This is it. This is the one I've been waiting for. Ever since EverQuest II went live, my single biggest disappointment was that the continent of Faydwer wasn't included. Seeing as how the first year of my three-year EverQuest sojourn was spent in these particular lands, I have a pretty deep sense of nostalgia driving my interest in what may have happened in the 500-year interim between the two games. With the third expansion for EQ2 due to be released this November, Sony Online Entertainment aims to finally satisfy those of us who yearn to return to the Faydark. Best of all, Echoes of Faydwer is more than just a nod to the old days, it's stuffed full of new features, too.
First up, we have a brand-new race, the Fae. I remember beating up on these things with my Dark Elf for fun. They're arguably the most visually stunning of the playable characters, if only because their wings are so vibrant and shiny. They're extra-tiny, which makes the whole world seem awfully huge and also provides the illusion that you're travelling really quickly whenever you run around. The Fae have stepped in as wards of the Greater Faydark, taking over from the Wood-Elves. Their values are almost the same, except that they live in acorns so large you'd swear they were genetically modified.
As a handy side-note, their wings aren't just fluttery appendages – you can glide with them. No more deaths from falling, which is extra handy in Kelethin, the only remaining old-world city that hasn't fallen prey to a violent scenario. For a city in the trees, you'd think they'd learn to put railings on the walkways. Even after a half-millennium of newbie-doom from not paying attention, this basic safety feature has been neglected. Fae wings do nothing to help with this oversight.
Much of what we may remember from Faydwer is still more or less intact. Crushbone is still around, albeit with significantly evolved shock-troops. Felwithe is still just down the road from Kelethin, except the high-elves shut themselves off from the rest of the world and re-shaped their city into "New Tunaria. " They've become xenophobic, so it's not a place to go and casually hang around. The gnomish city of Ak'Anon has been renamed Klak'anon and is now under the control of Clockwork creations that have no interest in re-submitting themselves as servants.
The Dwarven city of Kaladim is still structurally intact; however, it's a war zone, and as a result, its tourism board has been having a tough time of late attracting sight-seers. Castle Mistmoore has been given a facelift and is more dangerous than ever. (Mayong Mistmoore wiped out our entire press-group in one shot. He's cranky. I remember, on a raid long ago, sneaking into his bedroom through a secret door in his bathroom. Perhaps he has a long memory.) The Estate of Unrest will make an appearance as well, now as an end-game raid instance. Essentially, all the places we remember fondly from our days in EverQuest are back, only much more freaky-deaky than before.
SOE are adding in a new line of player mounts, from stunningly armored equine steeds through to mysterious non-horsies that the development team are hiding from the eyes of the press. Can't give away all the surprises, I suppose. As you may see from the screenshots, the barding is simply stunning. I can't even begin to imagine how long it would take to finish gilding like that. The new horses are meant to be items of prestige specifically for players and guilds that have made it to the new level-cap of 70. There are also capes that will be found as loot or custom-made, including guild-specific cloaks that can allow you to more easily identify your in-game gang. "Rep'razent," as the kids say. Finally, there will be new armor sets that provide bonuses if the full suit is worn. Much as these particular ideas may be familiar to us long-time MMo and RPG fans, that doesn't make their inclusion any less welcome.
There are also some new trade-skills toys, including armor enhancements in the form of metal studs or weapon damage bonuses that come via never-cooling embers. They're also adding in a new artisan line called Tinkering. Not restricted to just Gnomes, this can allow such abilities as the de-construction of magic items to create mana-batteries. This focus on re-creating utilitarian items out of vendor trash is an excellent idea; hopefully, it's more than a one-trick pony.
Of particular interest to me was mention of a new line of "Divinity" quests. Not much in the way of concrete details was offered up by my gracious PR host, but the general idea as I understand it is that players can now pledge allegiance to a God and do quests for them. Doing so earns favor with that God or Goddess, which can eventually be turned into items and "miracles." No word on what miracles are. Why this is so interesting to me is that a major component of the EverQuest universe is the absence of the divine. According to the legends, the Gods all left Norrath. Could this be the beginning of a story arc that details the return of the Planar powers? Time will tell.
Echoes of Faydwer is the first EverQuest II expansion to offer new content from level one all the way through to level 70. According to the developers, it will be possible to play out your entire character life without ever leaving the Faydark forests. My brief time exploring the beta was more than just informative; it was fun. Seeing all of these areas again felt great, and I look forward to having a chance to absorb it in more detail. My initial impression is that this will be the best content expansion produced for this game yet. It's also a great value; the retail box will contain the original EverQuest II and the two other expansions, Desert of Flames and Kingdom of Sky, for no additional cost.
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