EverQuest’s Veil of Alaris Expansion – A Hands-On Preview

SOE’s Eric Cleaver takes us on a hands-on tour  of the newly unveiled continent, new guild housing,  and lore surrounding EverQuest’s 18th expansion, Veil of Alaris.

Due out in mid-November, EverQuest’s
eighteenth expansion
will expand the 12 year old game into Alaris, a primal continent
revealed through the events of last year’s expansion. In
addition to a level cap raise from 90 to 95, players will quest through
more than 10 new elder game zones and raids, enjoy new UI features,
guild tools, and will also see the introduction of guild housing and
guild trophies in Veil of

Eric “Piestro” Cleaver joined
me in the red-skied Plane of Fear in the midst of the live event going
on now.  The god of little people and dark places,
Brell Serillis, has commissioned the gnomes to build a giant
airship to take players to the new continent of Alaris. Since the gnomes and their player helpers haven’t finished
their task yet, Eric had to work some GM magic to
transport us to the first zone of the expansion: Argath, Bastion of
Ildara, a battle-scarred mountain fortress dedicated to the Alaran god
of war and battle.

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alt="EverQuest: Veil of Alaris preview">

Soon, Gnomish airships will
Norrath with Alaris

Understanding the factions and furor in Argath requires a bit of
backstory. In the course of EverQuest’s
last expansion,
of Thule
, players managed to
permanently defeat the Norrathian god of
fear, Cazic Thule. This marked a major change in the relationship
between players and gods in the game’s story, as players had
never been able to gain the upper hand in the power balance between
players and gods before. As Cazic Thule’s power was swept
away from him, a continent previously hidden by Norrath’s
dragons was “unveiled”.  

Thus, EverQuest’s
next expansion centers on the mysteries of
this new continent and how Cazic Thule was killed, and why. A full cast
of characters – players, NPC factions, and gods both old and
new – is involved, and the stakes couldn’t be

Eric went on to explain that the culture clash, political imbalances, and
xenophobia resulting from the influx of Old Norrathians plays a huge
role in the story of the expansion, but the two cultures have one thing
in common: belief in some of their most revered gods is on the wane.
Case in point: years of war have reduced the Argathian’s
appetite for battle, and the citizenry has focused more on trade in
recent years. This development is more significant for the Alaran gods;
while the Norrathian gods derive their power from the planes, the
Alaran gods require belief.

All of this intrigue creates a particular problem for the fortress city of Argath. The neighboring city of Erlonn, City of
Bronze, has
seized upon the confusion of the Norrathian influx to
attack. With their god weakened, the Argathians are forced to turn to
outside help. Eric took me to the entranceway to Argath, where Erlonn
occasionally launches sorties against the city. I asked Eric
if this might be the first instance of public quests in EverQuest,
he responded in the negative.  Instead, a massive invasion
from Erlonn forms the crux of the Argath raid, and Eric noted that
every zone in the expansion will host at least one raid.

One novel new system tied to questing in Veil
of Alaris
, however, is
the Alaran language.  Unlike other EverQuest
players won’t be able to teach each other the new language,
instead, learning the language is tied to questing and story
development. Players can explore every corner of Alaris, but content is
gated by language proficiency, which is an interesting twist on a
bread-and-butter EverQuest

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alt="EverQuest: Veil of Alaris preview">

Solusek Ro could ruin any
besieger’s day

Moving on, Eric took me to the Valley of Lunanyn, the bread basket of
Argath. Here, surprisingly, we found the terrifying presence of Solusek
Ro occasionally summoning fireballs to set the City of
Bronze’s encampments ablaze. Preferring a more direct
approach than Brell Serelis, Solusek Ro and his faction of Norrathian
gods have shown up to prevent the deicidal antics that began with Cazic
Thule’s downfall from spreading.

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alt="EverQuest: Veil of Alaris preview">

East Domain shows how Norrath
is starting to
cross-pollinate with Alaris

In the next area, East Domain, Eric showed off what SOE’s
artists have been up to in the latest EQ expansion. Stretching an already bargain-basement minspec
(Pentium 3 500 Mhz with 256 megs of RAM and a GeForce 2 / Radeon 7500),
they’ve mingled the visual style of Norrath with Alaris. Eric
pointed out some classic Norrathian trees with bright splashes of
ivy-like growth on them, and a raptor out with several Alaran traits
– glowing eyes and neon coloration.

