The Darkened Sea actually builds upon a previous expansion, The Buried Sea. "We have some stories and characters... that we liked back then that we wanted to continue," Terrazas explained. "So we're bringing back some familiar characters that have been off the grid a little bit the last few years." The story itself also takes place in the Buried Sea, starting off on a little tucked away island called Tempest Temple.
The journey begins in Tempest temple, a once-idyllic island that has been ravaged and seen its volcano reactivated during the inhabitants' quest to create the perfect storm for their new deity, Karana. The adventures continue in the Katta Castrum: Deluge, an underwater city that has been partially flooded thanks to Lanys T'Vyl cracking the protective dome. (She also kidnaps the emperor, causing even more distress to the residents there.) Next up is Brother Island, what Hooper called "the spiritual sibling to Sister Island." Players will endeavor to move the band of men who live on that isle away from their engrained fear and mistrust of women that stems from siren attacks after they were shipwrecked.
Players next move on to the surly Dwarves in Degmar: The Lost Castle. Of course, you can't really blame the Dwarves for being surly; the Combine used magic to transplant this castle from the overland to an underwater sanctuary in order to "preserve" the race against the inhabitants' will. The journey then continues to Thuliasaur Island (dinosaurs plus "the best-looking jungle in the game"), marches on to Combine Dredge (where the xenophobic combine faction has partnered up with Lanys T'Vyl), and wraps up in the futuristic floating city of Arx Mentis. The team explained that this final zone was actually reworked a bit because the designers didn't want it to look too sci-fi. Hooper added, "This was really an attempt to make a vision of a Norrathian future, but a magical future, not a technological one."
Sounds like quite the trip, doesn't it? While moving throughout the storyline, players will definitely notice the large variety in the zones, from underwater caverns to castles to dense jungles to volcanoes. Players will be able to easily identify where they are by the different textures and landscapes of each area.
After the zone tour, Cronkhite expounded on the upcoming mount keyring feature. Not only does the keyring give you a way to get mounts out of your bag, but players can also use stats of one mount and appearance of other. The keyring will start with 10 slots that can be expanded via the Marketplace. One point that was emphasized: If you buy (or have ever bought) a mount in the Marketplace, it does not count against your total available slots. However, if you trade that mount to another character, you are not left with an extra slot; only the owning character has that slot.
Players who are returning to EQ for this expansion will find that the auto-granting of Alternate Advancement abilities now include up through the House of Thule expansion. Along with other goodies, those who buy the collectors edition will be granted a free Heroic Character in order to get to the new content quicker. Regarding the last four to five years of content, Terrazas said, "Honestly it's some of the best-looking and best creative work that we've done, and that's where we want [players] at." Terrazas also said the same deal that SOE Live attendees have gotten previously should be in effect this year -- namely, they'll receive they basic expansion for free and the CE for a discount.
All Access members can purchase The Darkened Sea and dive right in to play today, October 28th. Everyone else can purchase it, but the expansion will not open its doors to the free-to-play crowd until November 11th. Terrazas noted that players who wanted to could buy the expansion and upgrade to All Access at the same time in order to access the content right away.
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