The breakneck pace for free content updates continues for SOE’s EverQuest 2, with Darkness Dawns (GU67) going live today on the game servers. We had the chance to take an online tour with Senior Producer Holly Longdale, Creative Director Akil Hooper, Lead Designer Kyle Vallee, and Designer Carlos Mora yesterday to get all the details about Darkness Dawns. Before we get into all the nitty gritty details, here are the basic bullet points of what DD brings to EQ2’s Norrath:
First, Akil began by telling us a bit about the Signature Line, and the team gave us a sneak peek at one of the “most epic events” in EQ2 so far. Darkness Dawns’ SL (part of the team’s epically long and detailed solo story quest line that goes through the entire game) picks up where the last game update ended with players having captured a relic called the Tear of Veeshan. You’ve taken the tear and are trying to figure out if you can use its power. Throughout the Signature Line, players have been working to protect Norrath from a great and terrible prismatic dragon known as “The Doom of Norrath”. You gather with the other heroes trying to stop the dragon to hopefully harness the power of the Tear of Veeshan... but it doesn’t go as planned, really. I won’t spoil any of it for you, but I will say that the Signature Line quest is one of the most visually impressive I’ve seen in EQ2, and is a testament to the team’s continued hard work at keeping the game thriving as it nears its first decade birthday. It made me want to log back into EQ2 and climb through the levels just to experience the SL myself.
Next we got a chance to see the three new Avatars, and the Arena of the Gods. In the past the Avatars had been too focused on just the top-tier raiding guilds, but they’ve never really been that contested or actually used in the game. So after putting so much work into creating all nine of these Avatars, they decided they wanted to make them more available to everyone. The Arena of the Gods is the solution to that problem. You can fight them each in the Arena, get loot, but it’s on a five day lockout. That doesn’t mean you have to wait five days to fight them again, but rather that you can only get loot from them once every five days. If your guild wants to practice in the Arena to help prepare for facing the Avatars in the open world, that’s perfectly fine.
The three new contested Avatars out in the world will give you items that you can take to cities and turn in for rewards. These heralds in the cities will celebrate your guild name, give you rewards, and give anyone in the city a nice buff. But they’re no pushovers, so the devs don’t expect them to be tackled easily all day long.
Then Akil and the gang told us all about the Character Achievement Templates (CATs). These are templates that will help streamline the entire character achievement and progression process. Everything from base character advancement to Alternate Advancement, Tradeskills, Prestige, and Tradeskill Prestige has been worked into this system. There are several kinds of templates: server side (built by SOE, built for leveling and solo/group and PVP templates), ones you create, and templates that other players create and share across the web. These templates are sort of a “suggested template” for leveling your character, and will help new players and old players alike in keeping track of everything without FUBAR-ing their character on the way to the level cap.
The game’s become so deep with over 300 points to spend that the team felt like no was a good time to help streamline this process. If you don’t want to use CATs, you won’t have to. But they’re there, even as a sort of guide, to help you get ideas for how to spend the points you earn. One thing everyone will use is “Build Mode”, which lets you preview/spend points without fully committing to the build first. You can basically make a ton of changes, save a template, and then apply it to yourself. Free, unlimited respecs? Yes please. There’s a ten second timer to switch, and you can’t do it in combat, but the change is still going to be a welcome one as it opens up a lot more experimentation with character builds in EQ2.
Daily achievements and goals are coming to EQ2 with the launch of Darkness Dawns. Like many other games’ systems, they’re account wide, not character based. This means you can log in on your Monk, do a couple and then log in on your Druid and finish them out without taking a penalty. Simple daily play should be enough to let you finish these achievements without having to go far out of your comfort zone. Two adventure categories, two tradeskill categories, and two PVP categories will cycle daily and you have to complete two of any combination to finish your daily achievement. By completing the daily achievement, you’ll gain Loyalty Point Tokens that are shared across your account. They even roll over, so if you only do one one day, you can complete the other the next and get the daily reward. You can’t get two that day, but you can then easily finish the one you started the day before. And of course, there are merchants that will give you some great stuff for these points in Qeynos and Freeport.
Fabled Dungeons are something the EQ2 team adopted from EverQuest 1. EQ2 takes some of the game’s older dungeons from the first expansion, and levels them up complete with leveled loot and all the goodies for current max-level play. They’re the dungeons you know and love from years ago, just reworked and boosted up for you to enjoy and gain Fabled Rewards from today. Scornfeather’s Roost, The Clefts of Rujark, Pedestal of Sky, and Djinn Master have all been turned into Fabled Dungeons in GU67 (though they’re still available for play while you level up too).
Last but not least, Personal Depots are being added to the game. Basically, like the Guild Hall Depots, these will be for single player homes and can be used to store any number of things in your house in an organized manner: ammo, consumables, collections and so forth are all included. There are also brand new items across all tradeskills to be made, including apprentices dropped by Avatars in the open world and in the Arena of the Gods. Plus the PVP reward prices have been reconfigured to make them a lot more accessible for everyone. It’ll be a lot less of a grind to get some of the rewards.
Darkness Dawns should be out by the time you’re reading this, or very shortly after, and I’d say it’s enough of an update to have convinced me to dust off my old EQ2 account and give the game a try again. The team behind EverQuest 2 is obviously very passionate about their game, and it shows in the sheer amount of features and content added to this most recent free update. Sure everyone may be focused on another EverQuest that’s on the horizon, but Darkness Dawns just goes to show that there are plenty of tricks left up the sleeve of 2004’s Norrathian adventure.
Have you been playing EQ2 lately? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!
Bill Murphy / Bill Murphy is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.