Not only that, but the game looks far more visually crisp than I
remember. Of particular note was the movable UI. Eric noted that the
hotbars got another pass this expansion. Players have far more options
in customizing and resizing hotbars, plus with the Veil
of Alaris
expansion, players
can create custom cooldown timer-enabled macros with icons of their choosing.

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alt="EverQuest: Veil of Alaris preview">

The Resplendent Temple is
Alaris’s biggest visual landmark.

Pointing into the distance, Eric let me feast my eyes on the
Resplendent Temple. “The first time I saw this, I
couldn’t believe it was the same game,” he
extolled, and I couldn’t disagree. A huge, fully explorable
temple dedicated to the Alaran god of beauty, the temple features a pit
in the center into which the Alarans throw anything which
isn’t perfect or beautiful. In the depths of the pit live a
race of pig people that worship the people above for the gifts they
bestow upon them. From that dual existance comes a lot of fun content, Eric

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alt="EverQuest: Veil of Alaris preview">

The visually striking Temple
of the Sea
fills the inside of a gigantic conch shell

We skipped over the port city of Seris in order to check out the giant
conch shell turned temple in its harbor. The Temple of the Sea, called
Rubek Oseka, blended seashell glossy-walls with muscle fiber
“carpet”, a sandy, gem-laden floor, and a giant
pearl altar at its base, I’m hard pressed to recall a more
striking visual environment in any expansion from the last 5 years, let
alone 12. As Eric and I journeyed down the spiral, he explained that
the two factions of sea worshippers here have yet another language that
players must learn in order to progress through the Rubek Oseka story.

Our final stop in Alaris was the Sepulcher of Order, a
“megachurch” with temples to each of the Alaran
deities. “It was so big that we ended up having to split it
into three separate zones,” Eric explained. “Each
of the gods has a raid associated with it. Players will be spending a
lot of time here with many, many, many quests.”

In an era of shrinking raid sizes, I was glad to hear that EQ has
stayed true to its roots. I asked Eric what a typical raid comprises in
nowadays, my wood elf ranger main  long retired, and
he stated that 50+ people fighting through “a dozen or so
mechanics” (whether that means one boss or many) for around
45 minutes was common.  

The “all or nothing” (and usually nothing) nature of EQ raiding is on its
way out as well in this EQ expansion; Eric wouldn’t go into specifics but
explained that if players were really focused on getting a specific
item, they would have an alternate means of doing so through raiding. I
asked if this would be a token system similar to what we find in other
MMOs (no-drop, no-trade tokens are acquired by most if not all raid
goers, and stacks of tokens can be traded for gear), but Eric
wouldn’t comment.

For something completely different, Eric introduced me to guild
housing. Another new feature in Veil
of Alaris
. In the last EverQuest
House of Thule,
players gained the ability to enter a
neighborhood, buy a plot of land, build a house, decorate their yard
and the interior, and place any trophies they’ve acquired
inside.  Guildhalls expand on that concept with more communal
space and tools to help guilds stay organized and share resources.

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alt="EverQuest: Veil of Alaris preview">

Decorate your EQ guildhall
with concept art. It’s so… cyclical

The guild lobby is a hub of player activity. “Any time, day
or night, you’ll probably see about a hundred players milling
around in here, but this is also the gateway to the player
neighborhoods,” Eric explained. Every location has its own
unique address – a fun, neighborhood-y touch – and
inside the medium guildhall Eric created was a veritable
doll’s house of furniture and fixtures, all of which could be
purchased either in-game, through the SOE marketplace, or are available
as rewards from the Legends of Norrath digital trading card game.

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alt="EverQuest: Veil of Alaris preview">

Dinner party of 54, please.

From a feasting hall that could “seat” dozens, to a
library, to an NPC courier to send out items, to a crafting area, to a
guild teleporter so that the guild could travel as one, Eric explained
that the goal was to create a big enough space so that everyone could
participate in decorating and enjoying the space. Even better, with the
advent of guild halls, SOE can dole out guild trophies for various
guild level achievements for working through content and defeating
different bosses.

As with houses, the guild must pay upkeep for guild halls. The guild
must maintain a certain number of players to keep a guildhall of a
certain size. Other guild niceties are in the works for Veil
of Alaris
every guild can name its ranks however they like and assign individual
permission levels for the guild bank.

EverQuest: Veil of Alaris
is due out on November 15th, 2011. Thanks to
Eric Cleaver and the SOE team for showing us around!

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