After viewing the world of EverQuest II: Rise of Kunark over Akil “Lyndro” Hooper’s shoulder at the SOE Step into Fall event, I was excited for this past Wednesday’s beta tour. As the name suggests, this expansion is set on the continent of Kunark, previously explored as the first expansion of EverQuest I. And EQ veterans won’t be disappointed – Rise of Kunark is home to many familiar areas, dungeons, and even creatures.
There are differences from the original Kunark, though, and this was first exhibited to me in the character selection screen. This expansion allows EQII players access to yet another new player race, the Sarnak; these draconian beings are tall and lanky (and rather evil), with vibrant colors and various shapes of horn. As a male Sarnak I had many options, from scale color and pattern to horn type. I was also able to play with individual horns along my Sarnak’s brow, cheek, chin and jaw – very cool. The ladies (who are, might I add, taller) have fewer options. There are no facial horns, only the large ones on the back of the head.
Creating my character, I arrived in Timorous Deep, a gorgeous zone made up of islands. I started in a small coastal village called Chrykori, surrounded by my racial enemies, the Spiroc. For those of you who did not play EverQuest, the Spiroc are an anthro-parrot type race, formerly found in the Plane of Sky. The detail of my starting area was amazing; there were waves crashing against the rocks, and birds that flew away when I approached.
My tour guide, Grimwell, pointed out the ruins of a massive trident far in the distance, the crumbling remains of some forgotten ruin. For this expansion, one of the developers’ goals was to give the players lots of cool places to explore. There was always a point of interest on the horizon, something cool that I wanted to approach. And, said Grimwell, a quest would eventually send me there and I’d learn the story behind it.
While I only explored one island of the massive zone, there is so much to do that players can stay in Timorous deep from level 1 to 20 before leaving for other lands. This starting zone is the only low level area added with Rise of Kunark; the rest of the expansion caters to the 65-80 crowd.
The first of the higher-end zone that players will explore are the Kylong Plains, the southern territory of the Satirian Empire. While the list of zones in this expansion might seem surprisingly small, the zones themselves are surprisingly big; the Kylong Plains spans from the temperate Dreadlands to the high peaks of Ryjesium, then down into the Stonewood crater forest and the beach of Kunzar Bay. This area is aimed toward level 65-70 adventurers.
On our tour, we landed at the Kylong docks. This isn’t a city but is an adventuring station, containing amenities such as vendors, a soulbinder, and more. This allows players to keep hunting, and not have to hit a real city every time they want to unload their loot.
From here, we ran up the mountains into the Ryjesium Peaks. The change was not just in the scenery but in the ambiance – the distant fog became blue tinted, and I could hear snow whistling past me as I ascended higher and higher. I even found an area where snow blew outwards and off the peaks. Headed back downhill, we approached the eerie front of Karnor’s Castle. As we got closer, the clouds came in and the rain started to fall. Very foreboding.
Karnor’s Castle, once home to Venril Sathir, is now overrun by the Drolvarg (doglike creatures). This is a great hunting ground for level 72-76 adventurers, and working your way deep into the dungeon can bring you face to face with Captain Fraznesh, the Drolvarg leader.
Speaking of Venril Sathir though, we next took a trip to Ol’ Sebilis. While most of the other zones have a new layout, Sebilis was very similar to the original EverQuest dungeon – right down to the Disco camp! Since Venril and his Iksar minions moved in though, the half-finished hallways have been finished and paved. Level 75-80 players will battle: Iksar, Chokidai, Froglok slaves, undead Frogloks, and the infamous Sebilite Golems (with a nasty, nasty knockback).
Next stop was another outdoor zone, the Jarsath Wastes. Here’s where we really start getting into the upper levels – adventurers between 77 and 80 can find competition here, and some of the monsters are higher than 80 (the current player max). On entering the zone, I immediately spotted the point of interest: a giant wall in the distance. When you get close to the wall you get another fun surprise: the dead carcass of a dragon, a foreboding tale of what you’ll find beyond the gate. Sort of.
Past the gate was my favorite area of the tour, the Skyfire mountain range. The visual effects were superbly done, and downright eerie – dark skies, dark earth, broken by the orange glow of lava rivers and the glowing namesake mountains. The only downside to Skyfire, in my opinion, was the Chromadracs. I hated them once and I’ll hate them again!
We made our way to our final stop on the tour, the endgame dungeon Veeshan’s Peak. Like a blast from the past, the door was nearly exactly the same as the EverQuest version, with a perfect rendition of the orange dragon.
We zoned in.
Veeshan’s Peak is a total instance. They’re still working on how long the instance will take to refresh, but their goal is to make it casual accessible as well as hardcore raiding content. Hardcore raiders can roll in and clear the entire area; more casual raiders can clear their way to a central area, then complete each of the three branching wings on different nights.
Ambiance-wise, the zone is hot, very hot; I could see heat waves in the air, and looking down over the sides of our path there was a massive lake of lava. Raptors, globules of lava, and other draconic creatures stood between us and the central area.
Overall, the new expansion looks great; I’m curious as to whether the next expansion will be Velious-related, or some original EQII content.