EverQuest II's dragons take flight in Tears of Veeshan today
It's all about the dragons.

You just can't get more quintessential fantasy than dragons, and EverQuest II's newest expansion is all about dragons. Sure, there are goblins and bow-wielding healers as well, but you can't miss that the focus of Tears of Veeshan is on those massive fire-breathing beasts. From dragons attacking Qeynos and Freeport to the evil dragon arch-enemy bent on destroying all time and space to the dragon afterlife, it is all about the dragons. Heck, even the new AAs are from dragons! So it's safe to say if you aren't a really a fan of wyverns in all their forms (be they live or dead!), you might want to skip this expansion. If, however, you love them in all their scaly glory, you've got plenty to look forward to.

While waiting for ToV to take flight on live servers, I got to tour the highlights of the expansion with Producer Holly Longdale, Creative Director Akil Hooper, and Game Designer Carlos Mora. And from them I learned a few interesting new tidbits about EQII's 10th expansion. Want to know how you, too, can get Qho killed? I thought that might get your attention.

Kill a Qho a day

A promise is a promise, so before delving into the various other features (and dragons!) of Tears of Veehsan, I'll give you the juicy little secret to having Qho killed! If you are either a crafter or a resource gatherer, chances are you harbor some serious malice for that small boy and would love to watch his demise even just once. Now you can.

Fittingly, the tradeskillers are the ones who can bring about this demise, thanks to the new line of tradeskill quests in ToV. Completion of this questline results in a special reward: an adult Qho mercenary. So although you can't make the child Qho who made you suffer, suffer, you can send his adult version out into the fray of your next fight. And maybe you just forget to heal him or step in to help...

Dragons here, dragons there

Dragons are pretty much everywhere in ToV and are the stars of the expansion's story arc. First you have the big bad, Kerafyrm, the massive and powerful prismatic dragon that swooped down and grabbed the Tear of Veeshan from the New Combine forces at the end of the Darkness Dawns story in GU67. Anyone who remembers that scene knows what I mean when I say he's a big fella. And with this item of great power, Kerafyrm uproots the mighty Temple of Veeshan, turning it into a vast mobile battle station to launch an attack upon not only Norrath but all of time and space.

How fares Kerafyrm's plot? Check out the skies over Freeport and Qeynos when you get in and take a look at the mobs of dragons dive-bombing the city, trying to break through the newly erected magical barriers. Who knows how long that will hold out, so players embark on a quest to get the wisdom of the great and wise dragon Yelinak who has been helping the new Combine fend off the evil dragons. Oh wait, wasn't he the one Kerafyrm swatted down like a fly when he stole the Tear? Yes, yes he is... was. That means to get the information you need, you have to travel to the dragon afterlife, the Eternal Broodlands.

I see dead dragons

Also known as Vesspyr, the Eternal Broodlands is the new overland zone of this expansion, providing players with all the amenities they need from a major city (mail, mending, etc.) as well as access to all content, quests, and nine new dungeons. And of course, Eternal Broodlands is filled with dragons -- dead dragons.

Dead or not, these dragons aren't just lifeless hunks of scaly non-flesh making a pretty backdrop; they are the main sources of tasks for the adventurers who seek to stop Kerafyrm. And these dragons, many of which are the historical figures from the EverQuest and EverQuest II storylines, have added personality and characterization with voice-overs. Personally, I wonder how many of those dragons won't be necessarily happy to see players, since players were usually the cause of their being in the realm of the dead in the first place.

To help players complete their adventures, the game will ensure that everyone will get a flying mount by default, and that mount will be upgraded at various points along the storyline. My bet? It's a dragon!

One interesting side note as you delve into the adventures is that the dragons who send you on them do not have the same linear concept of time and space that other races have; instead, they think in terms of threads. Hooper explained,
"When dragons talk about time and space and history, especially when they are dead... they don't really make a distinction between alternate realities or different timelines."
So when the dragons send you off on said adventures, players have no idea what time, dimension, or even reality their task is set in. Is it the past, present, or some completely different reality? You may never know. But at least while you are there you can enjoy the visual storytelling of places like Highkeep, regardless of the pesky timey-wimey question. And does your place in the space time continuum really matter when you're beating on one of the 20+ bosses in Temple of Veeshan? Probably not.

There's a dragon in my AA

Another dragon-y aspect of Tears of Veeshan is the addition of four new Alternate Advancement lines, one for each archetype and each corresponding with a heroic dragon. In order to accommodate the new AAs, SOE is raising the cap by 20, so players can now earn up to 340.

These new AAs are not the only change to the system, either. Players can now spent multiple points in the end line heroic abilities instead of just one. The total point caps for each page, however, are not being raised, so in order to spend more points in a heroic ability players will have to sacrifice points elsewhere. Additionally, each successive point in a heroic ability will cost more AA than the level before it.

Dragon-less goodness

As awesome as dragons are (for those who love them), some aspects of ToV have nothing to do do with the creatures. For instance, gear itemization is handled differently, emphasizing playstyle with DPS, survival, or heal sets. The all-new Channeler class is also decidedly non-dragon, albeit extremely unique -- utilizing a bow and arrows and a construct in order to heal. (I don't know about you, but I rarely equate an arrow with a bandage!)

Two aspects of the Tears of Veeshan update will be available to all players, regardless if they have the actual expansion or not. The first is the T4 guild hall. Before you have a heart attack thinking about decorating a new guild hall of that size, remember that T4 adds only a lower level to the existing T3, so a simple save layout and pack up will make the transition a painless one.

The second feature available to everyone is the ability to switch mercenaries while in the field. Once a player has hired a certain merc, that merc is unlocked and will be available to rehire at any time without returning the the city through a special UI. Sadly, the cost to hire will remain the same, but now players no longer have to feel tied to a certain merc because switching would lose that rare one that can't (easily) be replaced. This also means you can rehire Qho at any time and send him to his death on a whim! And who wouldn't enjoy that?

When readers want the scoop on a launch or a patch (or even a brewing fiasco), Massively goes right to the source to interview the developers themselves. Be they John Smedley or Chris Roberts or anyone in between, we ask the devs the hard questions. Of course, whether they tell us the truth or not is up to them!

This article was originally published on Massively.
EVE Rubicon streaming live this Thursday