EverQuest: New Underfoot Expansion Preview
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.
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.
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
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.
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.