A launch-day preview of the latest EverQuest II expansion from SOE
Playing EverQuest II's Echoes of Faydwer is a trip down memory lane for EverQuest players. Echoes of Faydwer also brings a new player race to EverQuest II, the winged fairy folk known as the Fae, providing another more visible aspect for player customization, the wings of the Fae, as well as a new facial customization option that allow you to shape and size the face using sliders.
Since Echoes of Faydwer brings back the ancestral homeland of the Wood Elves, High Elves, Gnomes and Dwarves. Players creating any one of these races including the Half Elf and the Fae, can choose Kelethin as their starting city.
The Faydark forest and the city of Kelethin were traditionally mist enshrouded and gloomy, but in EverQuest II has been transformed into deeper darkness punctuated by bright mystic glows of magical fauna - a magical night time fairyland.
Kelethin of old is revived although the architecture has evolved, as can be seen with safer lifts - no more open platforms, but semi enclosed acorn shaped structures. The buildings were mostly also acorn shaped but the platforms and bridges remained mainly... without railings to prevent a newbie from falling off. In a salute to nostalgia, I took a running jump. But the Fae, evolved for this high altitude arboreal living, floated gently down on its fluttering wings.
Apart from Kelethin, the rest of the ancestral racial homelands that EverQuest players are familiar with on the isle of Faydwer are adventure zones. Two favorite dungeons have survived the ages. Crushbone Keep, the low level dungeon of Faydwer remains in all its Orcian glory and although I'd heard that D'Vinn the 100th was in resident, did not see him. Castle Mistmoore - that wondrous Gothic castle of yore is as frightening as it ever was. I did not make it that far though I played tourist and took screenshots of the cemetery and the gigantic gargoyle a hapless traveler attracted.
The lands of Faydwer are a treat to the senses, with the zones ranging from the lushness of the Lesser Faydark and the Fae Court to the Loping Plains with gloomy, bleak Mistmoore Castle, ridden with undead zombies, menacing Worgs and eerie music reminiscent of vampire movies.
I'd heard rumor of "safe areas" within the ancestral cities of the gnomes - Ak'anon, Dwarves - Kaladim and High Elves - Felwithe or is it New Tunaria? But with the lengthy downloads, patches and frequent "downage" of the Beta server (and missing Fluffy, the beta buffer), was unable to explore all.
Running through the Steamfont Mountains and Butcherblock was another nostalgic treat for this old EverQuest player... but enough nostalgia. What else does Echoes of Faydwer being other than a trip down memory lane?
Sony has tried to create an expansion that plumbs the depths and breadth of player experience. The level cap does not rise in this expansion but all guilds can now reach level 60 and gain access to new nobility titles and guild rewards, including expanded bank space. Guilds also gain a new feature - the ability to choose a unique heraldry pattern to be displayed on cloaks - a new clothing item to be introduced into the game (together with a second earring slot).
With mutterings of "Kunark Era" and parallels drawn to it often, Echoes of Faydwer doesn't just capture the imaginations of old EverQuest players but also those new to the EverQuest universe. This expansion brings more acreage into the playing field, a new race, new guild levels, new clothing slots and armor sets as well as introducing a new Achievement system to further customize your characters spells and abilities.
The Deities return with this expansion. Perhaps the abandonment of Norrath by its deities could be in part contributed to the number of raiders (in EverQuest) romping through their planes. Being immortal, they resurrected themselves, I would suppose... but I'm sure it got old. Live Events leading up to the expansion have been prepping players for their return and when this expansion goes live, players will be able to choose to do quests or sacrifice in order to gain the favor and the blessings (which come in the form of phat lewt) of one of the Gods or Goddesses. Players will not encounter the Gods and Goddesses, nor will they be able to access their planes, although I am told that they will be able to encounter their avatars... and slay them.
New Tradeskill systems also come into being with Echoes of Faydwer, and craftsmen will be pleased to know that they need not give up their current skills to learn Tinkering or Transmuting. Tinkering will be available to any who choose to learn this engineering skill in order to create clockwork marvels that once were only limited to the Gnomes. Transmuting - the ability to break down and form materials may be a far more appealing skill as the bulk of all Adornment will be crafted with this skill.
What is this Adornment you ask? A new feature SOE has introduced. Similar to the system in Diablo, it allows players to "adorn" a piece gear with an item to make it stronger or raise a stat.
New UI enhancements will be introduced with this expansion, as will the ability for secure commissions. Much as EQ players were able to group with a craftsman and receive a message if a "combine" was successful, a secure commission is similar to a trade window where craftsman and the commissioner will be able to see each step of the crafting process, the commissioner providing materials and fee, the crafter providing skill level and recipes.
Having had several weeks to romp through the Isle of Faydwer, I can say that the Echoes of Faydwer is easily the prettiest of expansions to date with plenty of eye-candy and atmospheric effects as well sound and music to round off the immersive effects. This old EverQuest player is looking forward to this expansion more than I have the first two. Now I only have to decide if I will recreate my fallen angel or my pretty-in-pink princess at launch.