Several months ago, I outlined the differences in the free-to-play, silver, and gold plans for EQII, but it's already outdated, and even the link on the official site isn't quite accurate (the recent plat cap removal isn't reflected on the page yet). Free-to-play basically gives you all of the content and basic features up to Sentinel's Fate, with limitations on things like gear quality, spell rank, character slots and inventory space. There have been free content and features added over the past year, such as SOEmote and the revamps of Qeynos and Freeport, and those are available to everyone regardless of whether he's paying or not. I know there are two opposing views when it comes to the value of EQII's free-to-play plan, but the bottom line is that when you consider the amount of content that's available for free, you realize it's easily hundreds of hours of gameplay. If you're someone who plays casually and might cycle through a few other games at the same time, EQII's free-to-play is actually a great option.
Of course, there are things in the two expansion packs (Chains of Eternity comes with Destiny of Velious) that make it easier to go through that content. Age of Discovery is worth considering if you're either re-rolling or leveling up, since it's all about features. If you want a mercenary, for instance, you need to purchase the Age of Discovery pack. You also need it to access the dungeon maker system, access the extra 20 AAs, and unlock the Beastlord class (and if you do play a Beastlord, Feldon's warder guide is a must-read). If you're a tradeskiller, Age of Discovery also offers the reforging skill, which lets you alter the stats and particle effects on gear and weapons.
Meanwhile, the Chains of Eternity pack is better suited for higher-level players, since it increases the level cap to 95, adds 50 extra AAs, and provides many new zones and instances for those above level 90. One thing to keep in mind is that Chains of Eternity also gives two consumables that instantly award 280 AAs to two of your characters, so if you're in it for the long haul but are still leveling up, you might want to keep your AA slider set to zero and just focus on leveling to 90, then buy CoE and using the clickie to get you caught up in AAs. In short, if you've checked things out through free-to-play and want to get more from the game, your best bet is to go with the gold plan (which you could pay for with Krono) and purchase Age of Discovery. Then, as you reach level 90, you can ante up for Chains of Eternity.
Server and starting area choices
The most populated servers still seem to be Freeport and Antonia Bayle, and while A-B is labeled a roleplaying server, there are many who do not roleplay, for better or worse. Because Freeport was originally the first (and only) free-to-play server, you might have an easier time finding groups at the lower levels, although in general that's not always easy. Meanwhile, Antonia Bayle tends to have some amazing player-run events and actually just wrapped up its multi-day Festival of Discord just a few weeks ago. So if you're looking for an active community of player-events, it might be worth checking out.
As for starting area options, if you're free-to-play, you can select either New Halas or Darklight Woods
. Both are well-done, and if you haven't been in game in a while, you might want to check out the Darklight Woods revamp. Your starter choice does affect your home city, so if you choose New Halas, you'll be aligned with Qeynos, while Darklight connects you with Freeport. However, you can betray at will and change your alignment, and thanks to GU58, your spells and abilities no longer reset back to apprentice. That makes it easier to sample both the good and evil class choices in your archetype. And if you're new to the game and just starting out, make sure to check your /claim window and redeem your handy starter packs. One of them gives you several useful scrolls and potions that will make travel and leveling a little easier, while another gives a decent sized bag and a ring of swift travel. And don't forget that you can toggle the character appearances in the options tab, so if you don't like the SOGA models, you can switch to the traditional (or vice versa).
I know it's a bit of a cop out to say that there are no bad choices when it comes to class selection, but that's pretty much the case. The classes seem much more balanced compared to years ago, and unless you're aiming to do some serious raiding with a guild that has specific class needs, you can level up just fine with any class you choose. If you're hitting a wall and struggling to survive, it might be because of the fact that it's so easy to outlevel your gear and spells. It's worth it to spot check and make sure that you're wearing level-appropriate gear and that your spells and abilities are updated. You don't necessarily need to have all of your spells at the top tier, but you don't want them at apprentice level either. As for guides, the bad news is that it's hard to find up-to-date guides for classes in general. However, in the new forums there are some good discussion threads that offer recommendations on class builds and casting order, and players are helpful in answering any questions you have.
Golden path, but many paths
Fun fact: If you type /playsound, you will get a list of all of the zone music songs, and typing /playsound and the name of the zone song will allow you to hear it regardless of what zone you're in. You can also set your mood by typing /mood to bring up the list of choices. (Paranoid Halflings rock!) The real reason I mention these here is because they're among many neat little gems you'll find in EQII
. I've been playing on and off since the game launched and I still discover new things about the game. It's easy to branch off and meander, and you can take completely separate paths each time you level up a character. The golden path
is probably the most straightforward way to level, but it's also worth trying some heritage quests or working on the questline for your deity choice
at some point. And you can chronicle it in a player made book (or Frostfell cards, which are coming back soon). Just watch out for the /mood angry Gnomes -- they do bite!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.