The Tattered Notebook: What will Velious bring?

It's been a long wait, but tomorrow, EverQuest II players will finally get to explore the frozen continent of Velious. Longtime players, including me, worried that the expansion would not pay tribute to the features that made the original Scars of Velious so popular. The official site isn't very reassuring, either, as it's dominated by announcements of appearance gear and marketing promotions. Veteran players are left feeling like the Wendy's lady, pointedly asking, "Where's the beef?"

With the arrival of launch day, what will the Destiny of Velious expansion bring to players? Is there more to this expansion than flying mounts and cute othmir illusions? Read on to see what players might expect to see.

This expansion is unique in the sense that it's the first expansion that's marketed toward two completely different player communities. To bridge the chasm that separates the live servers from the free-to-play servers, Velious had to offer enough to satisfy both camps. That's an enormous challenge, and the risk is falling short with both communities. The new ability to fly is a good example of that challenge. The flying mount quest is only available to players level 86 and above, which seems to fit the top-heavy, level-capped populations of the live servers better than those on the Extended server. But the newly revealed Gnomish aerodome races seems to address that issue for the free-to-play community. Not only are they offered in several lower-level zones, they don't require a purchase of the Velious expansion, so Extended players who aren't platinum can still participate.

Veteran EQII fans can take heart in the knowledge that there does seem to be enough to keep solo, group, and raid-minded players happy. The overland zones of Eastern Wastes and the Great Divide offer plenty of familiar solo quests. In fact, on your first day in game, you should make your way to the Goahmari Camp that's near Thurgadin to get started on the flying mount quest. (Be careful if you aren't friendly with the Order of the Rime, because you'll bump into them along the way.) After a few solo quests, you're given a baby Griffon, and you have to complete one task a day for several days before he's grown up enough for you to fly on him. So the sooner you get your baby Griffon, the sooner you can fly!

Along the way, you'll probably come across a public quest, which is a new feature in EQII. These are open areas with scripted events that run on a set timer. Like public quests in other games, these appeal to all types of players because you can do them solo, in small groups, or even in a raid. If more people participate, they scale up in difficulty, as my guildmates and I saw during the Coldain Ring War public quest. I was pleasantly surprised to see the ghost of Narandi, who, as a X4 raid mob, certainly hasn't lost a step since the original Velious.

Public Quests scale down as well. I tried the Battle of Storm Gorge with two guildmates, and after we were clocked by the Rime invaders, the event objectives changed and the mobs that attacked the next round were less difficult. We were also aided by the arrival of a Thurgadin supply runner, who offered several handy items that gave us a bit of an advantage during the event.

For those who love to group up and run dungeons, there are several instances available. But the real gem could be Kael Drakkel, an enormous contested dungeon. EQII has had mixed success in the past when it comes to open dungeons, and you have to go back to Kingdom of Sky, with Sanctum of the Scaleborn, to find a contested dungeon that was regularly used and highly popular. Kunark zones like Sebilis or Karnor's were used for epic updates, but players generally stuck with instances for farming and dungeon crawling. The Hole, from the most recent expansion, was enormous and full of named mobs, but the loot wasn't as as good as instance loot and the faction rewards weren't worth the effort of struggling with that goat illusion. With Kael, it seems like the focus was to balance risk and reward and to provide enough incentive for players to visit. It's going to be a challenging zone, but it could be a shot in the arm for an EQII community that's been pining for good contested content.

For those who like to raid, the content is there, with more on the way in future updates. But will that content be like Kunark and The Shadow Odyssey, where one player's mistake in a script like Venril Sathir triggers a raid fail? Or will it be like Sentinel's Fate, which provided opportunities for individuals to be the hero, llike the cure blindness in the Tuluun fight? Will the Tower of Frozen Shadow be more like the PUG-friendly Ward of Elements or more like the challenging Vigilant: The Final Destruction? How will itemization changes affect raid makeup, and how will it affect older content? Despite the questions, the good news is that there seems to be enough raid content to keep players busy, with more coming in future updates.

Tradeskillers weren't happy about the removal of bonus experience from pristine crafted items, but they can take heart in the fact that, as with past expansions, there's plenty of new content available for them. Not only are there tons of new recipes and items to craft, but there's a special tradeskill flying mount quest (you need to complete the overland quest first) and a new harvesting quest for those who suffered through A Gathering Obsession and want to endure more for a pony that will harvest for you. On top of that, tradeskillers can rejoice in the return of the Coldain Prayer Shawl, which is a reward from a tradeskill heritage quest. Make sure to stop by EQ2 Traders Corner for more information.

Overall, there are still some unanswered questions about Destiny of Velious, but there's enough included in the expansion to keep everyone busy, no matter what his playstyle. A familiar cast of characters returns for EQ fans -- Tserrina, Lodizal, Lord Velketor, Narandi and even Yelinak. Players will have plenty of nostalgic moments as they slide past spiders on the ramps of Velk's Lab or try to avoid pulling trains of Kromzek Giants. It's not the original Velious, but if the content is solid enough, players will end up enjoying it in a refreshing new way.

One quick note: If you're planning to play the expansion, make sure to stop by Feldon's site, EQ2 Wire. He has several great guides and write-ups on all the new content, and the site is a treasure trove of all things Velious.

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.