnostic battlegrounds

The Tattered Notebook  Duking it out in EQII's Level Agnostic Battlegrounds
This week's Tattered Notebook feels like a "hey, wait a second!" column because I didn't get a chance to write about this leading up to the launch of EverQuest II's Qeynos Revamp, and just around the corner is SOEmote and the August update. I've always made it clear that I'm not a PvPer, but that's because I'm lousy at it, not because I don't love a good, tight PvP match. So I focused on running some of the newly revamped battlegrounds this week to see what's changed and how the new level agnostic system is working out.

What's new

One of the aims of the battleground revamp was to make the current ones more fun, and the team started by removing The Frozen Tundra, which was a Velious-themed instance introduced just a year ago. According to developer interviews, this instance may yet return, but the devs feel it just isn't where they want it to be, so it was taken offline.

Meanwhile, the other three instances had some tweaks. In Smuggler's Den, the central tower is now harder to take but also worth a lot more if you do manage to cap it. Meanwhile, the four surrounding towers are all easier to take and have all been adjusted to be worth the same. In the Battlefield of Ganak, flag-carriers run more slowly now, and when they get hit, they get hit a lot harder. Meanwhile, in Gears of Klak'anon, there have been increases in the values for player kills, particularly players killed holding the relic, but the overall point goal was increased as well.

I queued up for Smuggler's Den a few times, but I didn't have good luck in catching the instance when it was in action, so I ended up just queueing for all three instances. There really is no wait for Ganak and Gears, and the battleground lobby, Champion's Respite, was packed with players waiting for battle.

The changes to Ganak gave that instance a much different feel. Before the tweaks, I always felt it was a constant foot race up and down the field, and the flag was always on the move. With the change, there is a slower feel to the instance, and it's much more about the battle in the center of the field than anything else. The best comparison I can make is that the original Ganak felt like a football passing game in the final two minutes, while the current version is much more like the "three yards and a cloud of dust" running game. That change of pace actually goes very nicely with the level agnostic system too (which I'll get to in just a bit!).

Gears of Klak'anon was always a chaotic, frenzied scrum, and that's still the case even after the changes. The only thing I miss is that there isn't as much focus on trying cloak and dagger moves to steal away the relic and hide from the other team. That seemed to change way back when the relic would respawn in the center rather than where the relic holder died. Overall, Gears is still about "taking it to the face," as one guildmate of mine used to say, and it's definitely a brawn-over-brains instance.

The Tattered Notebook  Duking it out in EQII's Level Agnostic Battlegrounds
Level-agnosticism

I was really curious to see what the level-agnostic system was like in battlegrounds because I didn't have much luck getting into a BG when it was on Test. I tried several with my mid 30s Illusionist and braced for the worst because I didn't level-lock her to grind out AAs and because I don't have any BG gear for her. I was going to run ACT to check out parses and comb data, but I decided against it. All the numbers in the world won't matter because it has to be about how it feels. If I feel as if I have a fair chance against a level 81 player, that's far more important.

Overall, it did seem that the level-agnostic system brought parity to the field. I'm sure there will be adjustments needed here and there; systems have to be tuned not only for adventure level and class balance but also for AAs and gear. Previously in Ganak, I tended to stick with a few guildmates to hang back and fend off attempts to steal our flag. I usually played a Fury and didn't always do too well against a Ranger or Wizard one-on-one, but I could contribute quite a bit when I was with a few others. I assumed I'd have little chance solo on my low-level Illy, but I actually held my own and defended against several attempts on our flag back at the base all by myself, even when it was a much higher-level player stealing the flag. Part of that probably stems from the fact that the flag-bearer moves more slowly now and takes more damage, so I had more time to take him down before he got out of the base. But part of that is also a result of the level agnostic system. I might not have been able to solo a level 81 player, but I could do enough damage to him and slow him down enough that it bought time for the rest of the team to come in and help finish him off, and that's a nice balance overall.

I've always enjoyed Ganak, but I like it even more now, and it's definitely my favorite battleground. In Gears, the level-agnostic system meant I had a fighting chance against the crowd, but because the emphasis is much more on straight up PvP, it's harder to hide any potential imbalances among the levels and classes. I was able to tangle with higher-level players, but I could sense that my lack of gear and AAs was coming back to haunt me, and since there was little else to do, I had to try to stick with the crowd rather than try to freelance on my own. I should note that among the changes, there's also a new call out system that announces key actions during the course of the instance. So when a flag is dropped or a relic is taken, a message and a voice will tell you. It's a nice little addition to the battles.

In short, I like the changes to the battlegrounds, and I think the level-agnostic system breathed new life into the PvP instances. The main tier is now for characters between level 30 and level 89, with a second tier for those level 90-92. In the meantime, I'll probably try to go back and spend my new Havoc currency to upgrade my gear, and I'll be repeating Unique New York over and over to prepare for SOEmote next week!

From the snow-capped mountains of New Halas to the mysterious waters of the Vasty Deep, Karen Bryan explores the lands of Norrath to share her tales of adventure. Armed with just a scimitar, a quill, and a dented iron stein, she reports on all the latest news from EverQuest II in her weekly column, The Tattered Notebook. You can send feedback or elven spirits to karen@massively.com.
This article was originally published on Massively.