EverQuest II - Rise of Kunark Expansion Review
Adele Caelia has had an opportunity to explore the new EverQuest II expansion, Rise of Kunark and today shares her impressions of the add-on with you.
Rise of Kunark is the fourth expansion for Sony Online Entertainment’s Everquest II. In this expansion a breed of Sarnak long forgotten, and banished centuries before from their homeland emerges to conquer at last their most hated enemy, the Iksar. Players will visit a world ravaged by war, and along the way meet many different factions that need their help to twist the tide. Rise of Kunark is a first-class expansion that will change the game for the better in the minds of many players.
A New Race
Players will find a new race, the Sarnak, available for play. The Sarnak are a vile and evil race made by the Iksar long ago using dark magic to mix Iksar with those of the Dragon race. The Sarnak that have now come to Norrath are a breed that has the power to destroy their enemy, a breed that was thought to no longer exist.
The Sarnak could easily be the best looking evil race in the game, especially for those who have a fondness for Dragons. They look more Dragon than Iksar, with hunched over bodies and huge hulking Dragon-like heads. On creation, players will find themselves able to choose from many styles of horns and scale colors, along with the width and length of their snout. A must play for those players who like the idea of breathing fire upon their enemy and eating them alive.
New Sarnak will start out in Timorous Deep, a series of three islands in the Ocean of Tears on the northern side of Kunark. Players from the other side of Norrath can reach this area by taking a griffon from the Butcherblock Mountains, and those of the Sarnak race may take a griffon from the Gorowyn Research Center, or a one-way boat from the Chrykori Village. Timorous Deep is a beautiful land full of lush landscape, breath-taking waterfalls, and an awe-inspiring ocean with waves that beat upon the island sending a spray of water up into the air. Players may also find new housing in Gorowyn, and in my opinion this city hosts some of the most beautiful housing in the game. The five-room house has large spacious rooms with beautiful open windows. If you are they type that loves to dress up a home, then checking out these houses is definitely a must!
As for adventuring, one will find that Timorous Deep is very large and will take you all the way up to level 20. It is also jam-packed with quests that not only give great XP, but also give awesome loot. With the new bonus experience for the lower levels it only took me three hours of game play to get to level 20. Upon reaching level 20, players must go out into other areas of Norrath to continue their training and honing their skills. The new starting area is beautiful, and has one of the biggest fun-factors of the starting areas within the game. I found it much less confusing to find my way around than in, for example, Greater Faydwer, and much less likely to get lost. Even if you are not starting out as a new Sarnak, I would suggest heading out to this area and working your way up to your 20th season.
It’s Not a Small World After All
Those who are already in their 70th season will take a boat from Antonica or the Commonlands and find themselves upon Dregs Landing in the Kylong Plains. While not as magnificent as the new starting area, Kylong plains is large. Players will notice at once that there are not many zones off of this one, but that the area itself never seems to end. In this expansion it seems the developers have created fewer zones, but made the playable zones a great deal larger. This is not only true for Kylong Plains, but also for Kunzar Jungle, and Jarsath Wastes. Players will find themselves with so much to do in each of these zones that the next zone is already lower than their current level, so if you are the type who likes to complete one area before you go to the next, I say forget the old ways and go ahead and take a peek at the next area. You might be surprised to find that you can indeed take on the mobs there. I have enjoyed all three of these zones, and find that I much prefer to have to travel a great distance to where I want to go than to have to zone every time I want to do something new.
The Winds of Change
Once you step off of the boat onto the docks, NPCs will begin hailing you and begging for your help. This is of course to be expected, as it seems that no one in Norrath can do much of anything on their own; of course if they could, the game wouldn’t be much fun. It is here in Kylong Plains that players will begin to suspect that something isn’t quite right. Something has changed, and at this point they must decide if they like this change or not. Actually, quite a bit has changed, and I honestly believe for the better. Rise of Kunark has flipped our world upside down and changed the way that players experience the game. Those who used to grind to obtain levels will find their path long and tedious, and by that I mean even more so than before, actually to a point where it could take months to get to level 80. On the other hand, those who quest will find that they are leveling faster than ever before. Quest experience has improved and is far more rewarding than grinding. I reached level 80 in a week and a half by only questing. Overall I did not play non-stop hours upon hours since I do have a family and children at home, and still I was able to level quite easily.
How difficult are the quests? Now here is another change that has not only made the game more enjoyable, but has twisted play in such a fashion that it is fun for all types (except the dungeon grinders of course). Most of the quests that are found within the expansion are solo, and can be done all on one’s own. This does not remove the fun for those who enjoy grouping like one would think it would. The mobs themselves actually give very little experience, and it is the quest turn-ins themselves that are most profitable. Due to the quest turn-in being where the experience is given; people who enjoy group play are probably going to have fun with this. In my experience, it seemed that getting in groups of two or three was the quickest and most entertaining way to do the quests and level most quickly. I do believe that this change of game play is genius. Those who love to solo and go out on their own may still do so, and those who love to group can still do so without a hit on their experience, and because you can group with as few as two or three players and still be successful it eliminates the long hours one sometimes spends looking for a group.
