Sony Online Entertainment is ready to celebrate EverQuest II’s eighth anniversary in a big way with next week’s launch of the ninth expansion, Chains of Eternity. We recently had the opportunity to be personally guided through parts of CoE by Producer Holly Longdale and escorted by developer Carlos Mora.
As we were waiting for the run through of Chains, we were told that long-time subscribers are being gifted with some terrific new veterans’ rewards in the form of a variety of potions, “unattuners” which will allow players to remove the account lock on items to resell or trade, and a new display case that will give players the ability to sell more items at the broker.
From there we began to speak about the backstory for Chains of Eternity. Our first stop was the memorial to Firiona Vie, the iconic character gracing every EverQuest II box. In the middle of one of her heroic tales, Firiona collapses and dies without warning. The community learns that people throughout Norrath have been dying in similar ways and scholars deduce that the problem stems from trouble within the realms of the dead, or the Ethernere. Being of a heroic mind set, players are sent out to determine what exactly the issue is and to solve it.
Holly told us that the story is paramount in Chains. The development team’s goal was to show players the story rather than to simply tell it. To that end, the adventure throughout the expansion is visceral and graphical in nature with fine touches that give an added dimension to the story itself.
Chains of Eternity consists of two main zones, nine distinctly different dungeons and new monsters. The two zones are the Eidolon Jungle and the Obol Plains. As players begin the journey through each, they are treated to magnificent color palettes that gradually and literally fade to gray as the corruption infecting the Ethernere becomes more apparent. Anywhere the Harrowing Horde is in control is leeched of color and life. The Harrowing Horde consists of the former caretakers of Ethernere who, like the environs they once protected, have turned gray and malevolent.
The people inhabiting these zones are frantically attempting to hold the corruption at bay and it is up to the heroic player to try to give a sense of peace and control back to them.
“We are all about creating amazing memories and a visceral experience.” Longdale told us.
As with the completely unique look for the two new zones, each of the nine new dungeons has its own unique look and geometry. We got a quick peek at two of the dungeons: Temple of the Faceless and the final epic confrontation dungeon where players finally face off against Drinal, The Silver Reaper, himself.
Each dungeon was interestingly unique and the two bosses were massive. For instance, Bailon of Thule is absolutely HUGE. He swings a gigantic mace that literally wipes out his worshippers before turning his attention to the adventurers who have invaded his realm. Interestingly, we were told that the dungeon was built exactly the size of the swing of this mace. Each swing destroys the surrounding walls, creating piles of rubble forcing players closer and closer to Bailon and into more danger.
Drinal, as a werewolf-like creature, has been given a cool new look. As Holly told us, he resembles Anubis more than simply a ‘plain’ werewolf. Again, the Silver Reaper is enormous and his dungeon sports its own special look.
While we didn’t get to see it, we were shown the wreck of a ship far out in the distance at sea. According to Holly, this particular dungeon mirrors the ocean’s weather and movement patterns by a symbiotic combination of water, wind, sails, sounds, etc. all working together to create a special experience for players.
In the Obol Plains, we were shown Wurmbone Crag, a dusty, desert-like area inhabited by a race of Rat Men who feed on the remains of dragons. The fine touches included by developers are evident in the ‘living nature’ of the main living area of the Rat Men. There is plenty of movement by the inhabitants and we were also told that time of day will be integral to players’ success: The Rat Men are much more powerful at night. The team also has plans to build events around the day-night cycle as well.
“We want to make gameplay fun and less frustrating. We don’t want our players to wasting time on the not-fun aspects that sometimes bog down their experiences.” Holly said.
Part of making the game fun also includes the first Prestige Abilities for Tradeskill workers. For instance, they will gain the ability to mass produce items rather than simply one at a time. In addition, they will gain ‘experimentation’ that allows them to try new things on items up to five times each. Lastly, players will gain the ability to refine and salvage things. Refinement allows the player to create more pure components out of raw materials and salvaging, as the name implies, grants the ability to take components and materials out of already-existing items.
Lastly, the level cap is being increased to ninety-five, something unheard of in EverQuest II. With the addition of all the new quests, dungeons and content, it should be a “snap” for high-level players to reach the cap over time.
Chains of Eternity is an ambitious and lovingly created new expansion, something that the team is quite proud of and is very excited to show to players. Launch day officially arrives on November 13th. Will you be there? Leave us your thoughts in the comments!