It had been a while since I had last logged into EverQuest and the first thing I must say is how good it looks for a game that’s 10 years old. The quality of the textures and NPCs are on par with some games launched much later than EverQuest although I can’t say the same for player avatars. The Underfoot – the realm of Brell Serilis has been talked about since the Hole opened way back when in the EverQuest history and it’s a good looking expansion, more dark than light since it is located, lore-wise, under the Hole.
The Underfoot centers around the Heart of the World, a massive magma ball that floats in the center of a sphere. Lava flows into it and pours out of it through channels and volcanoes, populated by beings of lava and sentient oozes, I checked to see if there were perhaps fire drakes but did not see any. That’s not to say that there aren’t. Being the realm of Brell Serilis, this is dungeon crawling to a fine degree, the plane consisting of a network of tunnels, caves and caverns, populated by the minions and creations of Brell, and inhabited by Brell himself.
The Gnolls and the Kobolds are in conflict, and some tribes may have Gnomish or Dwarven friends in their camps. Here and there, we saw the various opposing tribes skirmishing and in The Foundation we also saw colossal figures holding up the surface much like Atlas did. Yes, there are giants in the Underfoot, the Genari who are merely servitors of Brell and without clan or leadership, i.e. no Genari boss to kill. Many, many, many of them. Sony has continued the theme of grandiose architecture in The Underfoot. It does help for raids and many groups in the same zone. The last thing you want to do is to be stuck behind a group on a narrow bridge or tunnel. Remember Guk?
There were three of us on the tour, conducted by Community Manager Lydia “Zatozia” Pope who buffed our characters to max level and bestowed upon us some 9 million hit points as some of the tools were not working too well and we attracted NPC attention, hordes of them at times.
We ran through as many zones as we had time to see. Most zones as mentioned were dark and high contrast with areas illuminated by streams of molten lava or campfires. Brell’s Rest where we started was the one inhabited by the warring Gnolls and Kobolds. Attached to that zone is Brell’s Arena where players can play a game of Boomerang Brawl. Your objective is to throw heavy metal boomerangs at your opponents while avoiding exploding barrels. Ahh… fun and games in Norrath where a wedding isn’t really a wedding if a guest doesn’t die.
Arthicrex, home of the Cliknar race looks to be a good raid zone. We would have gone farther in except that something would either pop our “Invisibility” or “Invis to Undead” and we would be mobbed. The 9 million hit points meant we couldn’t really be hurt and it was funny to make a train around the zone, but getting pushed and stunned meant it wasn’t easy moving around either. The Cliknar are an insectoid race that drops on all six legs to scurry around then up on their back legs, the better to use the other four to beat on you, and the detail on them is actually very nice! Hopefully readers won’t often see a horde of them up close and personal.
The Cooling Chambers are manned by the Coldain which manage the lower chambers at freezing temperatures to cool water that is heated to boiling temperatures by the Heart of the World. They keep a necromantic beast trapped in ice in the middle of the lake. Players can earn faction and obtain Quests here, but just like Thurgadin, it can be a raid zone if they wish. There are several Coldain head honchos here.
Kenargir, The Shining City was indeed shining and I blinked a few times when I first zoned in. The architecture here is grandiose in scale and Brell was at home in his temple, our last stop for the evening. Here, Brell breathes life into his creations. Some he keeps, some he returns to the clay. Apart from his dining room, we found his gardens, his fountains and wandered through looking at examples of all his creations.
The Underfoot Expansion is scheduled to launch on December 15 and is priced at $39.99 with the usual slew of pre-order goodies to tempt players to buy it. Like its other predecessors, it will include the original game and all the expansions to date. Apart from the new spells, tradeskills, zones, new bosses to kill and further extension of the lore, of particular interest to players, there’s an extended target window for more accurate tracking of friends and foe. You will be able to assign people to locations on the window for easy re-targeting. For example, you can track main tank, secondary tanks, puller, main target, main assist, raid target, etc. So you can keep an eye on the health of the raid Boss and raid tank even if you are assigned to the group that is keeping the yard-trash down.
Also of note are new Alternative Advancement Skills, a new useful Tinkering device, and an Achievement System that allows you to track and manage your progress in several different categories including Alternate Advancement, quests and other progression that requires tracking. There are three states: Open, which shows the achievements still uncompleted; Complete, which toggles all completed achievements and Locked, which actually assists players in focusing their efforts while adventuring and growing up in Norrath. These are achievements that the player is not quite ready to attempt, for example, level 50 achievements when your character is only level 30. In some quest lines, it will show what you next need to focus on to unlock the achievement. At the launch of Underfoot, general achievements and progression in the Underfoot will be tracked. Other achievement progression tracking will be added after launch. This would have been really useful during my Planes of Power quests in the Plane of Knowledge and the “alien” expansions years!
All in all, this much looked forward to expansion looks to be solidly designed and a return to the roots and lore of the original EverQuest while tying in some of the later expansions. Access is through the Hole, Corathus Creep as well as through a special item, Mark of Brell which allow players to teleport directly into Brell’s Rest. Live events are going on now to herald its coming, and as usual, pre-order clients get in a week earlier.