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by Verant

      

What could possibly make a game with over 300,000 players even better?   You guessed it: a new expansion.  And even after the rousing success of Verant’s MMORPG Everquest and its initial expansion, the Ruins of Kurnark,  Everquest’s Scars of Velious is quite an expansion, introducing an entirely new land, Velious, to the EQ atlas. Velious was discovered by the gnomes—as every EQ player knows, the most driven explorers and tinkerers of all the races inhabiting Norrath.  Intrigued by Norrath’s oceanic ice fields, the gnomes created the mighty “Icebreaker” to cut through the icy expanses and see what lay beyond.  

What lay beyond is Velious, a new and very dangerous continent for adventurers who have already invested a good deal of time in Norrath.  The lowest level recommended for Velious is 30, but realistically you won’t stand much chance of finding glory--or group mates--at such a low level.  Those players in the low 30’s seeking fame and fortune in this new land will instead find shallow, unmarked, snow-covered graves. Of course, this may vary from server to server, but on mine it was almost impossible to find a group to join until I clawed my way into the 40's. 

The sheer size of Velious is impressive.  It adds 16 new zones (increasing the size of Norrath by 20%). The zones are themselves quite expansive and filled with new creatures, new loot, and new spells.   The new armor, weapons, and spells, are amazing and every race/class will find something to work or save towards.  The player-based economy is as strong (or weak, depending on your point of view) as ever. Even this early in the continent’s history, you can usually find someone who will sell you that special item you’re looking for--as long as you can meet their price.

There have been a number of most welcome improvements to the game interface.  There are now more keyboard commands, and you can create more then the original six hotkeys, allowing your casting/attacks to be much more fluid.  The NPC AI has also been adjusted in Velious.  In the past, if you had trouble retrieving a corpse, you could have a comrade drag your corpse out of danger to another area of the zone.  In Velious, however, a new angle comes into play.  If you have bad faction with a new mob (let’s say Ice Dragons) and you are killed with your corpse surrounded by Ice Dragons you’ll face a new obstacle.   If you call on a friend who has good faction with Ice Dragons and they try to drag your corpse away, that friend will find that the Dragons (who normally tolerate their presence) will attack as soon as he tries to drag the corpse.  Nasty.

New teleport areas called Dragon Circles—they’re similar to the old Druid Rings and Wizard Spires--are also seeded throughout Velious, and can be used by any Druid/Wizard with the appropriate spell.  Of course, there is a twist to these as well.  Before players can teleport to these rings they must first venture to the rings themselves and collect an artifact from the ring.  And this goes for the caster of the spell (Druid/Wizard) as well as those seeking to tag along. I have also noticed that Dragon Circles are not nearly as "safe" as the Druid Rings or Wizard Spires; I have rarely--if ever--been attacked immediately after gating to a ring or spire. In Velious however, attacks inside the ring are quite common, and require alert adventurers to be prepared for attack as soon as they arrive.  It’s not unusual to arrive at a circle only to find the corpses of an entire party that was caught by surprise as they arrived.

And while every EQ player has a different philosophy and style of play, let me offer a few suggestions: Velious is NOT a place where you want to simply kill every creature that you find.  Faction plays a huge role on this continent, much more so then other areas of Norrath.   If you destroy your faction with certain creatures you face hours upon hours of time to rebuild that faction so that you can venture into some areas.  It is also possible that you will not be able to rebuild your faction, which can block your access to some areas.

Graphically, the game’s looks have been tweaked and the system requirements have been bumped up a bit. The new look will be welcome for those who have updated their drivers—remember, because Everquest is always evolving via patches it requires players to keep up to date with drivers.

For some time there has been an odd kind of love/hate relationship between EQ players and Verant, but despite the complaints and rants the fact remains that Everquest is one of the most popular games around.  It is by far the most popular MMORPG on the market and with its 300,000+ active accounts it has the numbers to back up its claim as top dog.  While a host of new Online RPG’s are on the way over the next year or so, the addiction that so many players have with Everquest will not likely die down anytime soon.  Verant has really pioneered this relatively new genre of game and Norrath will probably remain the fantasy world of choice for years to come.

The biggest down side to the Velious expansion and Everquest in general is that it can consume all of your free time.  It’s quite easy to jump on the server planning to play for an hour or so, only to find that six hours have slipped by.  But that’s testament to the compelling and exciting nature of the game, one is made only richer by excellent expansions like the Scars of Velious.

Ben Moore

Snapshot

Ups: A whole new land with lots of new stuff; graphics and interface updates.

Downs: Way too addictive.

System Reqs: EQ account

 

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