While everyone’s ooh-ing and aah-ing over the next big thing in MMOs – whether that be EverQuest Next, The Elder Scrolls Online, WildStar, or something else – it’s not hard to overlook a game that’s been chugging along and producing consistent content for nearly 10 years.

EverQuest II’s 10th expansion, Tears of Veeshan, is now live. It might be easy to just toss out a bunch more “kill 10 rats” quests, a standard dungeon or three, standard raid, and move on, but that’s not how the EQ2 team rolls, as we discovered during our sneak peek at the expansion last week.

Dragon deadlands

Senior Producer Holly Longdale and Creative Director Akil Hooper guided us through the vast landscapes and varied features of the expansion. ToV is set in the Eternal Broodlands, a kind of “dragon heaven,” where the big lizards go after their days on Norrath are ended – usually by a heavily armed and armored party of PCs.

Players are called here because their cities are under attack and they must seek the wisdom of Yelinak, the elder dragon who was killed last summer by the prismatic dragon Kerafyrm after he obtained the Tear of Veeshan. Being in a dragon afterlife, that means you’ll get to interact with all the dragons you’ve killed before. Let’s hope they don’t hold grudges.

There are an impressive nine dungeons in the expansion, all connected to the huge outdoor zone of Vesspyr. Our first look was at the High Keep, where we were entertained by an ongoing goblin food fight, some parts of which you might have seen in last week’s “making of” video. From there, we progressed to the Temple of Veeshan, a reworking of an iconic raid zone from earlier in the game’s history. It’s the game’s biggest dungeon yet, with over 20 bosses and enough space to break out your flying mounts.

While there’s no new level cap in Tears of Veeshan, the AA limit will be raised to 340, with the new AAs being themed after a dragon. Because MOAR DRAGONS. And even if you don’t pick up the expansion, you’ll notice some changes, like a more convenient mercenary system that makes it easier for you to swap our your mercs, and tier 4 guild halls.
Itemization is also getting an overhaul. Previously, you’d just go with what had the higher bonus to your primary stat, but now you’ll want to consider how different sets interact with each other and with your build as a whole. With changes like that and varied encounters that are more than just “tank ‘n’ spank,” Longdale calls Tears of Veeshan “the thinking expansion.”

Channel changers

The biggest addition to the game, however, has to be the channeler, the game’s first new class since the beastlord in 2011. The channeler is a healer, of sorts, though he won’t just be someone who makes green numbers appear over characters’ heads.

Instead, the channeler has a special pet, called a construct, that can’t be directly targeted. Instead, it absorbs some of the incoming damage to a target designated by the channeler, making it more of an “interrupt healer.” The channeler then has to heal the construct by use of abilities that increase his dissonance, represented by bar. On the one hand, it sounds like a great mechanic, but, as much as MMOs are shifting to more minimalistic UIs, having another element to look at and keep track of irks me just a touch.

Each construct has several slots that allow channelers to customize both its appearance and its combat abilities. This is a direct result of the team’s experience with the beastlord, where only a couple of pets were deemed useful by the community and thus everyone had the same and every beastlord’s menagerie looked the same. Yay, variety!

Future fantasy

Let’s be honest – the news most people want to hear out of SOE these days is about EverQuest Next (and Landmark). And if you’re a longtime fan of the first two EverQuest games, you might feel a little trepidation at the coming of the new kid on the voxel and worried that it will swallow up your current loves like a dragon enjoying ratonga kabobs.

The thing is, you wouldn’t know another game was in the works if you just followed EQ and EQ2 news. Tears of Veeshan isn’t a “lite” expansion by any stretch, and, while the population of the previous games is likely to take a hit when EQN and Landmark hit, there’s little reason to believe SOE won’t keep pumping out content, keeping all three games alive for another decade, or more, to come. It’s a better fate than many elderly MMOs have experienced.

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