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EverQuest: The Scars of Velious Preview

After visiting the Verant offices, we're back with a slew of new details about this expansion.

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Two years after its release, the online massively multiplayer role-playing game EverQuest continues to be a huge success. Just last month, the developers at Verant celebrated a new high of more than 67,000 players online in one day. Tens of thousands of people continue to flock to the fantasy world of Norrath and pitch - almost permanent - camp. The secret to the success of this game, aside from the cracklike addiction factor, is that Verant continues to support the game, with subtle gameplay tweaks in ongoing patches and in the form of expansion packs. The Ruins of Kunark, the last expansion, which debuted at the beginning of this year, introduced a new continent and a new player race in addition to many new monsters and items. The expansion sold even better than the original game, proving that EverQuest was still as hot as ever.

The continent of Velious is a frozen continent with harsh new dangers.
The continent of Velious is a frozen continent with harsh new dangers.

Ruins of Kunark, though, was an expansion pack that was aimed at new users, as it offered a new continent and new experiences that were available to all players, regardless of skill level. Verant, mindful of the success of the first expansion pack, is hard at work now on a second expansion. It's called Scars of Velious and, unlike the first one, is geared exclusively to high-level players. Scars of Velious will have 16 or 17 new zones, and the most accessible one (that is, the zone with the lowest level minimum for adventurers) is designed for characters at levels 30 to 35. The rest of the frozen continent of Velious is even tougher and will require that you be 40th level and above. Some areas are so tough that even level-60 characters will be hard pressed to wander through without incident.

The dragon motif, such as this one of a teleport circle, is found throughout Velious.
The dragon motif, such as this one of a teleport circle, is found throughout Velious.

The new expansion, Scars of Velious, is set for a December 2000 release date. At this time, nearly all of the game's 16 new zones are well into development; most are actually finished and are in the process of being populated. Many of the monsters and NPCs are also finished, and during our most recent visit to Verant we saw many of them in action in the gameworld of Velious itself.

In Velious, the laundry list of new features is quite extensive. Although there will be no new character races, the expansion offers more than a dozen new zones, dozens of new monsters, and hundreds of new items. Unlike Kunark, Velious will be a true expansion that will retail by itself and will require a full copy of EverQuest to run. Verant expects to sell the pack at $19.95 when it ships in early December. In this preview, we'll take a look at some of the new zones and cities, new monsters, and new items. Let's start with the locales you'll be visiting in the new expansion.

New Places to See

Velium, a rock-hard ice, is used on Velious to make everything from weapons to beer kegs.
Velium, a rock-hard ice, is used on Velious to make everything from weapons to beer kegs.

Legend has it that the goddess of dragons, Veeshan, created the Scars of Velious when she clawed the surface of the world and left huge scathing claw marks on the continent of Velious. Each scar became a huge and altered environment that was transformed through Veeshan's ferocity. When Veeshan breathed upon Velious, her breath became the frosty, rock-hard icelike substance called velium that turned the continent cold; the inhabitants use velium to forge weapons and tools. Veeshan's children, the dragons, came to nest in Velious, but their peaceful tenure there was short lived. The giants, the children of the god of war, Rallos Zek, soon descended on Velious and built a mighty city in the Scars of Velious, which were, up to this point, the sacred lands of the dragons. Soon, the children of Veeshan battled the children of Rallos Zek for the right to live in this holy land of dragons. A third race that came to call Velious home were the Coldain dwarves, who brought unending war against the giants of Velious. The frozen continent soon became a war zone, divided between the dwarves and giants, with the dragons entering the war at times to mete out punishment to the audacious giants. Here are some of the areas of Velious that are noteworthy either because of their role in the dwarf-giant-dragon conflict or because of the mark left on them by Veeshan's claws.

Great Divide: The Great Divide is the Mason-Dixon line of Velious, which cuts the continent in half between the dwarf and giant camps. The demarcation line is a river that cuts through the area of the Great Divide and flows under a giant mountain. This zone will have the most minidungeons of any zone, so adventurers can explore dungeon areas without having to zone to new areas. Many ice gnolls, yakmen, and wurms, dire wolves, and more roam this zone, which connects to the Coldain dwarves' city of Thurgadin.

Western Wastes: This is by far the expansion pack's most dangerous zone. Here, there are dragons. Whereas previously you would only see dragons in lairs, in the Western Wastes, you'll see numerous wandering dragons dotting the land. Here, dragons are as numerous as ordinary creatures in other zones, which means even a level-60 party will be in danger while walking through this zone. Nests of dragon eggs and strange monuments erected in Veeshan's honor populate this land. Dragons and their minions, such as skyfire wyrms and wyverns, roam the land.

Wakening Land: While the rest of Velious is sheathed in velium and ice, one lone area in the continent goes against the grain. When Veeshan clawed the planet, the largest scar she created dug a giant hole in the earth, which opened a rift to a volcano. The heat created a vast and lush jungle that sits in the middle of the otherwise icy continent. The monsters here are flying monkeys, satyr-like faun, jungle raptors, and other tropical creatures, although Verant says that even the jungle itself has a life of its own.

