EverQuest II Game Update 63:Skyshrine Preview
EverQuest II continues to stay strong and things have only been looking up with the fairly recent conversion to Sony's free-to-play model. This week the game will be unloading its 63rd update on the masses with Skyshrine. So what do players have to look forward to with the upcoming update? We recently took part in a tour of the new area and got some info on what to expect.
GU 63 - aka Skyshrine - is mostly a content expansion, as it's not very feature heavy like some in the past. Primarily Skyshrine supports the second part of the Velious story, but there is some for the Age of Discovery expansion as well. The developers have raised the level cap up to 92 and that applies to both adventurer levels and trade skillers too. There will be a few raids, but one thing the team really wanted to do with Skyshrine was make it primarily a normal challenge and solo update, where the most you might need for the bulk of the content is a small group of friends, mercs, or a mixture of the two. The reason for this is because in the past there were quite often high-end zones that were limited to raiders only or at least to those high-end heroic groups. The team decided to open this update up so you can experience the entire story of Skyshrine as a solo player if you so choose. As said though, there will be some raid areas, so the end content will be accessible to heroic groups, raiders, and there is some cool stuff the team is doing in the game that's not been done before, like really scripted immersive story events. One example that was given to us has the dragons talking to each other and being at war - an event that will ultimately hopefully catch-on with the community and these instances.
To get to post 92 levels you'll have to get to 280 AA and with that the team has also recalculated the experience curve required to get to 280 AA, so when most people login to access the content they'll find they have a number of extra points with them; based on player data the team doesn't think 280 will be a number that's too hard for most players to reach. The game will be building on this foundation as one of the biggest problems the team has had is finding what "power" means at level 90. Being able to develop content that's meaningful for a level 90 with 50-60 AA versus a level 90 with a full compliment of AA with all the expansions is what they're working on and now they'll be able to focus on awesome content for everyone post 90.
The update will also include prestige traits, 100s of quests, new trade skill quests and items, a new drake mount, new creatures for Beastlords to tame, three quested mercenaries, one elite mercenary, a new dungeon maker map, and new dungeon maker adventurers that have a new play style in the sense that using smaller abilities will build-up power so that they can use higher level abilities (more variety being what the team is going for).
When players first entered Velious it was to find that the area was divided by a large glacial wall and they weren't quite sure how it got there or how it happened, but you'll find out in this update. Players were sent to release some children - the demi gods that were imprisoned - so the God of War could draw from their power into the normal plane. As the player went and released those children, the children then asked for the player to help in overthrowing the God of War himself and through that storyline help them overthrow and kill the God of War. Now players are unified under one banner that happened on the live servers where a new faction was created called the Combine - basically the six city factions have combined into one united force because if they didn't they wouldn't be powerful enough.
The adventure of the new update will start in the Withered Lands, which is a zone primarily to be soloed or advanced soloed (small group of friends and/or mercs) and there are over 100 quests for you to do in this area. The Withered Lands - through unknown forces - have become corrupted and you'll learn about this as you go. Giant black and purple wolves. Trees with thorns and purple corrupted veins running through them. Giants that feature roots for limbs. Creatures that look like evil versions of the flying monkeys from The Wizard of Oz. New, weird plants that you can also acquire for your house. Bubbling swamps where some bubbles are really monsters waiting to pounce, such as a marsh fiend who is a goopy mess that comes to life. There are also giant flying beetle creatures as well scattered throughout the zone. Another interesting thing is rain, which the developers now have control over and can affect any area they wish when desired. For instance, in the Withered Lands, whenever it rains it's because of a storm dragon flying overhead. As the story progresses, you'll eventually be able to influence the weather and clean things up a bit. The ultimate goal of the Combine is to get to the Skyshrine by going through this zone and destroying Honvar the Earthcrasher who stands guard as a sentinel; he's a very difficult creature to kill and will require two full groups in order to take him down.
After you make it through the Withered Lands you're on your way to Skyshrine, where there are actually two versions of the same city that you'll interact with - one is a current, in-battle version and the other is a historic version that will become a functioning city anyone can go into during the quest line and afterwards. An attack is in progress as your first introduction to Skyshrine as the city is under siege by the enemy; this version of the city will act as a playground of sorts, which will always be in a state of continuous battle so the player can jump in whenever they wish. One of my favorite creatures in this area is a special golem that when attacked can fall apart and form again into new creatures.
The central story is a two-part one when it comes to Skyshrine. First of all the question that needs to be answered is how such a fortified city could find itself open to attack, so you'll go back in time a few days before the actual fighting began so that you can discover the reason for yourself. The city's patrons aren't too fond of you, so you'll take-on a draconic illusion in order to blend and move freely through the city. One of the people that will help you most during this time is Lendiniara, a dragon prophet who can see into the future; she has warned her people of the coming threat, but they pay her no attention, so she requests your aid as an adventurer since she fully believes your story about being from the future. I loved the style of Lendiniara as she's poised ever so delicately and has a beautiful drape covering her eyes.
The second issue comes from one NPC in particular who is an apprentice chronomage, who will tell you about how all the dragon masters are gone from the area, disappeared, and the apprentices have no idea where they are, so part of your task when you go back in time is to find where their masters are and later in the quest line there's an event in Lower Skyshrine where you will discover the masters and the end of the story.
A new raid/quest area will show at a certain point as well in Skyshrine where you'll be allowed to take on the dragon Vyskudra, who is one of the dragon ancients. She's been given a bit more depth in her story since EQ1, as back then all you could do was kill her and that was it.
Having just picked EverQuest II up for myself recently, I'm excited to experience all of this content, and yet I know it's going to be a long time before that happens and that simply kills me (I'm not even through the single digit levels yet). I've taken part in a lot of EverQuest II tours and interviews and I'm always astounded by how the team can keep fleshing the world out and adding so much content each and every time they go and produce something such as GU 63 - Skyshrine.
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