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EverQuest II: Rise of Kunark Expansion Overview

Updated Wed, Dec 16, 2009 by Shayalyn

by Karen "Shayalyn" Hertzberg

Many a MMOG gamer was born when he or she first loaded up EverQuest and began to play in its fictional realm of Norrath. Launched in 1999, EverQuest is undoubtedly one of the grandfathers of the massively multi-player online gaming genre. Three years ago, EverQuest II, EQ's sequel developed and published by Sony Online Entertainment, launched with tremendous fanfare. It was supposed to be the EverQuest for a new gaming age; brimming with new technology and visual goodness. And EQ2 certainly didn't go lightly on the bells and whistles. Even now, three years and a game generation later, EQ2 offers plenty of bling; from its marvelous voice acting to the beauty of its epic vistas.

The problem many gamers, myself included, had with EQ2 in the early days was that it simply didn't have the size, scope,

Sarnak architecture

A look at Sarnak architecture in Timorous Deep.

or soul of its predecessor. Oh, its major zones were expansive, but there were few of them, and the scenery didn't change much. In comparison to EverQuest with its vast array of unique zones (such that you could literally play right up to the end game and never visit dozens of locales), EQ2 felt small and cramped. Instead of having multiple unique classes, EQ2 boiled them down to their archetypes and forced players to start as either a defensive fighter, offensive fighter, mage or priest. Although that dynamic has since disappeared and players choose their final starting class immediately, the game that launched 3 years ago had a lot of flash but not quite enough substance.

The good news is that EQ2 keeps expanding, and with each expansion it becomes larger and more epic in scale--it has more substance. EQ2 has released an impressive number of expansions for a game its age. Desert of Flames and Kingdom of Sky came first. Then EQ2 took a turn for the nostalgic with Echoes of Faydwer, which revived beloved classic EQ locations such as the Greater Faydark forest, the Butcherblock Mountains, and Crushbone. It offered a new race (the fae) and a new starting city (Kelethin). That format apparently worked for SOE, because they've repeated it with the newly launched Rise of Kunark. Rise of Kunark went live on November 13, 2007 and brought with it another new race (the Sarnaks) and another new starting location (Timorous Deep).

Rise of Kunark offers a little something for every player. For the new or returning player (or those with persistent alt-itis) there's the new race and starting area. For the elder player, there are many new places to explore, all of them with names familiar to and loved by EQ players of old.

But let's start off assuming you're going to want to play a Sarnak.

A Sarnak fights an enemy Spiroc

A Sarnak embroiled in battle with a Spiroc.

Going Sarnak

The Sarnaks are a draconian race; dragon-esque humanoids that EQ players will remember battling in dungeons like Chardok. They've certainly changed over the 500 years (in game lore time) that have passed since their ancestors were grappling with the denizens of Norrath. They're sleeker looking, and their customization options allow for a nice array of looks for both the male and female models. True to nature, female Sarnaks are a bit less flashy looking, but both have options for tinting their scale colors and patterns as well as changing the style of horns that cover each Sarnak's head.

Sarnaks begin their careers in Timorous Deep and a chain of jungle islands found there. Naturally, when you enter EQ2 as a Sarnak for the first time you'll find that the race is dealing with a persistent pest; in this case the Spirocs, an avian race. Will you aid your people and figure out what these Spirocs are up to? Of course you will, and in doing so, with help from some side quests, you'll find yourself level 10 in no time.

The EQ2 development team has certainly perfected the art of creating quests. The newbie quests in Rise of Kunark, while not terribly engaging from a lore perspective, move along nicely and result in the character collecting some standard issue pieces of low-level armor. The quests don't feel tedious, and just about any adventurer should be able to handle them solo.

The area surrounding the Sarnak starting village of Chrykori Island is visually lush. I was struck by the level of detail in the Asian-inspired architecture as well as the natural landscapes, with their rocky cliffs and breaking waves. A few surprises lie in store for adventurers, as well. Make sure you get close to a passing Silt Storm (it won't hurt you), and keep an eye out for the lizard-eating plants (they won't hurt you, either, but those lizards are toast).

Your Sarnak will be able to explore levels 1-20 in Timorous Deep. Beyond that, you'll need to venture out to other places in Norrath--the rest of the content in the Rise of Kunark expansion is meant for big kids. Go forth, young adventurer! Come back when you're level 65 or so.

When You're Level 65 or So

My brother and I were discussing gaming a while back. He's a big EQ fan, but couldn't get into EQ2 for some of the reasons I mentioned above. Even so, when I told him that this expansion was adding old school EQ zones such as Sebilis, Karnor's Castle, and Veeshan's Peak he commented that Sebilis remained one of his favorite zones, and that Rise of Kunark might well be worth coming back for.

And SOE is counting on just that sort of reaction with its nostalgic reintroduction of favorite EverQuest destinations. Although my beta experiences didn't quite allow me time to play through all of the high level zones, I did at least get to experience then on a guided tour, led by EQ2 community manager Craig "Grimwell" Dalrymple.

The first zone we visited on our tour was Karnor's Castle, home of the vicious dog-like Drolvargs. Some of my first real dungeon experiences in EverQuest were in Karnor's Castle (or KC, as we called it). I remember being frightened, excited, and thoroughly entertained. The Karnor's Castle in EverQuest II has much the same look and feel that the original had, with a similar layout, but, as Dalrymple said, "Nothing is untouched by the hand of time." Even so, the Drolvargs remain hungry for the taste of hapless adventurers.

Our tour also stopped briefly at Sebilis and Veeshan's Peak. Alas, there was no time for grouping or raiding so it was impossible to get a feel for how challenging the new content would be. But rest assured that all of it looks impressive, and ominous, where that sort of look is called for. And it's suitable for all types of play styles. Kylong Plains should keep level 60-70 solo and small group adventurers occupied. Some dungeons are competitive (Karnor's) while others are instanced (Veeshan's Peak) but there's plenty of group and raid content to be had. Veeshan's Peak looks particularly foreboding with its lava pits, but Dalrymple assured us that falling into the lava would no longer result in an instant death. "The zone is difficult enough on its own," he said. "Instant death on lava just seems mean, especially with NPC knockbacks and such."

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