Kingdom of Sky (KoS) is Sony's newest expansion for Everquest II. The focus of this article is first impressions. KoS looks great. In its most simplistic form, the expansion is a set of floating islands in the sky, hooked together by rather large chains, with special clouds that take you from one island to another. The islands all have a unique feel to them and each zone comprises of anywhere from 5-10 islands.
What adventurers can expect
KoS is designed for levels 55 and above, anybody lower will struggle in this expansion. The level cap for adventuring and trade skills have been increased to level 70 and the guild levels have been increased to level 50. KoS features a good amount of instances and dungeons, as did the previous expansion. Dungeons such as Sanctum of Scaleborn and Palace of the Awakening feature a very large and diverse set of creatures, loot and quests. The instances are well designed; most adventurers will find they have advanced further from Deserts of Flame's instances featuring ring events and more quest driven objectives.
Instances and Dungeons and Raiding
One of the biggest and most notable changes from Deserts of Flames is the sheer number of sub and boss monsters. It's hard to run through Sanctum of Scaleborn for example without seeing upwards of 10 named as you go past. The loot is a good upgrade from Deserts of Flames with a much wider range of effects. For example armor pieces will tend to have the normal stats such as Wisdom or Intelligence, Strength and Stamina but also have additional bonuses such as Defense, Flowing Thought, Spell Crits, Melee Crits, etc.
Master chests are not as common as they were in Deserts and the original game. However, legendary chests drop a lot. Legendary items are very popular in the expansion, making fabled items very rare or raid dropped.
New relic armor resembles raid quests Everquest 1. Raids drop armor molds, which can be given along with special gems to an NPC in Soluseks Eye in exchange for Relic Armor. So far Relic armor is by far the best armor available to players. However, this armor is strictly reserved for raiding. I can't tell you much about raiding in KoS since only the top guilds are only just starting to dabble.
There be dragons! Harla Dar is one of the dragons from the original Everquest 1. You will see his new form in Everquest 2 as a level 74, group x4. He is one of the many dragons you will find throughout your travels on the isles.
Also added to the adventure experience is the Achievement Point system (AP's). Most veteran Everquest 1 players will remember Alternate Advancement (AA's) as being the core of the game. Everquest 2 opened up 50 achievement points in the form of a hierarchical tree. The main skill, branches off into 4 sections, Strength, Stamina, Wisdom and Intelligence. It is only possible to maximize 2 of those tree's equaling 50 AP's. The way you gain AP's is in 4 different ways; Quests, killing named mobs, adventure discoveries and looting status items. Once you gain an AP, you can choose where you want the AP to be spent in. I won't go into too much detail about the trees, but they are different for every class and overall improve the way your character performs in combat.
Heritage Quests, Writs and Guild Level
Deserts of Flames added 1 Heritage Quest (HQ), KoS as far as I know has added 3 additional HQ's; The Wurmslayer, Bag of Tinkerers, and Bone Clasped Girdle. A new slew of Guild writs have been added for most of the content in KoS, overall helping to achieve the new guild level of 50. Lucky adventurers that are in these guilds will see the normal upgrades to bank, titles, status clothing, furniture and even some trinkets to improve your mana and health regeneration.
One of the most interesting aspects of the Heritage quests is the crafting involved, which brings me to:
Crafting as an Adventurer
One of the most controversial moves by Sony in this expansion is requiring adventurers to achieve high trade-skill levels. Some of the heritage quests require level 50 and even 60 trade skill combines that have to be done by the adventurer in order to complete the heritage quest.
Additionally, some of the high end boss mobs and quests end up rewarding you with new trade skill recipes. You can choose to give those to a high end trade-skill players however if you are not a high enough yourself. These new recipes are a great deal better than the normal recipes dropped. This brings diversity that is much needed to the trade skill system.
One, monumental change in trade skills is the removal of sub components. Previously in trade skills, items crafted required anywhere from two to ten subcomponents. Instead in, KoS, the actual material used to craft those subcomponents has been all combined into 1 final combine.
To explain further, a chair made by a carpenter may require 10 clusters, 4 pieces of wood, 4 pelts in order to make the subcomponents - struts, planed lumber, dowels, resins, tempers, washes and padded cloth. Now there is 1 combine for the chair, but needs all the materials up front in 1 recipe. The biggest effect of this is the sheer number of materials needed to level up, since subcomponents individually gave experience before. However the pay off is its much less frustrating and easier to make the final combine and fill those precious player orders faster.
This change was received with mixed opinions, with some feeling it was too casual and others feeling that it would make the process much easier. The funny thing is, it's almost just like it was in Everquest 1 now, just without the pretty interface
There is a lot of content in this expansion. It was well thought out, addressed a lot of issues that Desert of Flames had. Will it be enough to keep people occupied for the next 6 months until the 3rd expansion? For the power gamers, probably not, but for anyone who plays around 4-5 hours a day, its perfect. It's a great balance of intense combat with fun quests and a much less frustrating trade skill system. All in all, enjoy your new loot and be careful not to fall off of the islands.