A land corrupted and a city under seige: A look at GU63 with the EQII team

This coming Tuesday, EverQuest II will launch Game Update 63, and with it comes a bevy of dragons, new content, a level cap increase, and much more. Recently, EQII Producer Holly "Windstalker" Longdale and Game Designer Carlos "Gninja" Mora took the time to talk about the update and lead a tour of the new zones. Read on for a closer look at the Withered Lands and Skyshrine!%Gallery-153208% As Longdale explained, GU63 is a content-centered expansion. The level cap is raised to 92 for both adventurers and tradeskillers. Leveling from 90 to 92 will be slower than players might think, and actually, each "mini-ding" that players reach as they gain a prestige point is on par with a normal pre-90 adventure level. To help with that, the team added over 100 quests to the new zone, Withered Lands. In addition, Skyshrine offers normal, challenge, and hardmode difficulty levels, so players will be able to access the storyline whether they're soloing, grouped, or in a raid.

As players level from 90 to 92, they will earn prestige talents, which are class-focused and give a clearer meaning to what power means at the level cap. As we've noted in earlier previews, players will need 280 AAs in order to start leveling from 90 to 92, but the designers smoothed out the overall AA curve, making it easier to reach the AA requirement. There are new tradeskill quests and items, a new drake mount, a new dungeon maker map called Poet's Palace, new dungeon maker items, and new dungeon maker adventurers. The adventurers have a new playstyle in which using smaller abilities builds up power and opens up special abilities, giving them a bit more variety. There are also new mercenaries, some of which will be quested-for. For Beastlords, Longdale clarified that there aren't new warders, but there are new appearances from tameable creatures in the new zones.

Mora then began the tour of the Withered Lands and Skyshrine. Withered Lands is actually the old Wakening Lands from EQ, but when Tunare left, the lands began to be corrupted. We touched down at Combine Foothold, the first encampment where players will arrive, which contains several quests to get players started. Next, we headed out and reached the K'val Ruins, which are guarded by giants that have gone mad from the corruption. They sport limbs that have turned into gnarly, twisted roots. As we moved on, it began to rain, and that's caused by the storm dragon, who actually is a raid mob that resides in Skyshrine. That rain isn't just cosmetic; it prevents you from flying, and if you're in the sky, you'll be in for a rough landing. But before you forego flight for land travel, it's worth noting that there are new collections from shinies that are located in areas you can reach only through flight. By flying to certain locations, you'll accrue the collectibles automatically in your inventory.

We passed by the Holgresh camps and made our way to the Tears of Tunare, a swamp area where players will be able to seek out an overland raid mob named Honvar (also known as "Lumpy"). He roams the swamp and guards the entrance to Skyshrine, and he's an epic X2, requiring lots of coordination to deal with his tricks. Longdale added that there is a raptor nest area in the Withered Lands that also hosts raid content, so there should be plenty to do no matter your playstyle.

Drakota Mount
According to the storyline, Yelinak the dragon has sent players to Skyshrine to help the dragons, and as we entered, we discovered that we were actually not ourselves but were in fact in droag form. Mora explained that players are asked to go back into time to discover what happened to cause the city to fall under attack, and as we browsed the city, you could see that it was in a relative state of peace and prosperity. As players unlock this version of Skyshrine in the story, they'll be able to travel to it freely to quest and visit vendors. It still has the maze-like layout that original EQ players probably remember, and it's chock-full of dragons. Along the way, we saw Lendiniara the Keeper, another familiar dragon from EverQuest, although now she's an oracle you speak with to help unravel the story.

We then ported to the contested version of Skyshrine, which is the version that players will first encounter when they enter the city. Everything is in chaos; Skyshrine is under attack. The city is in ruins, there are fires everywhere, the droags are actively defending the city from golems and other attackers, and even above, there are drakes circling overhead, breathing fire down on the city below. Longdale noted that there's an apprentice chronomage who asks players to seek out the dragon masters who have disappeared. When you go back in time to uncover the destruction and search for the masters, you'll face an event in an area called Lower Skyshrine, which helps unravel the mystery.

Our tour finished up with a final stop at Vyksudra, one of the dragon ancients from Western Wastes who is an epic X4 raid mob. She's got more depth to her storyline than she did in the original EverQuest, and she's one of the harder raid bosses in the update. There are 14 to 15 instances of Skyshrine for players to tackle, in addition to 12 different heroic instances, three raid zones, and three solo zones, so this update brings quite a bit of new content.

Game Update 63 arrives on Tuesday, April 17th, and you can keep track of news and update status on the EverQuest II site. The Update is free to all players who have purchased the Destiny of Velious expansion, although you'll need to have purchased the Age of Discovery expansion to get some of the perks, like the dungeon maker items, the tradeskill apprentices, and new elite merc. Thanks to Holly Longdale and Carlos Mora for sharing new details about the update and for leading the tour of the new zones!

This article was originally published on Massively.