As I began this article, Green Day was performing a small concert on television. I watched the crowd and their various reactions to the music. Some danced, others were jumping around screaming "Rock On!" (at least they were in my head, cause it was funnier like that), while a few seemed to be just standing there listening. It struck me how very similar players' reactions to the release of EverQuest 2's latest expansion Kingdom of Sky are to this. Many are happy to see new content, the level 60's are screaming "Rock On!" to a new level cap, while a few are standing around "wishing they would work more on the already released content." Like the Green Day audience, we all have one thing in common. We're all interested in whats going on.
When TenTonHammer was invited to take a look at Kingdom of Sky, there was no way I was going to turn that down. I logged on and found my way to our meeting point. My illustrious tour guides, were none other than Ryan "Blackguard" Shwayder and Joel "Raijinn Thunderguard" Sasaki. Blackguard arrived as a swashbuckler sporting one of the new hats we've been hearing about on the forums. It looked as if it had been stolen from Captain Hook himself, so I'm anxious to see others.
The Tenebrous Tangle
Blackguard first explained that we were standing at the entry point to Kingdom of Sky. Named the Tenebrous Tangle, it consists of a number of islands and intended for characters level 56-62. I saw something that appeared to be teleportation spires, but it wasn't made clear how these would be intergrated into Old Norrath. Perhaps a world event, involving these Sky Essences that have been dropping for weeks?
We made our way to a stream nearby, which ended in a waterfall. A small sign next to it read "Aim for the big blue spot." I watched as Blackguard leapt off the falls, and followed quickly behind, dropping 4 or 5 seconds narrowly avoiding rocks in the pool below. This island called Hidden Shelter was much smaller but had a population of NPC's. We found a few friendly frogloks running around in addition to very rude Freeportian citizens who were doing their usual brooding.
On this second island, a few thoughts crossed my mind. First, with such a size restriction, how do you create an area without it feeling cramped? This was answered after just a few moments of running around. The restrictive walls we are accustomed to, have become climbable mountains, and there were very few places I couldn't go. My second question was, how was I going to get from island to island? Surely I wouldn't be jumping would I?. Blackguard ushered us over to a platform where we selected our destination. Much similar to the carpet system used in Desert of Flames, this utilizes small clouds ridden between the islands. Very cool.
We took our cloud to an island which was a breeding ground for drakes. Apparently these drakes are trained and utilized by the aviaks as weapons, but there was no elaboration on their diabolical plans.
Our next stop, was an island filled with Bixies. These giant, freakish looking half bees, were far from friendly, and numerous. From there it was off to Vultak island where a breed of strange insects lay waiting to shred us to pieces. Many of them were flying around us which should make things more interesting when pulling.
Finally, it was time to examine our first dungeon. Located in the Tenebrous Tangle, we zoned into a dark, creepy looking temple called the Sanctum of the Scaleborn well suited to a group levels 62-67. We saw Droags, Wraiths, and Silent Sentinels more than ready to open up a can on us. The true icing on the cake, was the dragon they showed us that dwelled in a huge chamber. Enormous, menacing, and looking brutally difficult I wasn't given any details on how to spawn it, but it looked like it would need a strong group to take down.
The Barren Sky
The second of the large zones is called The Barren Sky. These islands differed from the Tenebrous Tangle. The lush, tropical jungles were exhanged for barren, arrid deserts. This zone has solo and heroic content for levels 62-68. Those of you who played EQ1, might notice the large chains hanging from the islands, reminiscent of the Plane of Sky. Almost anywhere in the zone, you'll notice the largest island containing the Palace of the Awakened.
The aviaks have a domineering presence here, which consist of two major factions: the Blacktalon and the Strifewing. The Blacktalon are loyal to the Awakened, and fight to protect the palace from the Strifewing. It's the Hatfields and the McCoys so make sure not to touch their moonshine!The minor faction, called the Windgazer, lives in a hideout on Whisperwind Isle avoiding the conflict as they can.
We next made our way to the glorious looking Palace of the Awakened. Once known as Narr'Yora this it the center of the Awakened Empire. Its exterior architecture reminded me a little of Shimmering Citadel but the interior was much different. Although the masters of the Palace are away it is heavily guarded by Blacktalon aviaks and Bloodscale droags. For the raiders, there is a raid instance called Ascent of the Awakened, where the aviaks go to train with dragons. According to Blackguard "That area houses two great dragons who have an issue with each other, so you won't see them both at the same time."
The last of the large region zones we visited was called Bonemire. This zone differed greatly from the other two. From the strange looking terrain, to the pitch black sky, and filled with Basilisks, Droag, Abominations and the Ravasect, this zone is far from hospitable. We started out at the Drednever Crash site, where a group of gnomish explorers apparently crashlanded. Blackguard hinted these gnomes would tie into Live Update #19 content we can find in Solusek.
Blackguard ushered us into one of the Bonemire dungeons called the Halls of Fate. Designed for groups level 68-70, it is home to the minions of Lord Vyemm and his draconic warriors called the Doomwing Legion. As a side note, these guys are HUGE and look like a Predator from the movies. Yes, I know we have the Ice and Fire giants in Old Norrath, but these are in more confined quarters making their size is intimidating. Lord Vyemm himself is said to await adventurers deep within this dungeon, but I'd recommend bringing your friends. It should be challenging enough just to make your way to him.
Finally, we entered one of the most difficult dungeons in the expansion called Deathtoll. Designed for level 68+ the undead thrive here and the mighty dragon Tarinax the Destroyer makes his lair here. What really peaked my interest in this area, was an intricate series of traps designed to catch players off guard. I won't spoil any of them, but if you aren't prepared in advance, you'll be caught.
As a treat, Blackguard took us deep into Deathtoll, to the chamber of Tarinax himself. His chamber was so large, it literally took us 30 seconds of running to get to him. I have to say this dragon was larger than anything I've ever seen in EverQuest. As a barbarian I didn't even come to the top of his talons. I watched in horror....ok amusement as he literally punted one of our group members across his chamber. They were, of course, dead before they hit the ground.
One of the new mechanics being introduced with Kingdom of Sky is the Achievement Point System. It was made clear very clear they aren't the AA's we remember from Everquest 1. Blackguard said:
"You will gain Achievement Points as you progress through the game, completing quests, defeating boss creatures, looting rare treasure, exploring the world, and advancing your adventure level after 60 You can follow 5 different paths, but you'll have to make some important choices along the way. You can choose to specialize in one or two paths, investing more points into each Achievement of a specific line, or you can spread out to become more versatile and a bit less focused. Essentially, Achievements allow you to specialize the character to play it the way you want to play."
For those of you already well advanced into the game, there will be no retroactive Achievement Points given. Forutnately, at level 70, instead of losing your experience, all your excess will be put towards them. Each of the abilitiy trees seem to be based on stats such as strength or agility. The system looks fairly complex so I'm sure guides will be forthcoming.
All in all, I was impressed with what I saw. While the expansion seems to be coming along nicely, will it satisfy everyone? Difficult to say. I can say with certainty, the Developers have put in a lot of work, and there is some great potential for Kingdom of Sky. So be sure to keep a look out for more information as it becomes available, and expect Kingdom of Sky to hit stores February 21st.
To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our EverQuest II Game Page.