It's definitely feeling like the dog days of January in EverQuest II right now. Frostfell is almost over, Destiny of Velious beta is in high gear, and there are only a few weeks left before Sentinel's Fate becomes "last year's" expansion. While a visit to the Gigglegibber lotto has helped pass the time, I've been fighting a losing battle with pre-expansion doldrums.

But then I got thinking about those first few days in Sentinel's Fate and our first foray into The Conservatory, and I began to get really excited about the Velious expansion that's right around the corner. Read on for my trip down memory lane and see why I'm eagerly anticipating the arrival of February.

The best part of a new expansion is that feeling that you've just zoned into a clean slate, and that was readily apparent to our group during the Sentinel's Fate launch. We had run a few solo quests, gained a few levels, and were ready to try out a new group instance. But getting there was half the battle, and we ended up traveling to the Vasty Deep by way of Kerra Isle and Tox's lair. By the time we reached our destination, we all felt so accomplished, and we hadn't even killed anything yet!

As we reached the Vasty Deep and zoned into the Conservatory, I was floored by the look of the zone. From the lighting to the architecture to the mobs, this zone was full of eye-candy. I had seen the Livestream preview of the zone that SOE had done prior to launch, but that didn't compare to seeing it firsthand. I was so excited about exploring this new zone that I ended up roaming a bit too far at times and accidentally aggroed a few clusters of wisps in the process. I can't wait for the opportunity to do that in Velious. I know I'll poke my head into a spot I shouldn't and end up dying in the process. But it's well worth it for that peek at a new gorgeous zone or stunning city.

"Ouch! I think we just got face-wrecked."

Ebice, one of our guildmates, loves to use that phrase, and it's a perfect fit for our first experience in the Conservatory. Today, we can take a group that's half twinks and half bots and steamroll the place. But on that first trip, we racked up some pretty big repair bills trying to figure out some of the encounters. That's one of the things I love the most about new content -- it's a mystery wrapped in an enigma. Will that trash have a knockback? Does that named mob spawn adds? Why did that dragon one-shot the group? Death is worth it when you figure out the answers to these questions. I'm really looking forward to that in Velious, especially to see if past knowledge from EverQuest will help out at all.

One of my favorite memories of the Conservatory was at the very end of our crawl. We had killed every named we could find, including the boss dragon, but somehow we were missing one more named mob. As we backtracked, we noticed a hall we hadn't cleared and began to kill off the trash. I had tracking up, but the only thing I saw was a handful of trash mobs in the water below us. (You can see where this is going, right?) We jumped in, finished off the last group, and immediately spawned a gigantic version of Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors. I have never seen someone in heavy plate armor move so quickly as our cleric, Orko, did at that moment. Luckily, we scooted out of the water in time to regroup and take it down, and what was supposed to be a mundane named turned out to be the most exciting mob of the evening.

"That was unexpected... but freakin' awesome!"

On our first trip to the Conservatory, we struggled to uncover all the tricks that Delahnus, the dragon boss, had up his scaly sleeves. On our first attempt, we learned that pulling is painful and that we had to fight him on his platform. On our second attempt, we learned that standing behind him means a first-hand look at his tail swipe and an ensuing rez from Orko. At that point, I decided to have a look around his room to see whether there might be anything behind his platform that would help us. The only thing I found was one lonely trash mob in the water, and I asked if we could pull it, just for the heck of it. It turned out that it was actually the mob that dropped the key for the chest at the zone-in, which awards everyone with a Mark of Manaar. Chances are, we would have completely missed it if we had continued to fight Delahnus from the front of the room. I love those moments when you take a step off the beaten path and end up with some unexpected good fortune.

The Conservatory will always be one of my favorite zones in EverQuest II because it reminds me of all the fun and danger that comes with exploring new content. Everything's a mystery -- there's no map, no walkthrough, and no idea what's lurking around the corner. I'm really looking forward to Destiny of Velious, especially since I'll get to revisit some of my favorite landmarks from the Velious of old. The rumors of old stomping grounds reappearing, like Velk's Lab, Tower of Frozen Shadow, and Kael Drakkel, are making me wish that February would get here sooner!

As a side note, I'll actually be livestreaming a crawl through the Conservatory this coming Saturday at 9 p.m. EST. If you'd like to get a peek at the eye-candy of this zone and the fun fights inside, make sure to tune in to the Massively Channel with your beverage of choice and your EQII questions.

From the snow-capped mountains of New Halas to the mysterious waters of the Vasty Deep, Karen Bryan explores the lands of Norrath to share her tales of adventure. Armed with just a scimitar, a quill, and a dented iron stein, she reports on all the latest news from EverQuest II in her weekly column, The Tattered Notebook. You can send feedback or elven spirits to karen@massively.com.

This article was originally published on Massively.
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