EQII: Rise of Kunark Beta Tour Recap

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Earlier today I got the chance to join in on a quick beta tour for the upcoming EverQuest II expansion pack, Rise of Kunark. Guided by Sony Online Entertainment’s Sr. Community Relations Manager, Craig Dalrymple (aka Grimwell), myself and a small band of other journalists were buffed up, death-proofed and taken on a trip through some of the vast and dangerous zones the new continent has to offer, accidentally training a zone or two and discovering a few hidden areas and bosses we probably weren’t supposed to see along the way (and thusly I’m forbidden to talk about those moments here).

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The tour began with a quick stint in the Timorous Deep, the starting area for the new dragon-like Sarnak player race. Timorous Deep is quite a large zone consisting of several islands to explore, with quests and content designed to get adventurers learning the history and lore of the Sarnak race from level 1 to 20. Not much time was spent in TD, as it was basically the starting point to get everyone organized, but during the setup process we were provided with a general overview of the main bullet points for the expansion, to get things started. During this time, one key point that I wasn’t fully aware of before stood out: unlike the last expansion (Echoes of Faydwer) Rise of Kunark will have no mid-level content. Once reaching level 20 in TD, you’ll have to move on to other parts of the world for quite a while, as the remainder of the expansion has been built for players level 65 and up.

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After everyone was brought up to speed and organized into a raid group, the tour moved on to quick visits into six major zones: Kylong Plains, the starting area players first come to at 65 to begin their higher level Kunark adventures; Karnor’s Castle, a dungeon zone only a short walk away from the Kylong docks that long-time Norrathians will surely remember from EQ1, though now in EQII it has become a Drolvarg stronghold; Kunzar Jungle, a vast region teeming with Iskar; Sebilis, a multi-group dungeon that was once the Iskar capital before being taken over by Trakanon and the frogloks, before then being reclaimed for the Iskar empire by Venril; Jarsath Wastes, a barren wasteland torn apart over centuries of war between dragons and the Iskar; and finally Veeshan’s Peak, a massive and treacherous three-path instanced raid zone filled with the deadliest creatures in the game (no joke, the first mob I saw was 84 Epic x 4).

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Throughout each of these zones, the larger sense of scale in the environments was immediately apparent. Especially the overland areas which, as we were informed, have been made more wide open with no more zone lines to slow things down (except when entering dungeons and so on). Instead, the overland zones feature immersive shifts in atmosphere as you seamlessly move from one major area to the next. The dungeons are massive too, led by Veeshan’s Peak, which we were told is running on the same persistent technology that was recently added to the Estate of Unrest, meaning raid groups can move through the instance in stages over the course of days rather than being forced into one-sitting marathon play sessions.

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Overall, the short tour trek through Kunark and my own solo beta adventures have left me itching to see what all the expansion will offer when it launches on November 13th. The dev team has done a superb job with the zone designs — keeping them familiar in style to their former incarnations in the original EQ while at the same time updating to the timeline of EQII — and the noticeably increased focus on factions should provide an exciting new dynamic to the existing game.

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Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!