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Desert of Flames E3 Preview

Dana Massey Posted:
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From E3 – Friday May 27th, 2005

At E3 2005, MMORPG.com got its first chance to look at the upcoming expansion to EverQuest II titled “Desert of Flames”. What was on display was impressive enough to win Best Expansion in our 2005 E3 Awards. This expansion adds new lands, a higher-level cap, new creatures, scaling walls, encounters that seek you out, and PvP to the popular online RPG, which over five-hundred-thousand people have tried. To make things better, the team is also releasing another adventure pack, “The Splitpaw Saga”, before this expansion hits shelves. Overall, it is a good time to be a fan of EverQuest II, with the influx of content since launch only looking to get better as time goes on.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Desert of Flames is the concept that sometimes adventure will seek you out – not the other way around. This concept is a great leap towards making these worlds feel real and full of adventure. It is possible that some will not like the concept, but the idea of a dragon chasing a player through the desert, rather than a player “pulling” a dragon is exciting.

The team says that about 50% of the content in this expansion is directed towards solo and small-group player, while the other 50% is directed to large groups. This focus across all player types should excite many players who often feel these games cater too heavily to groups. On the other hand, when they say large groups, they mean it. SOE promises that what we will see in EQII will be some of the largest encounters ever in EverQuest – either of them; no small boast when you consider that epic encounters are what EverQuest is known for.

The centerpiece of EverQuest II: Desert of Flames is the desert city of Maj’dul. Maj’dul is not a reputable place in Norrath, quite the opposite. It is dominated by a criminal element and only the bravest of travelers will venture there. All NPCs in the city can be attacked, and based on which of five factions you are aligned to – they may well attack you. The sub-game is that these five factions are in a constant tug of war for control and it is up to you to ensure that your faction remains on top. Based on what players do, the city itself will change. What was a friendly kiosk yesterday may well be hostile territory tomorrow.

That said Maj’dul does not really relish fighting in the streets. As a result, if you pick a fight, expect to be sent to an arena to do battle. In this arena, players are given the ability – although not the requirement – to transform into a “champion” who will fight their battle for them. This led to some beautiful – if a bit inexplicable – visuals of fire elementals and other wonders doing battle in an underground arena. In the demo, one Halfling chose a duck as his champion and transformed into an admittedly well-modeled duck. No word on whether this will be an option in retail. The PvP aspects offer a variety of games including capture the flag, and a dedicated reward system.

The game also adds a few neat features. The original version of EQII featured loads of voice acting on the NPCs. This expansion brings in simple voice emotes meant to make communication easier in EverQuest II. There is also the ability to scale walls, although to what end they did not say. Nonetheless, the visual of a character scaling a ninety-degree cliff was quite inspiring.

On top of Desert of Flames, fans can also expect the “Splitpaw Saga” adventure pack in June of this year. This adds a lot of instanced content to the game, and one major change: moveable objects.

The Desert of Flames expansion pack is due to hit retail shelves in September of 2005 and looks to be a major addition to EverQuest II. The addition of PvP combat, scaling walls, voice emotes and content that seeks you out really should add a wonderful element. The Arabian-nights theme looked stunning, and opens all sorts of doors for new monsters and quests. The future of EverQuest II has never looked brighter.

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Dana Massey