The Commonlands, a Nostalgic Review

Posted: September 26, 2007 by Kendricke in Everquest 2

Sergeant Slate says, ‘Time to die Kendricke”. 

In late 2000, I made the late leap to Everquest, then in the process of releasing  its third expansion already – the Shadows of Luclin.  I’d already been leading my online gaming guild for over 3 years at that point, and for various reasons, we’d decided to open a new chapter in Norrath.  Knowing that I had roughly 30 or so Legionnaires on the way, I picked up the game.

Without really having too much of an idea what to expect, I recreated Kendricke as a human cleric in the city of Freeport.  I spent my first confusing minutes just inside the Commonlands gate, wondering what to do.  I killed my first rat.  I killed my first bat.  I was kicked by a snake.  I saw my first deathfist pawn and just about ran back to the guards.

After a hour or so of exploring the areas within and immediately surrounding Freeport, I zoned into East Commonlands for the first time…

The Commonlands of Everquest II have little to nothing in common with the Commons of old Everquest.  I realize that the initial development team was trying to show a post-apocalyptic world – a shattered land – but everytime I’ve tried to enjoy the Commonlands, I can’t help but think back on my Everquesting days and find myself disappointed just a bit more.

It’s not just that Sergeant Slate or the bixies of East Commons are gone, or that the massive Kodiaks or the Hill Giant are gone from Western Commonlands.  No, the entire zone “feels” different – very different. 

In many ways, the vast sweeping savanna of the new Commonlands feel more like the old Plains of Karana.  After all, I don’t recall ever seeing an elephant in the old commonlands, but they were all over North and South Karana (now the Thundering Steppes…which curiously has no elephants, either). 

Gone also is Befallen, where my reforged guild spent it’s first fledgling dungeon crawls.  No, that zone was picked up wholepiece at some point prior to beta, renamed Stormhold, and attached to Antonica (the files for Stormhold are still named Befallen in your EQII root file, and the voice for one of the entry quest NPC’s still intones about “Befallen’s secrets”).

Even taken by itself with no comparison to the old Commons leaves the current Commonlands feeling a bit “flat”.  It’s a zone with little identity and no real reason to stay.  Even directly after release, I rarely saw more than a handful of players in the Commonlands – whereas Antonica often had 3 or 4 instances running. 

After the revamps of Update 22, the Commonlands saw some improvements.  There were better camps here and there.  Quest monsters were up more often, but even then, it was still not enough to truly help the zone develop a real personality of its own.

In many ways – aesthetically and realistically – the Commonlands today is a ghost town, a shadow of its former selves.  It’s no longer a destination, but rather an area to be traversed on the way to someplace else.  Few logical camps exist within the zone, and the ones that do are spread out and sparse to begin with. 

I’m not naive enough to believe that the halcyon days of “Orc 1 camped – Orc 2 open” will ever return.  But I’ve seen what SOE designers can do when they have a good idea of how to toy with nostalgia just a bit more (Greater Faydark, Crushbone, even Blackburrow), and so it pains me a bit more to see a zone with great historical value for so many players essentially used as filler – and not much of filler at that.

Today’s Commonlands is one of my least favorite zones.  I’ve spent considerable time there on multiple characters, but usually it’s because I’m required to for questing.  If I didn’t care about heritage quests, the marr diety quests, or swords of destiny, I’d probably have spent less than a quarter of the time in Commonlands as I have. 

Even today, with new players wondering where to go for experience in their teens and early twenties, I point them to newer zones and do everything I can to steer them away from the Commonlands.  If I can only get them to Butcherblock or Darklight, I know that the chances at keeping them playing the game increase dramatically.

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Comments
  1. coleslaw says:

    I agree with you that the zone is nothing like the original. I also agree that it has a hard time defineing its own personality. There are many quests to do in the zone and it can be a fun zone but it would be nice to have more then 4 instances in it and more then one heritage quest. I never understood why antonica has 3 heritage quests and befallen had to be moved cosmicly across the world for another instance there. 2 of the instances in commonlands are raid zones leaving only 2 instances for single groups. I do like the fact that the heroics have been taken out for the most part, this should be done to all outside zones except for the ocasional raid mob or boss for some quest and even at that very rare. My opinion is the zone could use another revamp to give it personality and not leave it as a huge battle grounds for low level pvp on pvp servres.
    Coleslaw

  2. Tobold says:

    (now the Thundering Steppes…which curiously has no elephants, either)

    Oh, I can explain that. The elephants got trapped in Antonica. You can’t see them, but the creature dens in Antonica give you lot of elephant meat. 🙂

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