The Tattered Notebook: Touring Chains of Eternity with the EQII team

The Tattered Notebook  Touring Chains of Eternity with the EQII team
EverQuest II's newest expansion, Chains of Eternity, launches in just a few days. SOE Live brought a slew of news about both the expansion and the future of the game, and for longtime fans, there's a definite return to the game's roots.

This past week, we had a chance to see some of the new zones with a guided tour from Producer Holly Longdale and Designer Carlos Mora. They took us to the Ethernere and explained several exciting new features along the way. Read on for highlights!%Gallery-170582% First, we got a look at the new mounts. The Collector's Edition mount in particular was eye-catching. It's an Ethernere mount, and it has feet that are almost ghostly. The mount I had is a drop from the new areas, and it's inspired by Drinal, who is known as the Silver Reaper.

The Tattered Notebook  Touring Chains of Eternity with the EQII team
We started at a point in time when Firiona Vie is dead. Scholars around the world are trying to investigate why people are also falling down dead around the world, and we're transported to the Ethernere to find out what's going on. (We're protected by magic to keep our spirits from being torn from our bodies.) The entry zone is Eidolon Jungle, and this realm of the afterlife is watched over by Drinal, the Silver Reaper. It's a dreamlike area, and it's the idealized interpretation of actual areas in Norrath. There are lots of saturated colors, and yet as we move on, it transitions to an area that's almost completely washed out of color. The essence of life itself is being torn from the ground, and we see new creatures, called the Harrowing Horde. They were originally protectors of the Ethernere, and now they are threatening to taking over.

The Tattered Notebook  Touring Chains of Eternity with the EQII team
We then took flight, and through the lush jungle we could see a gigantic waterfall that resembled a hand pulling earth up into the sky. As Longdale pointed out, it's more than a backdrop; players will be able to fly up to it and adventure there. As we got closer to the waterfall, the sky turned blood red, signaling yet another transition in the Ethernere.

The area on top of the waterfall belongs to the denizens of Fear. The trees have eyeballs that actually follow you, and there is a presence there that shouldn't be there. As with past expansions, there is a signature questline that tells the overarching story, but for the first time, it's completely soloable. Usually, parts of the signature questline requires groups and even raids, but in Chains of Eternity, you can complete the quests with whatever playstyle you prefer. Players will be able to see every dungeon and come face to face with every critical NPC.

Our next stop was to tour one of those very dungeons: an Ethernere version of Cazic Thule, called the Temple of the Faceless, and it's for players level 93 and up. Those familiar with the dungeon will recognize the Shiverback apes and lizardmen. In addition, there are lots of landmarks that create an immersive environment. The team is aiming for showing the story rather than telling the story, and that was readily evident as we made our way around the zone.

After that was a visit to see Baelon, one of the bosses that players will battle. The cutscene that introduces him is stunning, and he really is enormous. There is a solo and group version of him, so again, players can take part in endgame content through a variety of playstyles. When you fight him, there are all sorts of unique animations, including one where he swings his mace around and actually loses it, causing it to smash against the wall. In the group version, the rocks around the edge of the platform begin to fall and break away, so the longer the fight, the closer you get to him. Overall, there are nine dungeons, each with unique geometry.

We next traveled to Obol Plains. Longdale showed us the enormous portals that resembled electrified wells, which serve to transport players between Obol Plains and Eidolon Jungle. There is also a druid portal that players can unlock through a quest. Obol Plains is inspired by Loping Plains, and it's under siege by the Harrowing Horde. We made our way through the zone and again saw the Harrowing Horde slowly creeping through the zone.

The Tattered Notebook  Touring Chains of Eternity with the EQII team
Eventually, we saw a massive citadel, which is actually the home of Drinal. Drinal Citadel is where the Silver Reaper resides. The were-creatures of Norrath actually draw their power from him, and Longdale explained that the team went with an Anubis look for him because of that. Meanwhile, on the dock below, there's a ship zone called the Dreadcutter, and followers of Rallos Zek have taken over and are sailing around seeking recruits and killing everything in their path.

The Tattered Notebook  Touring Chains of Eternity with the EQII team
This expansion isn't just about the Ethernere, though; there are new zones in Norrath as well. We left the Ethernere to see Wyrmbone Crag. This area is dominated by the Ashlock, a race of ratmen that feeds on the marrow of Dragons. The Ashlock are nocturnal, and as nighttime arpproaches, their abilities actually change. There's a real vertical depth to the zone, but Longdale added that the devs put in a mechanic to prevent you from having to crawl back up if you fall off a ledge. If you do fall, there are NPCs that chase you, and if you kill them, they drop a teleport to your last location.

Switching gears, Longdale talked about some of the new features coming with the expansion. For the first time, tradeskillers will get prestige abilities, among them Experimentation. Players will be able to add stats, decorations, and even procs up to five times on each item they create. In essence, there will be a lot more variety to items that tradeksillers can make and sell on the broker. The other ability is called Mass Production, and it allows tradeskillers to make multiple items at once. Adventurers aren't left out, and they will also get new prestige abilities bring new incremental spells that can trigger unique abilities and buffs.

If you're curious about the status of Player Studio items, here's the scoop: The team is actually getting close to putting the first approved submissions into the game. Some of them are already being tested internally, and it's more about getting the user interface completed and taking care of the tax issues and pricing. As for Krono, which recently went live, Longdale said the currency is going well and is meeting expectations. She also confirmed that SOE lifted the plat cap on free players in order to allow them to participate in the Krono market.

Another new thing that the team has done is design a tinkered item that allows you to take an adornment from an item and use it on another item. The item poofs, but at least you can save the adornment. There are also level 95 Ethereal weapons that drop throughout the zones. They are some of the best items in the expansions; there are no Mythical items, so in this expansion, the top tier is in fact Ethereal.

Lastly, Longdale talked about a new item called Spirit Stones. They're a new type of adornment that grows in power through unique ways. One example is the Silver Reaper, which grows in power as you heal your allies. Not only does it grow in power, but it unlocks unique passive abilities. Another is Gravedigger's Mark, which grows in power the more you kill creatures in the Ethernere.

As for future content, you can expect to see more about the mysterious Shissar. The new Chelsith dungeon includes lore that may raise more questions than answers about this mysterious race. Also, there are statues and landmarks such as in Wybmbone Crag that hint at their presence. If you're interested in checking out Chains of Eternity, pre-orders are live, and players who were at SOE Live can upgrade from the Standard Edition to Collector's for 20 bucks. EverQuest II may have reached its eighth anniversary, but it certainly isn't showing any signs of slowing down.

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.