The Nightmare of Miragul
Miragul, the former Erudite necromancer and current undying lich, has one of my favorite zones from the tour. His nightmares are filled with the regret of becoming a lich, and his zone is correspondingly colored like an old black and white movie. Houses burn, demons run free, and crows peck out the eyes of dead bodies as you progress across the surreal landscape.
While the below picture may look photoshopped, I can assure you it's not. The graphics of the entire zone, including you, are rendered in black and white inside of the game's engine. This gets a little hard on the eyes after a while, but it's a very neat visual effect for the whole place.
The Nightmare of Al'kabor
Al'kabor is, for those of you unfamiliar with EverQuest's lore, possibly the greatest mage in Norrath. What could the most powerful man in the world fear? Well, he fears he might become a dimensional bomb, that's what.
Al'kabor's nightmare focuses on the possibility that his power will shatter Norrath to pieces, leaving the world floating in the void of space. Through this zone you'll visit several familiar areas of EverQuest, including the shattered remains of Kelethin and Felwithe. (Woo hoo, no more confusing ramp town! Take that, orc lift!)
In each area, you'll find your character's form changing to fit the situation. You'll be everything ranging from a homeless barbarian to a Runnyeye goblin as the quests lead you through the story of a world lost to the power of magic. Teleporting from floating island to floating island is the means of travel here, and the whole zone is quite large when compared with Miragul's nightmare.
We have nothing to fear except fear itself... and this door leads to Fear Itself
Our next zone represented the dreams of Cazic-Thule himself -- a place aptly named Fear Itself. This whole zone is a play off of the Plane of Fear and represents what should befall the world should Cazic-Thule find himself in power.
Horrors literally roam this "dream" as giant bells are endlessly rung with spiked contraptions. Hourglasses float in the sky and slowly count the passage of time. And in the distance the ring of fire burns and lights up the horizon with giant flames.
While the ring of fire's texture art reveals the game's age (it kind of looks like an animated GIF), the rest of the zone is extremely ambient. Even the light that comes off of the ring of fire looks great on the horizon. The monsters that roam the zone are well-textured, animated, and extremely deadly to boot. Adventurers should be careful walking around this zone; the monster count is pretty high.
The Lord of Dreams and his castle
Our final stop of the night was Morell's Castle, home to Norrath's god of dreams. It was here that Zatzoia, our lovely guide and current SWG community manager, revealed a bit more to the backstory of the expansion. The problems that Norrath is experiencing stem from a battle raging between Cazic-Thule (the god of fear) and his two children: Morell (the lord of dreams) and Terris (the lady of nightmares). In other words, The House of Thule is home to your typical family of deities. It's only a matter of time before they apply for a reality TV show.
Morell's Castle is just as deep and twisting as the House of Thule itself, and it's littered with architectual oddities and beautiful scenes. The landscape seems to melt and twist in the castle's lobby, defy gravity outside in the courtyard, and become uncompromisingly aggravating inside of the water maze.
The water maze, one of the coolest parts of the castle, is almost impossible to traverse without creating a map for yourself on a nearby piece of paper. The walls and ceilings are all identical, so getting lost will happen very, very fast. The maze has different levels connected by cylinders of falling water that you can swim up or down in, and even a teleportation maelstrom that lands you inside the bottom of a sinking ship back on Norrath.
EverQuest: It's still got it
While I can't speak for the quest design of the zones, as we didn't have time to really get into it, I can say that the zone design themselves are extremely fascinating. Even after all of these years, EverQuest is still serving up some really amazing places to visit and adventure. While the graphics are a little dated at times and the environments can sometimes be sparse, the zones are still teeming with beautiful tricks and inspired design.
So all of you adventurers who are about to journey into the crazed dreams of gods and mortals, I only have one piece of advice for you: This house is completely not what it seems.