Caster's Realm: Returning to Everquest

The world of Norrath continually shifts and evolves. It is this constant change that often keeps us playing. While other worlds become stale, ours moves on. Some adventures leave Norrath for other worlds and other lives. Some who leave, return. What they find when they return can be as confusing as the days they first left their city and ventured out into the wilds.

Today we look at Everquest's biggest changes since the Shadows of Luclin expansion. We look at what has changed, how the game is now played, and what tools are now available to help us explore this new and growing land. Use this article as a guide for your return to Norrath.

What should I buy?

This question came up at the most recent Everquest Community Summit and we reached no clear answer.

The base Everquest game is most economically purchased in 'Everquest Platinum'. One can purchase this package for $19 from the Sony Station store. This pack includes the core game, Kunark, Velious, Luclin, Planes of Power, Ykesha, Lost Dungeons, and Gates of Discord as well as a 30 day subscription. This does not include the Omens of War, Dragons of Norrath, or Depths of Darkhollow expansions.

On returning to Everquest, consider skipping over Omens of War and instead purchasing Depths of Darkhollow and Dragons of Norrath. Depths of Darkhollow, with the monster missions and spirit shrouds, offers the most content for the widest range of players outside of Everquest Platinum. Dragons of Norrath has the guild lobby with the corpse summoner, a requirement for any far off adventuring.

For a returning player below level 50, consider starting with the Everquest Platinum pack. This has far more level 1 to 60 content than you could ever play through. Add Depths of Darkhollow if you want to try monster missions and spirit shrouds. If you plan on exploring more powerful lands above level 60, consider Dragons of Norrath and Omens of War as well.

What has changed?

There have been many changes to the lands of Norrath since the old days. Let us take a look.

Planes of Power introduced the Plane of Knowledge and the Knowledge Stones. These stones lead to Knowledge Books outside of nearly every major city in Norrath. Players of all levels can use these books to transport all over Norrath instead of long runs and boat rides. For new players this means a much wider range of low-level hunting zones. For higher level players this means easy transportation to the furthest reaches of Norrath. Knowledge became the new hub of Everquest with one to two hundred players milling about during prime time hours. It is a great place to find a group and begin your adventures.

Speaking of grouping, SOE released a new and long overdue feature, '/group' across zones. Now, instead of needing a full party right in front of you in order to build a group, you can type '/group playername' and have them instantly invited into your group. This lets groups build much faster and helps players talk and travel to their hunting ground. From now on, if you want someone in your group, all you have to do is type '/group playername' regardless of their location.

Sometime around the age of Planes of Power, SOE introduced a new open set of chat channels. This lets any player create or join a cross-zone or cross-server chat channel based on any topic they choose. To join a channel, type '/join channelname' where 'channelname' is the name of the channel you wish to join. Once in the channel, type '/1 hello' where '1' is the number of your channel. You can get a full list of the channels you are in, the number of that channel, and the number of players in that channel with '/list'. You can autosubscribe to a series of channels at login with '/autosubscribe channel1,channel2,channel3' with the proper names for the chat channels you wish to join.

Recently new universal channels were created on every server. These channels included 'NewPlayers', 'General', class, and continent channels. You can join these channels automatically by setting them in options or adding them to your '/autojoin' list. The NewPlayers and General chat channels are great channels to find players around your level with whom to hunt.

If you are just starting out, SOE recently released an excellent new tutorial and low level hunting ground. When you start your new character you can start in the Mines of Gloomingdeep, a new instanced zone full of kobolds and other horrors. Gloomingdeep has excellent quests and beasts to slay from levels 1 to 10. It is a highly entertaining place to learn how to play all over again.

From level 11 to 20, new players now start in the Plane of Knowledge. Speaking to the Knowledge Greeter will award players with a series of quests within the Plane of Knowledge and leads them to other lower level quests and missions. These missions are a great way to see how Everquest has changed from a 'camp and grind' style to a more dynamic and story-based adventure game. It may be tempting to powerlevel your way past these missions but you rob yourself of some exciting adventures.

A year after Planes of Power, SOE released the Lost Dungeons of Norrath expansion. This expansion includes instanced adventures for groups of four to six players in five locations of the old world: North Ro, South Ro, Everfrost, Butcherblock, and East Commonlands. Magi at each of these camp can transport players between camps. The dungeons scale from level 20 to 70 so players can always find a good challenge. As you complete LDON adventures you earn points towards new equipment available at each of the camps. Lost Dungeons of Norrath is a great way to level up from 20 to 50 or above.

Dragons of Norrath further refined this style of adventure with the Mission System. In the caves of northern Lavastorm, level 50+ groups can gather and perform missions for one of two camps. These missions are much more involving than previous Lost Dungeon adventures and include a whole new set of equipment one can earn as one completes these missions. These missions scale up from level 50 to level 70.

The most recent expansion, Depths of Darkhollow, included two revolutionary features: monster missions and spirit shrouds. Spirit shrouds let a player switch to a monster template of their level and below. This allows players to lower their level, switch their class, and hunt with lower level friends or experience lower level content they may have missed.

Monster Missions are a whole new way to play Everquest. Monster missions let groups of four to six players play through a mission as a set of pre-defined monsters. These monsters can be lower level or very powerful. Players of any level and any class can join together for any of these missions and are rewarded appropriately.

These are only a few of the newer features Everquest has offered in the last three or four years. The best way to learn them all is to ask other players, perhaps in the General or NewPlayers channel and experience them for yourself.

Everquest has changed dramatically over the past few years and even within the past few months. If you grew tired of horribly painful death recovery, long camps for rare drops, unexciting static hunting, or narrow play styles, you may want to take another look.

To experience Everquest's new style for free, try out Everquest: Escape to Norrath. This free download lets you play in the low level Mines of Gloomingdeep dungeon for as long as you want without having to put in a credit card. You can play up to level 10 and experience quests, missions, new models, and excellent graphics to get an idea of how Everqust has changed over the years.

We can only imagine how it will change in the years to come.

Loral Ciriclight
7 October 2005