Updated Tue, May 15, 2007 by Ethec
by Jeff "Ethec" Woleslagle
May 9th, 2007 - At SOE Gamer Day, producer Scott Hartsman was on-hand to announce the SOE's plans for EverQuest 2 in 2007. It seems that Kunark, a continent thought lost to the catastrophic events between EQLive and EverQuest 2, has been found again. But first, Scott demoed the finer points of Neriak and the new race that will be part of a free content update, the Arasai.
The Arasai are, well, evil Fae; thematically acting as a foil to the good Fae that were a part of last year's retail expansion, Echoes of Faydwer. Not that they don't have their own backstory; apparently one lone, particularly magic-adept dark elf magically sealed herself inside the city when it had been all but abandoned during the time of the Shattering (when, in EQ lore, a disturbing amount of the moon Luclin fell to earth, causing widespread... bad things). Queen Cristanos was her name, and she set out to make herself a goddess. "She basically succeeded," quipped Hartsman, spawning an entirely new race known as the Arasai. We toured her throne room; upon entering, two guards barred the way, weapons at the ready, then stepped aside - the trappings of royalty and a nice touch. Queen Cristanos was particularly creepy, fawning over Scott's character like a megalomaniac in the vein of Dr. Frankenstein.
I spent much of the demo trying to figure out how I would describe the Arasai. They look like Fae, no doubt, complete with diminuitive bodies and slightly over-sized wings. Monuments to Cristanos's vanity, they're well-ornamented and festooned with the what Scott Hartsman called (and EQLive players know as) the trademark black-and-neon colors of Neriak; this is not the kind of evil that lurks in corner, weaving Byzantine plots. The females are an easy sell, the males - well, it certainly is a species of unsettling.
|The Arasai. A female (left and center) with Darklight Woods in the background (center). An Arasai male (right).|
The "newbie" area for Neriak and the Arasai is called Darklight Wood, and is parked about where you'd expect it to be from EQLive, nestled against Nektulos Woods. Darklight Wood is a showpiece for what the EQ2 team has learned about starting area design. Hartsman spoke of breadcrumbing players from quest hub to quest hub throughout the starter levels and always keeping one interesting thing you want to investigate in sight. He glowed when pointing out a particularly huge and impressive tree in Darklight Wood, While art direction and design was planned out in San Diego, art assets were actually created in the SOGA studios in Taiwan. From what I saw, quality was by no means lacking. I commented that the new areas brought the ornamentation of Faydwer's treetop city woodwork to mind. "Thank you," Scott said with a smile, "that's definitely what we were going for.
Rise of Kunark logo
Neriak was by no means the only EQ2 announcement at Gamer Day. The Rise of Kunark will be EverQuest 2's next expansion, and the retail box ($39.99) will include the base game (the digitally distributed copy will include the expansion only). Most welcome to veteran players will be the level cap raise from 70 to 80 for adventuring, tradeskills, and even guild levels -but a new breed of lizardmen will make their debut as well. The Sarnak - which some may remember being a common enemy for Iksar player characters in EQLive - will be playable as a neutral race. Why not make Sarnak evil, when EQLive veterans are used to a lizard-like race that was almost universally reviled? "You give people a choice between good and evil, 2 times out of 3 they'll choose good. That's just how we are. We see that in the game right now." With the evil Arasai going live in the near future, the Sarnak will restore some balance to the force, no doubt with a lizardly lisp.
The village of Gorowyn will act as a home city to the Sarnak, and provide player housing (as will Neriak). We'll also see the return of three deities: Bertoxxulous the Plaguebringer, Karana the Rainkeeper, and the Tribunal, complete with their own Blessings and Miracles. Continuing the laundry list of features, there's a new mount included with the Rise of Kunark (the Kunarkian Rhinoceros), new epic weapons for all 24 classes and plenty of content to take higher level players to level 80, and a new starting area: the islands of the Timorous Deep (levels 1-20).
One other interesting bit of information - following the lead of other MMOs like EVE Online that have created incredibly popular print fanzines, SOE will be publishing Equinox, the first magazine devoted exclusively to EverQuest 2 players. Details are sketchy at this point regarding when the first issue comes out, what the price point will be, and how often Equinox will be issued, so stay tuned to Ten Ton Hammer for more info.
Rise of Kunark (slated for release at around the time of EQ2's third anniversary in Nov. 2007) promises to bring back one of the most popular continents of EverQuest, and between this retail expansion and the free Game Update that includes Neriak and the new evil fae race of Arasai, it looks like another chock full o' content year from some of the most prolific developers in the business. Our thanks to Scott Hartsman and the EQ2 team for spending some time with us at SOE Gamer Day - May 2007!