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EverQuest: The Scars of Velious Impressions

Here are some early thoughts on the final version of Verant's high-level expansion pack.


It seemed that the release of the EverQuest: The Scars of Velious expansion was more subdued than the release of The Ruins of Kunark earlier this year. The newly discovered continent of Velious remained mysterious until intrepid adventurers started swarming the frozen land this week. The continent contains 19 zones in all. We played on the test server during the beta phase, but at the time of our first hands-on impressions article, players were restricted from many of the zones, as the developer had not finished certain artwork and had not populated the zones with NPCs and monsters. However, right after the expansion was released and the live servers were patched, we were able to join many other players on their voyage to Velious.

Anyone with the expansion installed will notice a few changes. The splash screen has been updated with a new depiction of Firiona Vie and scenes from Velious. The graphics haven't really changed from those in the test server demos - on the live servers, trees sway, snow falls, and the NPC models such as frost giants and Coldain dwarves have more detail than old-world inhabitants. The full-screen interface has been enhanced, though. Now, you can turn off unneeded windows and even set individual window transparency colors. The most obvious change is the addition of a transparent inventory window in full-screen mode; there's even a new autoequip slot where you drop an item you want to equip, and it goes automatically to its slot in your inventory. One of the smallest additions to the interface is a new macroview bar, indicated by a blue line, which is overlaid on the regular experience bar. This macroview bar indicates experience gained per bubble so you can see how you're progressing in each bubble of experience. The new armor textures we've seen look very nice, but it seems that those who don't have the Velious expansion installed are unable to see them.

Aside from the immediately noticeable graphical enhancements, we were pretty surprised by the gameplay on Velious. Porting in (that is, not taking the gnomish icebreaker vessel) deposited us in a dragon ring, a circular enclosure that partially protects you from monsters, although monsters can occasionally hit you through the wall. The monsters on Velious definitely hit faster and harder than monsters on Kunark, which, in turn, hit faster and harder than monsters on the original continents in Norrath. Even the relatively weak monsters in Velious have more health points and a noticeable increase in resistance to magic, and they sure like to hit several times in a row. And with uncharted territories stretched out in these huge zones, we've seen plenty of corpses dotting the landscape. Dragon rings are one of the other changes that you will need to get used to - you must find a soulbound tooth that spawns at a ring to be able to teleport back to that ring. Hopefully, you'll get this item before you are killed by a trap as you venture onward.

Velious, as expected, feels like a very, very challenging continent overall. A lot of deaths have occurred due to players' unfamiliarity with new territory, but many high-level player characters over 50 have reported that new dungeons are packed with monsters nearing 60, and a few players at level 60 have reported wandering monsters at least three levels above them that are too dangerous for them to attack. There is much more to explore at this point, in addition to new quests and enhanced trade skills.

Stay tuned for our comprehensive review coming this Tuesday.

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