Today, Everquest II has launched Heroic Characters, a new system that allows players to either create a level 85 character or jump an existing EQ II character to that level. The game's current maximum level cap is 95, which is outside of the scope of new players. With the next expansion, Tears of Veeshan, coming soon, Sony Online needed a fix and this is it.
Beginning today, players can create their Heroic Characters for free. On October 15, Heroic Characters move to the cash shop for 3500 Station Cash. Now, you can't buy 3,500 in Station Cash; you have to buy either 2,500 or 5,000 bundles, meaning you're throwing out either $25 or $45. You also won't be able to make your Heroic Character into a Channeler, the new class for the Tears of Veeshan expansion. On the bright side, you can try out your Heroic Character from level 85 to 86 before making the full paid plunge.
"We're essentially creating a shortcut for people to go to level 85 without invalidating that level 1 through 85 content, if that's what they want to play - you can always start at level 1 and move up," director of development Dave Georgeson told Polygon. "But we wanted to make sure that players could get together really easily, so that when friends come back to the game, they can find their other friends and be able to adventure."
Understandably, some fans aren't pleased with the move, but the truth is that Everquest II leveling to 85 is a no man's land. New players just have to trudge through 85 levels mostly alone. Heroic Characters give those players a chance to cut through the nonsense - if they can afford it - and gives veteran Everquest II players a chance to try out other classes they may have ignored until now.
Everquest II isn't the first fantasy MMO to realize that players don't want to do 70, 80, or 90 levels of play alone just to join their friends. World of Warcraft has a number of different options to ease the leveling process. The Scroll of Resurrection allows you to re-invite a friend back into World of Warcraft with a free character boost to level 80, ten levels below the game's max level cap. Veteran players can also give their existing characters Heirloom Gear, which provides experience gain bonuses.
And those old areas in Everquest II aren't completely gone for higher-level characters: SOE has added special content for level 85 and above characters in those zones. Want to tackle that old dungeon on your new Heroic Character? You can, without down-leveling.
"The more that we up-level that older nostalgic content, the more they can explore the rest of the world even at those higher levels," Georgeson told Massively.
So is Sony Online Entertainment trivializing the work of veteran players, or will Heroic Characters bring in a host of new players?