Planes of Mischief and Growth: The Planes are alternate dimensions that high-level adventurers can travel to in the world of Norrath. The expansion will introduce two new Planes to the game, the Planes of Mischief and Growth. Unlike the older Planes, which are evilly aligned, the Plane of Mischief is chaotic in temperament and is not evil. The Mischief Plane is accessible through a dollhouse-sized castle located in a treasure pile in either a giant's or dragon's lair. There is even a possibility that the location of the castle will be random and thus spawn at different locations. The goddess of nature rules the Plane of Growth, and it is a good-aligned Plane. It will probably be accessible via a portal in the Wakening Land.

The Cities of Velious

This bridge encased in Velium ice is the only way into the dwarven city of Thurgadin.
This bridge encased in Velium ice is the only way into the dwarven city of Thurgadin.

Thurgadin: This is the Coldain city, one of three cities on Velious. The dwarves, fearful of the giants' strength, have retreated to this home under the mountains. Velium is a much-used resource here, and you'll see the dwarves putting it to good use in this city. A hall of heroes in the city has statues of dwarf heroes carved out of transparent velium, kegs of see-through velium are used to store ale in local taverns, and the bridge linking Thurgardin to the outside is built on two sheets of velium. The velium can be shattered with great ice pikes in the event of an invasion to seal the city from outside conquest. Thurgadin is also a mining city, and so in various parts of the city you will see mining cars, complete with lights, moving across tracks. You will soon come to realize that the races of Velious have never had contact with outsiders, so the dwarves have never seen humans, elves, ogres, or any other of the sentient races from beyond. Thus, the dimensions of Thurgadin are decidedly dwarven, and the structures have very low ceilings. Most curiously, an entire dungeon area lies underneath Thurgadin, and those who anger the king of the Coldain will find themselves thrown into the dungeon to fend for themselves against such enemies as yeti and Coldain bandits.

Kael Drakkel: This is the home of the storm giants of Velious and the source of the dragons' collective ire. Unlike the oversized Neanderthals in the rest of Norrath, the giants of Velious are intelligent and sophisticated. When the other giants invaded the Plane of Earth and were cursed with stupidity and barbarism, the most cherished children of Rallos Zek escaped the curse and fled to Velious. Here, they became the frost and storm giants and built their own civilized city right on top of dragon holy land. The storm giants are the masters of the city of Kael Drakkel, while the frost giants serve them as mercenaries and live within the city as well as in camps in the surrounding area. Everything here is to giant proportions, and you should feel dwarfed in the vast reaches of this massive city. The most interesting feature of the city is the arena, where great battles are held for the giants' amusement. A giant statue of Rallos Zek presides over the arena, and any nongiants who come into the city will be immediately attacked by the statue. And if some fortunate adventurers should prevail against the statue, then the avatar of Rallos Zek himself will come to punish the foolish adventurers. Even worshipers of Rallos Zek will not be immune to the wrath of the giants.

Dragon City: There is a third city in Velious, called Skyshrine, and it belongs to the dragons. Dragons live here and will trade with and speak to you if you are in good standing with them. Skyshrine is located on the western tip of the Great Scar inb Velious, near the Wakening Land. The city itself is made up of great towers connected by bridges. Everything here is to dragon proportions, except for the entrance, which was built to accommodate the dragons' servants.

Temple of Veeshan: This is the sacred temple dedicated to the Crystalline dragon, Veeshan. It will be the most remote adventure area and will be located in the westernmost scar. Here, dragons and their minions pay tribute to their goddess.

Factions of Velious

This nest of eggs gives a clue to the nature of Velious' most dangerous rulers: dragons.
This nest of eggs gives a clue to the nature of Velious' most dangerous rulers: dragons.

The three main factions of Velious are the storm giants, the dragons, and the Coldain dwarves. These are also the most civilized nations of the new continent, and you'll have to be in good standing with at least one of them if you want to be able to trade in Velious. Of course, earning the respect of one will probably mean earning the enmity of the others. Let's go over the major factions of Velious.

Dragons: The dragons are the most impressive denizens of Velious. In addition to the variety encountered in the other continents of Norrath, there are several new dragon types making their debut in this expansion. During our visit to Verant, we saw sketches for a new clockwork dragon that looks like it's composed of various springs, welded metal, and clockwork devices. Another dragon had a pushed-in face, large horns, and jutting fangs, and it was dubbed the "mean dragon." Unlike in other areas of Norrath, in Velious the dragons will roam the outdoors in great numbers. There is also a city of dragons where you can trade with these giant reptiles and even take quests from them. The dragons are at war with the giants and are neutral toward the dwarves. If you hope to get in good standing with the dragons, you will have to fight the giants. The dragons' initial reaction to you will be based on your dealings with dragons in the past. Although the dragons of Velious are not affiliated with the other dragons, they know how you have dealt with their cousins and will act accordingly. That means most high-level parties who have gone on dragon hunts will not be welcome as far as the children of Veeshan are concerned.

Evil storm giants are at war with the dragons on Velious.
Evil storm giants are at war with the dragons on Velious.

