EverQuest II's Chains of Eternity launched this past week, and while the paint is still fresh and I'm still taking it all in, there are a few things I really appreciate with this expansion so far. If you look back at all of the past expansions and adventure packs, you'll notice there always seemed to be one or two things that were trial balloons and never really fit with the spirit of EQII. In Desert of Flames, it was the arena, while more recently in Velious, the public quests got a lot of use but always seemed to have issues (and they now seem to be off the radar entirely).
Chains of Eternity is just good old EverQuest II content, and it's tailor-made for longtime players. In this week's Tattered Notebook, I'll offer up some first impressions of the new expansion and a few things that I appreciate about the game.
Firiona Vie dead (yeah!)
That was the reaction from one person in the audience at SOE Live when the EQII lore was presented, and while not everyone agrees in celebrating the moment, I really like the plot twist that is the foundation for this expansion's storyline. If there's one thing that EQII isn't afraid of, it's taking down iconic figures from the game world. We've seen Lucan imprisoned, Erollisi murdered, and now Firiona Vie mysteriously drop dead. She might have been a regular feature on the game's cover art and loading screens, but apparently even that can't save her from the deathly hand of SOE.
When you travel through Obol Plains or Eidolon Jungle and then return to the Shattered Lands, it's like being in two completely different worlds. The colors, vertical depth, and visuals are rich. You can see touches of the original EverQuest in the re-imagined areas like Oggok and Cazic Thule. Meanwhile, an eerie bell tolls in the distance as you make your way through Obol Plains, and there are all sorts of ambient chirps, whispers, and strange sounds that make the zones feel more alive. I can immediately get a handle on the lore of the game just by traveling around the zones. As I entered Cardin Ward, I could see the intrusion of Gormer the Surveyor and the Harrowing Horde, and I could see the barriers put up by the Wayward to hold them back. The shrine to Drinal outside his tower shows how loyal the Lujien are to their god. And the Shiverback Apes in the new Cazic are clearly not interested in making friends.
There's been a definite shift away from traditional questing in MMOs, and EQII has embraced it. There is a place for quests in MMOs, and sometimes sitting down for a night of questing is like putting on a warm sweater. The team seemed focused on going back to EQII's roots, and it has truly done so in this expansion. I don't consider myself a quester in general, but I love the fact that the overarching storyline is something that everyone can do, regardless of playstyle. If anything, the change to include a solo signature questline is something that many EQII fans will celebrate.
Smoothing out the grind
There are also some changes that make it easier for a new or returning player to catch up and get into the new content faster. The Touch of the Steward claimed reward from purchasing the expansion allows you to instantly accumulate 280 AAs on two of your characters. That's an important number because you can't level past 90 without 280 AAs first. While some players feel it's unfairly short-cutting, it's SOE's best solution to a complicated problem. When the studio raised the level cap from 90 to 92 with GU 63, it added in the Prestige abilities but wanted to make sure that there wasn't too much of a gap between players light on AAs and players who were capped out. That scenario would make grouping a potential nightmare, but it also meant that there would be a huge AA gate in front of any future content updates. It might not be the perfect solution, but it helps prevent players being turned off by the grind they face in order to access the new expansion they bought.
Community hats off
Switching gears just for a bit, I wanted to highlight a few longtime community members who deserve recognition. EverQuest II has always had a large number of community figures who have been around for years and who blog, podcast, and maintain fansites for the game. As usual, Morgan Feldon has done a tremendous job updating EQ2U and putting together a great Chains of Eternity FAQ. It's well worth a look, even for vets. Also, Naimi Denmother wrote up another great crafting overview for the expansion, with lots of pictures of all the new things players can make. Her site is practically a requirement for any tradeskiller.
Lastly, one community figure recently hung up his microphone and retired his show. Jethal Silverwing has decided to call it a day, and while it's sad news for EQII fans, it's remarkable how long he kept it going. His show was a light-hearted look at the game, and he made some amazing parodies along the way, both for his show and even for Fan Faire. He's still updating his site with EQII news, so it seems as if he's still active in game, but hopefully with the extra time he'll be able to enjoy his time in EQII even more. Cheers to Jethal, Morgan, Naimi, and all of the community figures who have been scrambling to cover all of the latest from the new expansion.
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 email@example.com.