At long last EQ vets get to relive the icy joys of Velious
One thing players who may be returning to EQ2 after a hiatus will notice is the change to the way stat points work. Fighters (zerkers, guards, etc.) only benefit from str & sta. Scouts on the other hand receive no benefit from str, and rely on agi & sta. Mages rely on int & sta, and so forth. While this makes stat managing easier, it bothers me a bit that there are still so many older items, including fabled, legendary and even mythical, that have not yet received a stat facelift to correspond with these changes, leaving you with some SK or zerker only gear with +wis or +int on it, which is completely useless at this point. It could have +1000000 int and would not make a lick of difference to your class. Hopefully in time the devs will address the stats on some of the older items for those of us who still play alts who have not yet reached the level 85+ mark, but this is still a minor inconvenience since leveling has become so abundantly easy these days that rushing an alt to 90 and then mentoring via the npc chronomage to visit zones you may have missed is completely feasible. For a better idea on the new gear and the huge amount of stat boots they offer you can check lootdb.com.
Getting back to Velious though, the one word that comes to mind almost a month after it's release is simply, fun. I've written reviews for other installments in the series, such as The Fallen Dynasty, and The Shadow Odyssey, and though I did stick with the game and play through the content previous installments have brought to the table, I wasn't having too much fun. Zones in the previous expansions just seemed to be rather rushed and more of the same in regards to questing and enemies, except they'd splash a different color on a mob and call it something different, but it was essentially the same thing. That's not to say Velious has 100% new enemies to fight. You will still be fighting plenty of orcs, this time belonging to the Ry'gorr clan. You will also fight wolves, mammoths, and cougars, all found in other cold zones like Everfrost. However, there are also some new mob's to do battle with, as well as new character models for already known races, such as the giants.
While the core of your time will be spent questing in the two large public zones, The Great Divide and Eastern Wastes, there are also a lot of new group and raid zones too. I've not yet done much in regards to the new raid zones, but I can say that the loot coming out of these zones is just amazing, and maybe even too amazing. My SK has added about 7k to his health bar with his new gear, and I'm not even wearing the best of the best yet. As in previous expansions, raid mobs and some group mobs are more than just drawn out hack n slash affairs. There is often something 'special' to each fight that must be done in order to assure victory. While this is something players who raid have come to expect now, know that you can also go back to some slightly older group zones, such as the 'newer' Miragul's Phylactery instances and just burn through the previously difficult mobs with a group of 4 or 5 and barely get a scratch. This also means that the difficulty level of named mobs in new instances has been upped a bit, and though I haven't exactly counted, it seems that named mobs have a lot more health than they used to, but I'm not one to really take notice of things like total hp and parse and all that stuff. I just play.
Another fun addition worth mentioning is the long awaited flying mount. I was a bit skeptical about this, as it could either have been really good or really bad. Thankfully the control of the mount, (which btw is available to end game 90 players) is pretty solid, and soaring up and around Norrath is as enjoyable as I had hoped it would be. Older zones seem to have an invisible ceiling, as they were not designed for players to be taking to the sky, but you can still fly safely over ravines and other potentially fatal drops, and when soaring over Velious, you can practically touch the clouds. Anyone who has played the underrated SOE EQ sister game Vanguard will understand the concept of how the flying mounts will control. One tap on the space bar makes you air born, and holding it will increase your elevation. It also improves your speed in the air by 150% so getting around from A to B has never been easier. This mount is acquired via a quest given from a claim item when you purchase Velious.
Players who are not yet level 90 can still get a chilly taste of life with the Coldain by visiting the city of Halas, which offers new player housing that is awesome, especially for the price. No longer are players forced to live in the cheap shacks of Freeport, as even the new player can afford refuge in large houses in Halas or Neriak. A new playable race has also been added; the Freeblood, a vampire race which is able to walk in the daylight, and who's appearance is someone similar to that of a high elf, except with a more vampire-ish aesthetic. Due to recent server mergers, my warlock had an X put onto the end of his name, and so I was able to change his name free of charge, at which point he also made the change from half elf to Freeblood. Doing so also granted me access to the Freeblood mansion, a somewhat Mistmoore-esque living space accessed (for me) via South Freeport. It's nothing too game altering, but if you enjoy decorating your house interior then you will have fun with this manor.
I believe that about covers the majority of what to expect with this expansion. There are of course, many new quests, both heroic and solo, plus a few new heritage quests, which always provide an extra ounce of fun for long time EverQuest players who have been in and out of Norrath since the first days back in 1999. I'm sure a lot of younger or newer players on the MMO scene who were probably 4 years old back when the first Velious was released will have a lot of negative things to say about this expansion, and about EQ2 as a whole. I realize that we're living in a WoW orientated PvP hungry generation, but for those who don't subscribe to that nonsense and have and probably always will have a piece of their gaming heart beating in Norrath, the cold winds of Velious will probably warm it up again, and I would invite those players who, like me, were completely turned off with the release of Sentinel's Fate, to give Destiny of Velious a chance and remind yourself of why you loved to play this game in the first place.