Recently, we were invited by Sony Online Entertainment to preview EverQuest II's upcoming expansion, Altar of Malice. This eleventh expansion for the ten-year-old MMO will add a new playable race, the previously-announced Aerakyn (more on them at a later date), and several new areas and dungeons for players to visit. Led by Senior Producer Holly Longdale and Creative Director Akil Hooper, the tour showed off some of the new zones and new non-playable races that players will encounter as they go through the new areas.
As was previously announced, November 11th is the release date for All-Access members of SOE, while everyone else will get in on November 25th. The game's level cap for adventuring, guilds, and tradeskills will rise to 100. There will be new prestige abilities, new grandmaster and ancient spells, and new PVP gear. Both developers were quite proud to show off their new terrain-generating tools, giving the game's new areas a more smooth and modern look. As we reported back at SOE Live, the expansion will feature 2 new open world overland zones, 15 heroic group zones for players, 6 raids, 6 solo zones, 6 advanced solo zones, and 4 avatar of the gods' zones.
Our tour started at a very familiar place, the Isle of Refuge in the Tranquil Sea, where a tower was in the process of exploding. Players will be sent there to find out why everyone's emissaries to the Far Seas Trading Company have gone missing, and what's up with a mysterious Captain Greymast. His story will be woven through the expansion. Players will then go to the Island of Dshinn, where they encounter a race of pygmies whose worship of the nearby deinodons is so strong, they willingly allow themselves to be eaten by the dinosaur-like creatures rather than harm them.
Next, we were shown the stuff of nightmares, Death Weave Island, where the part-bear/part-spider urzarach lived on the surface, and the spiderwebs were thick and glowed slightly. Below the surface, however, the pirates of Brokenskull Bay had constructed a rather large city in a vast cave. The city's architecture took advance of the verticality of the space and crammed treasure rooms, places of illicit commerce, and ziplines into the area to make for a fairly unique experience. And yes, players can take the ziplines too, but one would be well advised to be careful if they run across Captain Krasnok and his crew of Ogre and Troll pirates.
Also beneath the surface of Death Weave Island was a dungeon called Zavith'loa and it houses a race of lizard-like sapients called the Allu'thoa. Many places in the dungeon featured bioluminescent plants and lush foliage, while others showed off the Allu'thoa's most fearsome ability: magma-mancy. By magically harnessing the power of magma (or lava once it's on the surface), the Allu'thoa have carved themselves an intricate series of tunnels throughout the active volcano. On the whole, the area had a very Jules Verne Journey to the Center of the Earth sort of vibe going on. It was pointed out to us that there would be various iterations of the dungeons available, balanced for solo players, advanced solo players, and contested between factions.
Our next destination was the other main half of the new areas, the Phantom Sea. We were once more shown the improvement in the shaders and blenders on the terrain when the developers revealed sulphur springs next to a forested area. We were then taken to lore-famous Kithicor Island, where the dark elves live and the undead roam abroad at night. Going up a hill into a cemetery, the entrance to the Ossuary of Malevolence was revealed. Inside, Akil Hooper's statement was that they were going for a bone cathedral of Eastern Europe sort of look to things, and as an historian, I can say they pretty much nailed the vibe. In the Ossuary, the vile cult of Primordial Malevolence is attempting to resurrect their demigod, Lanys T'Vyl, and one assumes nothing good will come of that should they succeed. The cultmembers wouldn't be out of place in any Halloween display or horror movie, with bone-threaded piercings and eyes sewn shut and other such horrific self-mutilation going on.
Above ground, we were shown Castle Highhold, main bastion for the Far Sea Trading Company, where Hooper showed off his favorite point of interest in the entire expansion, a clockwork globe of Norrath with a couple of ships sailing around it on spindle arms. We're told that the mysterious Captain Greymast, whose story players will have been following as they adventure through the new zones, really starts coming together at Highhold, but even Highhold suffers from the undead wandering around at night. During the day, four-armed Akhevans and small Grimlings prowl around, but there seems to be no sign of the trading company's people.
The two races from the shattered moon of Luclin are also featured in the last dungeon we were shown, the Ssraeshza Temple in the Grim Shales. The temple was on a shard of Luclin that fell to Norrath upside down and buried itself into the landscape. The most intriguing thing about going into this dungeon is since it's upside down, players will be wandering around on the ceiling, and the Grimlings inside are busy trying to retrofit torches and otherwise normalize the reversed architecture. The Akhevans and Grimlings and other assorted beings in the dungeon are working toward some unknown goal, but it can't be good.
After the main tour, we were presented with a few details about the Collector's Edition that will be available, a brief overview of the information SOE has already published on their site. We were also told that players will be able to upgrade level 100 armor pieces multiple times to improve their abilities. There will be combat improvements including legendary, fabled, and mythical crits, and mitigation and resistance changes will be implemented that will show a much more visible difference in how much damage a player will take from harmful spells. Adornments will be available for armor sets, with gem sets available that players can mix and match to get the best benefits possible. More adornments will also mean more benefits overall.
Players should also remember that the Hero's Festival celebrating the game's 10th anniversary begins on November 7th. Ten-year veterans will be eligible to receive their own Isle of Refuge prestige house with a population pack full of rather familiar faces.
Jean Prior / Jean Prior is a video dame who specializes in spending time in MMOs as melee DPS characters. She first started playing MMOs during vanilla WoW because she needed to write the lyrics to a song parody and needed to, er, research... and just never left. She hosts a comedy music radio show every Friday night and can be reached on Twitter @druidsfire.