Giants: The giants are the second portion of the three-part conflict of Velious. These giants - the storm and frost variety - are civilized creatures that are far superior to their cousins. The storm giants are as smart as, if not smarter than, humans, and they count warriors and casters among their ranks. They are massive beings; four times the height of humans, storm giants wear metal armor and helmets. Frost giants, who serve their storm-giant masters as mercenaries, also boast warriors and casters. These giants wear antler-studded helmets. The giant faction is opposed to both the dragons and dwarves, and it will start off hostile to all visitors. To gain their respect, you'll have to attack the dragons and dwarves.

Coldain Dwarfs: The Coldain are the enemies of the giants and are neutral to the dragons. These dwarves live in the city of Thurgadin and are neutral good. They are apprehensive to most folk; however, because they are completely ignorant of the social customs and animosities of the other races, they are equally kind to ogres and elves. They will sell and give quests to both good and evil races. Battling giants can increase your standing among the Coldain.

Although these three races are the major powers of Velious, they are only a few of the many races that populate the continent. Other sentient races, including numerous anthropomorphic creatures, also call Velious home, and they are willing to deal with you.

Velious Bestiary

Cavebear
Cavebear

Velious is home to dozens of new monsters. Some of them are cold-weather varieties of old EverQuest favorites, while others are entirely new. Among some of the old monsters that have adapted to this clime are snow kobolds, snow orcs, ice gnolls, and ice centaurs.

There are also numerous animalmen that live in Velious, and many are sentient and sophisticated creatures that live in loose camps. There are the possummen who are cousins to the Burynai of Kunark. There are walrusmen, ottermen, yakmen, and even manateemen and elephant sealmen. These creatures look like crosses between their respective animals and humans, and all are visually appealing with great animations. When the elephant sealman attacks, for instance, his trunklike snout flops around, and the manateeman looks as sad and innocent as the real animal. Many of these animalmen, such as the walrusmen, are intelligent, and they will offer you quests.

A new dragon type?
A new dragon type?

Another sentient race is the sirens - beautiful, blue-skinned aquatic females who dwell in the Siren's Grotto, which is in the Cobalt Scar in the south of Velious. The Cobalt Scar was a gouge in the earth created by Veeshan's smallest claw, and when she tore into that part of the world, it filled with water, which created this underwater area. The sirens are also capable of offering quests.

In addition to these creatures, there are the fauns, which have the hindquarters of a stag and the upper body of a man. Those who have preyed on too many bears will find a ready enemy in the Velious cave bear, which looks like a bear-headed giant with great claws. It is a huge beast standing 15 feet tall and is about 40th level. Another terror is a new creature called the manticore, which has a lion's body and a scorpion's tail.

Walrusman
Walrusman

In the jungle of the Wakening Land, the lone nonarctic area of Velious, there will be tropical creatures, including jungle raptors and flying monkeys.

Many of these creatures are much more detailed and better looking than the other monsters of EverQuest. In fact, a typical player-character model has around 400 polygons, while the typical monster in Velious has three times as many polygons.

Final Thoughts

You'll find new types of armor and items on Velious.
You'll find new types of armor and items on Velious.

The most outstanding new features are the new cities, zones, and monsters, but the other new features will also be welcome to EverQuest fans. There are going to be 156 new armor textures, six for every race and gender. There will be two new sets of leather, two new sets of chain, and two new sets of plate (or other heavy armor, such as scale, for races such as the Iksar). The first set will be available at around level 35, and the second set will be available for characters around level 55. In all cases, the armor will be very ornate and bejeweled. Some of the new helmets, for example, contain 400 polygons, and they are thus highly detailed. In addition, there will be more weapons and items with particle effects. The fiery avenger, for example, gets an upgraded version in Velious called the fiery defender, and its steel blade is replaced with one made entirely of flame. And yes, the velium items you find on Velious will melt if you take them off the continent. However, Jeff Butler, producer of Velious, says that at least 80 percent of the really cool new items will not be made of velium, so you will be able to take them with you wherever you go. He says that the point of the velium element isn't to restrict people's access to the new items of Velious but simply to add a unique flavor to the new continent. Also, the dialogue of the dwarves, giants, and other Velious natives will reflect that they have never seen such people as the new adventurers, which adds to the sense that this is a virgin continent that has never been spoiled by the outside.

There is no new level limit in this expansion pack, as there is in Kunark, but there are other changes. There will be a new interface, which will incorporate some of the changes already made in the most recent patch. In addition to the movable and sizable windows, Verant wants to make other changes so that you can completely customize the interface to your preferences. Butler was hesitant to reveal any more about the interface, but that is because those changes are still under discussion. He did say, though, that the theme of the new interface will be to make it smooth, polished, and configurable.

What we saw of the expansion pack looked great and made us excited again about adventuring in Norrath. The new zones look fantastic, with plenty of enormous and strange architecture as well as lots of new monsters to fight and interact with. The thought of experiencing vast cities of giants and dragons is also exciting, and Verant seems committed to making the experience as memorable as possible. We'll see more of the expansion pack in the coming months and will bring you updates then. In the meantime, if you haven't already done so, it might be time to make sure all your characters are high level, so you can experience the new adventures waiting in the Scars of Velious.

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