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EverQuest’s Veil of Alaris Expansion – A Hands-On Preview

Updated Tue, Nov 08, 2011 by Ethec

Due out in mid-November, EverQuest’s eighteenth expansion will expand the 12 year old game into Alaris, a primal continent revealed through the events of last year’s expansion. In addition to a level cap raise from 90 to 95, players will quest through more than 10 new elder game zones and raids, enjoy new UI features, guild tools, and will also see the introduction of guild housing and guild trophies in Veil of Alaris.

EverQuest’s Eric “Piestro” Cleaver joined me in the red-skied Plane of Fear in the midst of the live event going on now.  The god of little people and dark places, Brell Serillis, has commissioned the gnomes to build a giant airship to take players to the new continent of Alaris. Since the gnomes and their player helpers haven’t finished their task yet, Eric had to work some GM magic to transport us to the first zone of the expansion: Argath, Bastion of Ildara, a battle-scarred mountain fortress dedicated to the Alaran god of war and battle.

EverQuest: Veil of Alaris preview
Soon, Gnomish airships will link Norrath with Alaris

Understanding the factions and furor in Argath requires a bit of backstory. In the course of EverQuest’s last expansion, House of Thule, players managed to permanently defeat the Norrathian god of fear, Cazic Thule. This marked a major change in the relationship between players and gods in the game’s story, as players had never been able to gain the upper hand in the power balance between players and gods before. As Cazic Thule’s power was swept away from him, a continent previously hidden by Norrath’s dragons was “unveiled”.  

Thus, EverQuest’s next expansion centers on the mysteries of this new continent and how Cazic Thule was killed, and why. A full cast of characters – players, NPC factions, and gods both old and new – is involved, and the stakes couldn’t be higher.

Eric went on to explain that the culture clash, political imbalances, and xenophobia resulting from the influx of Old Norrathians plays a huge role in the story of the expansion, but the two cultures have one thing in common: belief in some of their most revered gods is on the wane. Case in point: years of war have reduced the Argathian’s appetite for battle, and the citizenry has focused more on trade in recent years. This development is more significant for the Alaran gods; while the Norrathian gods derive their power from the planes, the Alaran gods require belief.

All of this intrigue creates a particular problem for the fortress city of Argath. The neighboring city of Erlonn, City of Bronze, has seized upon the confusion of the Norrathian influx to attack. With their god weakened, the Argathians are forced to turn to outside help. Eric took me to the entranceway to Argath, where Erlonn occasionally launches sorties against the city. I asked Eric if this might be the first instance of public quests in EverQuest, but he responded in the negative.  Instead, a massive invasion from Erlonn forms the crux of the Argath raid, and Eric noted that every zone in the expansion will host at least one raid.

One novel new system tied to questing in Veil of Alaris, however, is the Alaran language.  Unlike other EverQuest languages, players won’t be able to teach each other the new language, instead, learning the language is tied to questing and story development. Players can explore every corner of Alaris, but content is gated by language proficiency, which is an interesting twist on a bread-and-butter EverQuest concept.

EverQuest: Veil of Alaris preview
Solusek Ro could ruin any besieger’s day

Moving on, Eric took me to the Valley of Lunanyn, the bread basket of Argath. Here, surprisingly, we found the terrifying presence of Solusek Ro occasionally summoning fireballs to set the City of Bronze’s encampments ablaze. Preferring a more direct approach than Brell Serelis, Solusek Ro and his faction of Norrathian gods have shown up to prevent the deicidal antics that began with Cazic Thule’s downfall from spreading.

EverQuest: Veil of Alaris preview
East Domain shows how Norrath is starting to cross-pollinate with Alaris

In the next area, East Domain, Eric showed off what SOE’s artists have been up to in the latest EQ expansion. Stretching an already bargain-basement minspec (Pentium 3 500 Mhz with 256 megs of RAM and a GeForce 2 / Radeon 7500), they’ve mingled the visual style of Norrath with Alaris. Eric pointed out some classic Norrathian trees with bright splashes of ivy-like growth on them, and a raptor out with several Alaran traits – glowing eyes and neon coloration.

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