EverQuest II continues to expand the world of Norrath for its faithful patrons, and Kingdom of Sky certainly opens up a whole lot of content for high-level players. An increased level cap and new zones, dungeons, and quests gives current end-game players new stuff to explore, while the achievement system and the all-new player-versus-player server lets others get in on the ground floor. There are a few kinks to be ironed out here and there, and there's not much available to brand-new players, but this is an otherwise substantive addition to the rich EverQuest II world.
The "Kingdom of Sky" moniker is evocative of the new high-level (and highly lofted) world zones added to the game, consisting of island clusters floating over the existing land. The islands are fragmented into three major areas: the Tenebrous Tangle, the Bonemire, and the Barren Sky. Each zone is comprised of multiple floating islands to explore, and you can briskly hop from isle to isle via some helpful magical clouds. Getting to the Overrealm can pose a bit of a challenge in and of itself; you can only teleport skyward from a handful of spires scattered around Norrath, and you'll have to travel to these spires on foot at least part of the way. The existing flight systems won't get you directly to a spire. Once you reach a spire, there's a wait of up to five minutes for the portal to activate--which stinks if you arrive just after a port went off--and then you can kick off your adventures.
The monsters that live at these altitudes take advantage of the new level range all the way to 70, so only the most advanced characters and groups can ply their skills here. For all the challenging creatures and quests awaiting you on the floating isles, though, it's still possible to take on monsters and other content solo, if you're careful about where and when you pick your fights. While adventuring in Norrath will likely always put an emphasis on group play (and raiding, to a certain extent), it's nice to see that you can still hoof around on your own without too much trouble. In addition to higher levels and better gear, the new achievement system helps make this a little easier, as well.
Achievements hearken back to the original EverQuest's alternate advancement (AA) system and are essentially new abilities each class can learn to further focus and augment their power. Characters start earning achievement points at level 20, gathering achievement experience for everything from exploring new areas to discovering rare treasures to completing certain quests. Earned achievement experience translates into points that you can then spend in a branched talent system for new powers. You're capped at 50 achievement points total, so you have to carefully pick and choose where you assign your hard-earned skills. If you make a mistake, you can reset your achievements, but it'll quickly cost you lots of coin, so eventually you'll need to make your choices count. By and large, achievements represent useful character empowerments, though depending on your character class, some of the achievement powers may need some tweaks in future updates. Characters near the level ceiling have a slight handicap compared to characters lower in level, in that achievement points aren't grandfathered in. You have the option of roaming the world to get credit for "discovering" areas, as well as having your experience convert to achievement experience once you hit the level cap, though it remains to be seen how efficient this system will turn out to be.
A big addition this time around is player-versus-player combat. If you've been itching to battle your Qeynosian or Freeportian foes, Kingdom of Sky fulfills your wish, opening up several new servers that enable world PVP. You'll have to reroll if you want to participate in the stabbing, though; existing servers are being left as they are. While you're fairly safe for the first few levels spent hopping around your home city, once you start to venture out into the larger world you're pretty much fair game. Initially, there's a level-range limit on who can attack whom (a spread of eight levels is the maximum at the low end), working up to a complete lack of restriction in the highest level zones.
Much like alliance versus horde interactions in World of Warcraft, opposite factions in EQ2 cannot interact with each other on PVP servers in any way--they can't understand each other's language, group, trade items, and so on. What they can do is nuke the living daylights out of each other, and players on the combative servers do this with gusto. Killing a player lets you loot a certain amount of their coin and has a chance of letting you loot one of their lesser-quality items, so murderous activity serves as fun and profit. An interesting twist is that kills are rated as honorable, neutral, or dishonorable, depending on your enemy's health when you first engaged them, so you won't be able to rack up rewards by, say, sneaking up on a person at 10 percent health after they've fought a badger and finishing them off.
One downside is that the PVP servers are currently incompatible with EverQuest II's popular mentoring system, so those wishing to quest with friends of differing levels are going to find themselves stymied. Still, these servers are the obvious choice for those who relish the excitement of duking it out with other players and the dangers of questing in such an environment. There's a lot of looking over your shoulder, tracking and scouting, and even players shouting out the position of enemy units as you travel around, and it definitely adds another layer into the EverQuest II experience. The classes are fairly well balanced for PVP, as well--some character abilities behave differently in PVP than they do against monsters, which lets some skills that would be "overpowered" against players be toned down without being neutered across the board.
For PVP fans on the normal servers, the game's PVP arenas also got a minor upgrade in the expansion via some new arenas and new selectable champions, including one hailing from the avian race. There are plenty of other content additions as well, such as various types of new armor and a number of new quest series for players to undertake, including the involved heritage quests. Some of these quest lines necessitate killing powerful monsters, and certain others require very high levels of crafting skill, so heritage quests can be tricky for some players to complete. They're a nice compliment to the substantial existing quest content, though.
Visually, the new realms in Kingdom of Sky are pleasing in a surrealist, "oh look, that chunk of continent is suspended impossibly in midair" way, with each of the three zones having their own distinct character. The Tenebrous Tangle is covered in ruins and swathed in vegetation, while the Bonemire has a rocky, alien look to it, and each zone has a good assortment of powerful enemies to cut down. The islands themselves vary a bit in size but are fairly small, so you can explore a given area relatively quickly. That they're so small means that there's not a lot of variation within a given island chain, so you'll get used to seeing lots of repeating elements. The avian races and creatures are well made, though there's not the kind of comprehensive voice work that there is in other areas of the game. The music for the new areas doesn't do anything radically new, but as a backdrop to ceaseless monster slaughter, it does just fine.
EverQuest II: Kingdom of Sky is mostly a great content addition for those who are already at a high level, but the additions pass over newbies for the most part. If you've been holding off on EverQuest II because of a lack of player-versus-player interaction, though, the new PVP servers provide fertile ground for lots of combat so long as you can do without mentoring. If you're an EverQuest II faithful with an established character and have been looking for some new challenges to meet, zones to explore, and quests to plot out, Kingdom of Sky should scratch your itch quite nicely.