EverQuest II Adventure Pack Update: The Bloodline Chronicles

SOE gives us a glimpse of the first pay-for-play update to its massively multiplayer RPG sequel.

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SAN FRANCISCO--Sony Online Entertainment is showing off the latest content update for EverQuest II amid the hubbub of the Game Developers Conference. This update, titled The Bloodline Chronicles, marks the first instance of the new "adventure pack" distribution model that the developer is trying out. For $4.99, adventurers in Norrath can currently preorder The Bloodline Chronicles and start playing in one new instanced zone immediately. But if you want to see this zone, act fast--it will disappear when the adventure pack goes live.

Even if you miss the preorder period and come late to the Bloodline Chronicles party, there will be plenty of new content to sink your teeth into--and that wasn't just a lame vampire joke. The expansion will add five new zones that have been itemized with a lot of new loot, much of which is culturally influenced in design. Furthermore, high-end artifact items will be added somewhere in the new zones, but these are sure to be highly coveted, as only one artifact will be available per server. The adventure pack will also offer some interesting game mechanics that are new to MMOs, such as destructible environments. This will only be possible within instanced areas, however; as SOE designer Mario Rizzo put it, you won't be able to show up and just follow another party's trail of rubble.

Beyond The Bloodline Chronicles, SOE has made a number of free improvements to EverQuest II and is working on several more for release in the near future. Among these are mentoring, which will let weaker players group with stronger ones to quest through high-end content; shared housing, which multiple players can access at once; and an in-game mail system that will even tie in to some quests. Rizzo gave the example that certain high-level non-player characters may send out specific quests in the mail, but only to players who've met the prerequisites. Another promising feature is the solo content path, which will let burgeoning characters level all the way up to high-level zones without ever having to group with other players.

Perhaps most exciting is an upcoming in-game event being referred to as "Rumors of the Plague," which will see Norrath's dueling rulers, Antonia Bayle and Lucan D'Lere, venturing forth to warn their respective constituencies of a coming sickness that will engulf the land. Furthermore, guides will have the ability to transform into shambling zombies and harass selected players by spawning monsters nearby. Full details on the extent of this plague weren't made available to us; presumably the company wants to keep the most severe effects a surprise for players. It sounds like SOE is committed to making the game's world events a major part of adventuring in Norrath: Rizzo told us that Rumors of the Plague and even elements of the upcoming adventure pack will be felt not just by those who purchase the optional expansions, but by all players currently playing the game.

You can take a bite (sorry) out of all this new content on March 21 when the adventure pack becomes available online.
You can take a bite (sorry) out of all this new content on March 21 when the adventure pack becomes available online.

SOE seems optimistic about EverQuest II's progress since launch--the game purportedly has around 350,000 subscribers now, with 84 percent of the players who bought the game continuing to pay the monthly fee and further their adventures. The coming release of The Bloodline Chronicles won't interfere with the company's schedule for releasing boxed expansions, because the adventure packs and expansion packs are being developed by two discrete teams. Diehard warriors of Norrath can look forward to two to four adventure packs a year, along with one to two retail expansions in the same time frame. In other words, there may be more EverQuest II content in the pipeline than you'll ever have time to experience. The Bloodline Chronicles is slated to become available online on March 21, and players can access the free preorder zone, the D'morte Burial Chambers, right now. Stay tuned for more details on EverQuest II's evolution in the coming months.

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