Play style isn’t the only area that has changed. Money is also playing a different role as the quests now give loads of cash. I went from having only 71 platinum to having 163 platinum during my trip from level 70 to 80. Most of this extra cash came from the money given to me during quest turn-in. The gear from quest rewards even in the first area, Kylong Plains, gave me an upgrade to my fabled raid gear. Once a player gets into the Kunzar Jungle, the gear that is given for quest completion and from faction merchants, if they have enough faction with that particular village, will amaze them. For sure this has been true for those of us that play a mage, and although the rewards seem to be mage and healer heavy, as characters move up to the higher zones, very nice items are given for the scout and fighter classes too.
The change to the gear has gotten a few raiders in an uproar because it made the gear that took six months of hard work obsolete (as far as mages). I myself have replaced almost all of my fabled gear with treasured items that I have looted from the expansion, mixed with a few legendary pieces. Again, I think this is a plus to the game, it not only helps the raiders to be prepared for the new raids, but it also gives those who aren’t raiders an opportunity to have some really nice gear by playing the game in the fashion that they choose. This is another brilliant move by the developers, and again creates something for all play styles in the expansion.
The dungeons in Rise of Kunark are also more enjoyable and fun to play. Although I wasn’t too impressed with the look of most of the expansion world, I did find some very nice looking artwork in many of these instances and often found myself gawking and trying to take screenshots of the eye candy instead of fighting like I should have been.
The instances no longer take hours to complete, and many of them take as little as 30-40 minutes to finish. This isn’t to say that the mobs are easier, because they hit very hard, but with the right group they can be taken down smoothly and in a very quick fashion. Again, this is another change that I find enjoyable because let’s face it, not all of us have hours to spend to try to complete one dungeon in hopes to get a nice piece of gear.
A very small adjustment that may have a very big impact are the collection quests. At one time players would hoard up on collection quests, or spend large amounts of money at the broker to complete these because of the amount of experience they gave, making this a quick way to level. This is still true for lower level characters, but once players are in their 70s, the level 80 collection quests do not seem to give as much experience as they once did. The rare collection items that go for a few plat each on the broker are now also dropping at a much more common rate, and the collection rewards have not been as nice as they once were either. This will not only put a damper on those who collect the shinies for their living, but also for those who like to save them up to level. Again I cannot say this is a bad change. I still enjoy collecting the items and turning in the quests, and as for the experience and cash, with the new changes it really isn’t needed anymore.
Raiding used to require that only one person in the raid have access to a zone, but now each person in the raid must have access. This means that everyone on the raid team must complete the quest, The Fate of Norrath, and this also means that to get to Veeshan’s Peak, everyone on the raid must have killed the six named mobs in the previous raid zones. To sum it all up, there will be no slacking to get to the top. For those who raid casually and often have various players missing on different nights of the week, they will have to go back and rekill some of the named mobs to be sure that everyone on their raid force has access.
Of course there will always be the hardcore top-of-the server raiding guilds that will get to the end game in a couple of weeks, but let’s face it, that is only a couple on each server, and most of us do not have the kind of time and dedication required to play in that style.
The hardcore raiders are also saying that the raid content is too easy and that there isn’t enough. I can perhaps agree that there isn’t enough, but as for easy, if they made it any more difficult that would only allow the hardcore raiders to raid, and that is a very small population. For those of us who enjoy raiding but at a more casual level, I would suggest not even touching the new raid zones until you have a full force of level 80 players. The mobs hit very hard and have very nasty area effects that will kill very quickly and sometimes instantly. The casual raiding guilds will have to make a few adjustments and become a little more hardcore to complete this content. While I haven’t been to Veeshan’s Peak yet, I have stood outside of the gates and it is a beautiful site to be seen.
GMs found themselves to be quite the busy bees once the expansion went live. The quest exploit that took place in the Bellywhomper camp was of no help to the growing list of petitions. Many players found themselves in trouble for cheating after using this quest exploit to level up. Once caught, they were promptly given a well deserved roll-back, and as the old saying goes: cheaters never win and winners never cheat.
Unfortunately, a few players that completed the quest correctly were accidentally tossed into the mix and were rolled back as well. After petitioning, they did get their experience back and a credit on their accounts, although for some due to slow response time, it was a bit too late and they were already close to level 80. Many petitions took days to answer over the past few weeks, but in the end I found that they were answered to acceptable terms, and for those of you angry at the long petition queue, I would point the blame to your peers who decided to cheat and cause a back up in the customer service line.
Why Should I Buy This Expansion?
Rise of Kunark is a definite must if you wish to progress past level 70. It is full of fun and interesting quests that take away the tedious grind of many games of this type. The quest rewards give players of all types an opportunity to have nice gear, and money now flows quite easily. The lands are large and interesting to explore leaving those who once played Everquest with that feeling of nostalgia. Those new to the game or those who like to create alts will have a grand time leveling up new Sarnak in the beautiful lands of Timorous Deep. The expansion is well worth the money, and while I do not find it as breathtaking as Echoes of Faydwer, I do find that it is refreshing and enjoyable to play.