Join Gazimoff as he goes on a tour of the new Game Update 63 content with members of the EQII development team!
Later this week, EverQuest II (EQII) players will finally be able to open the second book in the Destiny of Velious expansion, with the release of Game Update 63: Skyshrine. With over a hundred new quests, a level cap raised to 92 and new dungeon and raid content, the update also promises a substantial slice of story for players to feast on.
There’s been a steady build up to Skyshrine, it being the first major release of new content since Sony’s flagship MMO switched to a Free-to-Play model in December 2011. Since then, the development team has been hard at work developing new areas and bringing the continuing Ages End Prophecy saga to life.
Although much of the Game Update has been available on the Test Server since mid-March, there’s no better way to experience a world than with the people who helped create it. Fortunately, I was invited on a tour of the Withered Lands and Skyshrine with the expert guides of EQII producer Holly Longdale and game designer Carlos Mora at the helm. As well as showing some of the incredible locations, they also shared some of the lore behind the game update.
As a quick story recap, the prismatic dragon Kerafyrm the Awakened is thought to be central to the prophecy of Ages End. Sensing this, the current ruler of Skyshrine, Lord Yelinak, united the six cities, realizing that only by standing together would they have enough power to defeat Kerafyrm and his legion of Awakened. Now, under a single banner called The New Combine, players must fight their way through the Withered Lands, reach the dragon city of Skyshrine and halt the advancing Awakened army.
Although any character will be able to enter the Withered Lands, only adventurers with a minimum of 280 Alternate Advancement (AA) points will be able to advance beyond level 90. Longdale explained that the team really wanted to set a new baseline for player power in order to build suitable content but, in doing so, they also decided to revamp the power curve. As a result, most players will be awarded additional AA points once the update goes live.
Longdale also added that gaining two additional levels didn’t feel like it was offering sufficient character advancement, which is why they introduced five rows of Prestige class talents. Characters can earn one prestige point for every 20% of an experience level, reaching a total of 10 points at level 92. Some of these will change the way characters are played, such as adjusting ability usage by being able to activate key abilities more often. According to Longdale, the team will be building on the prestige system in future updates.
Our tour began in a New Combine foothold, established in a corrupted forest at the entrance to the Withered Lands. Stepping into the tour guide role, Carlos Mora explained that the region had previously been known as the Wakening Lands, an area once protected by the Goddess Tunare and touched by the Plane of Growth. When the Gods left so did Tunare’s protection over the region, leaving it vulnerable to the magical corruption.
Stepping outside of the foothold, it’s clear that the trees had become scarred and twisted by the purple mark of corruption. Plant life had also taken on a purple hue, with the taint transforming some into aggressively hostile traps for the unwary. Giant black-speckled wolves roamed the area; Mora pointed out that these creatures will be tamable by Beastlords.
Our guide led us to the K’val Ruins, a massive and ornately detailed stone building that was once an outpost of Kael Drakkel, which became separated during the upheaval that formed the glacial wall dividing Velious. The giants roaming the area had also been affected by the magical corruption, their limbs replaced with vines or tree trunks, sending them mad. As we wandered through the ruins we noticed that much of the structure had been overrun by more of the incredible purple plants. We were told that this plant was one of several house items that can be acquired through a range of new collectibles (including aerial collectibles) that players can seek out.
As we walked back outside to be greeted by the rain I was left wondering just how hostile the place is. The answer was unexpected, as Mora told us to look up, reminding us that this isn’t ordinary weather. A grey storm dragon circled above, controlling the weather and knocking airborne adventurers from their flying mounts. The ability to change the weather on cue was something added in this game update, Mora explained, a grin audible in his voice. Introducing the dragon as Vyskudra the Ancient, he added that, as players progress through the story, it will be possible to recruit help in banishing her from the sky, forcing her to retreat to a raid instance within Skyshrine.