EverQuest II's second expansion, Kingdom of Sky, dishes out the tasty morsels we've been dying for in Sony's online fantasy role-playing game. Badass new armor models - with the burly stats to back them up - are yours if you can slay some of the deadliest monsters yet. Creepy man-sized insects, intricately designed aviaks, and killer carnivorous plants are among the treats that will grudgingly succumb to your impending killing spree.
A majestic teleportation spire will transport you to the Overrealm (the "real" name of the Kingdom of Sky), where you'll be greeted by an owl-like creature which will send you out into the lush jungle landscape with - you guessed it - a quest. EverQuest II lives up to its legacy of endless expeditions and visuals worthy of a high-end video card. You start in a vibrant jungle setting, with cascading waterfalls and stunningly detailed non-player character models. Just steps away you'll discover stately islands suspended in mid-air, and you'll be invited to take an exhilarating leap of faith into a pond on an island far below, with the advice to "aim for the blue dot and pray."
Kingdom of Sky finally comes through with Achievement Experience, which provides points you can spend to "buy" special attributes and abilities for your character. From greater strength or agility to magical weapons to spells and abilities, you'll finally have the chance to look and act unique in the virtual world.
Picture this: You're soaring through the air when you spy a regal castle surrounded by awe-inspiring scenery and a plethora of NPCs just waiting to bloody your blade. The trouble is, you can't control your flight path, and you have no clue what the name of the island with the castle is. Instead of being allowed to fly to the place you want to go, you're reduced to clicking on random island names and flying helplessly hither and yon in the hope that by dumb luck you'll eventually end up where you want to be. No wonder some people think SOE hates us.
Even worse, many of the islands are the size of a postage stamp. After the expansive zones in the previous expansion, Desert of Flames, these tiny patches of dirt in the air are especially jarring. Put two or three groups of players on an island, and you're suddenly racing each other to be the first to kill any new creatures, a la the original EverQuest's infamous Bandit Camps.
With the new loot and armor, Kingdom of Sky is a must-have if you're near level 60 and you want to progress up to the new cap of 70. It's also handy if you're a lower level and want the extra skills and abilities you can snag using the nifty new Achievement system.
The biggest disappointment with Kingdom is that it's more of the same: more quests, more loot and more NPC's, but nothing innovative or astounding. After destructable walls and exploding barrels in the first two Adventure packs, not to mention climbable walls in the first expansion, it makes us wonder whether the creative team blew their entire wad early, leaving nothing left for this effort. The role-playing action may take place in a higher plane than before, but what it's missing is depth.