EverQuest: New Underfoot Expansion Preview

EverQuest was the birthplace of more than one online gaming obsession (mine included) more than a decade ago. Despite being one of the oldest MMOGs on the block, it's still running strong.
EverQuest was the birthplace of more than one online gaming obsession (mine included) more than a decade ago. Despite being one of the oldest MMOGs on the block, it's still running strong. With the December 15th release date for its 16th expansion, Underfoot, right around the corner, some may even say it's running stronger than ever.

Last week, I had the opportunity to go on a guided tour of the new zones and I'm here to bring you all the good news. Like many that have come before it, the new expansion is loaded with goodies and if you've been away from the game for a number of years and want to catch up, now's the perfect time to do it.

The Telmiran

Underfoot includes all 15 previously released expansions. That's right - every single one of them is included. So, if you're behind by just one expansion, or all fifteen, it doesn't matter. In the past, SOE (Sony Online Entertainment) has had a habit of releasing an EverQuest compilation set shortly after a new expansion releases. The compilation would include all of the previous expansions *minus* the latest. It was a good deal if you'd been away for a while, but it still stung since it felt as though you had to make a substantial investment in the game again. Fortunately for everyone, it looks like they've seen the error of their ways and have taken care of new and veteran players alike this time. Let’s hope this trend continues into the future.

The Underfoot expansion may not be designed with the new player in mind, but the EverQuest veterans will find a lot to be happy about. The expansion will introduce two new systems, a plethora of crafting items, twelve new zones to explore, and new races to encounter. The quest progression throughout the zones will throw the players directly into the middle of a conflict of godlike proportions – literally.

EverQuest’s Underfoot expansion will bring one major new feature to Norrathians everywhere--the achievement system. Similar to those found in other games, this system will track the progression of explored zones, gained AAs (Alternate Advancement abilities), quest completions, and more. When Underfoot launches, players will be able to track their General Achievements along with their progression in Underfoot. The team intends to bring all the old EverQuest zones into the Achievement system eventually as well. Once it’s finished, those of you that are completionists can say goodbye to any spare time you had in the past because the number of zones alone in EverQuest is staggering.

That's no statue. 

The other new feature is a highly anticipated Extended Target Window which will allow you to track both friends and foes with greater accuracy than ever before. You can choose to track who you want, when you want. Tired of always having to remember which function key to hit in the heat of battle in order to target the main tank so you can provide some much DPS support? How about struggling to target the overzealous rogue that won't stand still? All of these concerns and more will be a thing of the past with this new window system. Assign who you want to the window and then click away to keep track of them. Thanks to the design team, your life in raids just got a whole lot easier.

The Underfoot expansion includes the usual myriad additions to current content that players have grown used to over the years. Crafters can create new armors, weapons and more with thousands (yes, I did say thousands) of new recipes. This includes new cultural armors, poisons, research spells, and everything in between.

Knowing that players are always seeking to improve their characters, the EverQuest team will also be introducing a number of new AAs with this latest expansion. As a side note, I find it a little bizarre to this day that other development companies haven’t adopted such a method to keep gamers playing for years. The degree of character customization made possible by AAs may not make much of a difference in some MMOGs (such as EVE, which is practically built around a similar system), but for others, like Vanguard, I think it would stem the tide of impatient players always begging for new content. Such a system would buy many development teams some much-needed breathing room.

The Underfoot centers around the Heart of the World, so named because it’s continually pumping lava throughout itself, just as a heart pumps blood. The ruler of this plane is a dwarf-like being known as Brell Serilis, the Duke of Below. Brell is continually making new races, destroying most, while turning others into servants. As most would expect, worshippers abound in Underfoot, but not all of them are happy and this is the source of the conflict the expansion’s quest content embodies.

Volska's Husk

The Cliknar are an ant-like race created by Brell to tend the farms and feed the denizens of the Underfoot. Unfortunately, Brell decided they were doing fine and could be ignored as they tended their crops, apparently believing that their hive mentality would keep them in check. One of the first races influenced by the Faith of Self, which is creating the rift between the followers of Brell, the Cliknar started doing what they wanted, when they wanted, and how they wanted to. These plans of self-interest seem to include taking over the rest of Underfoot as they seek to expand the hive.

The new zones made available to us during the tour were very colorful and sometimes bizarre. The coolest zone to me was Volska’s Husk. A race of absolutely massive lava-loving serpents entitled the Greken were the first target the Cliknar chose to test their war skills upon. Just like the ants they resemble, the Cliknar swarmed over an individual Greken and took it down. As the lava cooled around the body, it created a massive area that makes up the entire zone. Never ones to waste space, the denizens of Underfoot have taken over the Greken’s fallen corpse and built multiple communities within.

Throughout the tour, I saw massive stone giants holding up mountains, disturbingly creepy Victorian-era styled doll creations, gnolls of exquisite detail, and more. The art team has continued to pry every ounce of versatility out of EverQuest’s aging graphics. Both the zones and the creatures that inhabit them are gorgeous, far more so than I ever would have thought possible with the current engine.

Brell's Rest is where you’ll start your adventures within Underfoot and explore eleven other brand new zones as you make your way toward a final raid confrontation. Along your journey you’ll encounter zones that look as though they were plucked from the pages of Alice in Wonderland such as The Fungal Forest, which is filled with giant mushrooms of every psychedelic color you can imagine. Don’t let the happy colors fool you, though, or you’re going to be searching for your corpse in a hurry. There are creatures hiding around every rock and towering mushroom just waiting for you to let your guard down for a brief moment. Stay vigilant, stay alive.

The Fungal Forest

In other zones, such as The Cooling Chambers, you’ll feel as though you’re traveling to the very center of the world. As I made my way down to the bottom, I had to wonder more than once if it actually had an end. The adventures found throughout this zone and the others should provide many, many hours of entertainment as you push forward through the Underfoot content to the final raid encounter.

Our guide confirmed that Brell himself is involved in this final raid, but wouldn’t give us any further details. Is it time to show Brell the error of his ways and force a showdown so he pays attention to his ignored creations? Does Brell throw down the hammer and open up a can of whoop ass on the unhappy?

There’s plenty of new content to keep veteran players entertained for many hours. New and returning players may not see a lot of new things in terms of exploration, but with the new Mayong 51/50 server up (all characters start at level 51 with 50 AA points to spend as they choose), it won’t take long to catch up. Two new features, thousands of crafting items, twelve new zones, and an epic storyline make this one expansion EverQuest fans aren’t going to want to pass up.

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