by Jeff "Ethec" Woleslagle, Editor-in-Chief of TenTonHammer.com
Ten Ton Hammer recently toured EverQuest II Game Update 63: Skyshrine with Producer Holly "Windstalker" Longdale and Game Designer Carlos "Gninja" Mora. We came away with screenshots... lots of screenshots - of the characters, dragons, and lofty places in this content-rich update due to hit servers today.
For those keeping score at home, GU 63 represents the second of three planned content updates focused on extending Destiny of Velious, the December 2011 expansion that brought flying mounts to Norrath. This update will take us to the heights of Skyshrine in hopes of restoring the former glory of the dragon citadel.
First up was a quick look at Prestige Advancements, a new set of Alternate Advancements (AAs) available to players that hit the new level cap of 92 and have 280+ AA points. Carlos explained that levels 91 and 92 are roughly the equivalent of 5 previous levels a piece and, accordingly, players get 5 points per level.
Holly noted that these Advancements can be quite powerful; one class, for example, has Prestige AAs that reduces reuse timers globally.
The following is a look at the Wizard Prestige Advancements, and please note that the Advancements and the icons aren't yet final:
The Withered Lands and the Tears of Tunare
The Withered Lands is the first part of the two-part leadup to Skyshrine and is available to players level 90 and above. The Storm Dragon, Vyskudra, patrols the skies above the Withered Lands, knocking down players unlucky enough to be perched on a flying mount when he passes. Players will get their chance to exact revenge on Vyskudra later on in Skyshrine.
A few locations in the Withered Lands are protected from the spreading corruption from Skyshrine, which has been under the control of the forces of Kerafyrm ("The Sleeper") since he was woken in the original EverQuest. Lore afficionados know that Kerafyrm, a prismatic dragon, was the result of two dragons of opposite colors (possibly Nagafen and Vox) mating. Prismatics are powerful and unstable creatures, which is why such unions are strictly forbidden among dragons.
Kerafyrm's power is spreading, and the majority of the Withered Lands hosts creatures like the corrupted giants, wolves, and creepers seen below.
Carlos noted that Game Update 63 boasts over 100 new quests, 3 new raids, 3 solo areas, and 15 new instances (and those just in Skyshrine alone). One of those hundred quests is occasioned by this lost Combine caravan in this highly creepy and atmospheric part of the zone:
Between the Withered Lands and the Tears of Tunare (and Skyshrine) lies Holgresh Pass. It's named Holgresh Pass because it's infested by Holgresh, these batlike baddies.
After a brief stop in Holgresh Pass, we came to the Tears of Tunare, corrupted swampland that lost the protection of the Mother when EverQuest 2's deities pulled their disappearing act. Carlos mentioned that the team is especially proud of the mud monster (pictured right below) and noted that an illusion of this monster might be available to players at some point.
The first dragon we came face-to-face with on our one-hour tour ran into was Honvar the Earthcrusher. Nicknamed Lumpy by the SOE folks, Carlos relayed that their goal with Honvar was to create a dragon that looked like no other in the game. We weren't able to see Honvar in action, so couldn't confirm that the earthcrusher is earthbound or tell you anything about how he fights, but he definitely had a distinct look.
Through magic, players will get to experience Skyshrine as it was prior to Kerafyrm's corruption came to the dragon citadel. Holly explained that a rare alliance of NPC factions think they've found a way to prevent the destruction of Skyshrine before it starts, but they'll need some hardy adventurers to find their way through the Withered Lands (so far, so good) and enter Skyshrine in order to do so.
Unfortunately, adventurers can't just wander into Skyshrine. Carlos had us don mini-me dragon illusions so that we could move about unchecked in Skyshrine, but noted that once players gain a certain amount of Skyshrine reputation, these illusions won't be needed:
Skyshrine is patrolled by golems like these, who I was pretty anxious to not piss off:
My favorite NPC of GU 63 is the Oracle. Matrix references aside, the Oracle is a blindfolded, Cassandra-like dragon who knows the twisted fate coming to Skyshrine and knows the players' purpose in coming here. Of course, noone believes her.
Carlos fast-forwarded things a bit, and we were able to see the prophesied fate come to pass when we entered Dracur Prime, one of the three raid areas found in Skyshrine. The Kerafyrm invasion is in full swing in this contested area, which was 100% more aflame than other areas we'd visited in Skyshrine.
Below, on the left, you'll see bloodscale and direclaw forces gathering before the statue of Veeshan (no, that's not a live dragon). On the right, you can see the vague silhouette's Kerafyrm's dragons circling overhead. Holly told us that these dragons swoop down and do real damage.
At the far end of the raid area, we found the raid boss: the storm dragon Vyskudra. Yep, this is the same storm dragon that's knocking players off their flying mounts in the Withered lands. As with Honvar, SOE wasn't willing to show us how Vyskudra fights, but wind and lightning are probably a good bet.
Thus concluded our tour of EverQuest 2 Game Update 63: Skyshrine, which is set to hit EQ2's servers today. Our thanks to Holly Longdale, Carlos Mora, and the SOE team for showing us around.