New expansions for EverQuest II and original EQ announced

Moving on to that young whipper-snapper EverQuest II - itself going on three years old - the new expansion, Rise of Kunark looks to recreate one of the original EQ's most beloved booster packs.

The big news is that there will be a new playable race: the dragon-ish Sarnak, noble counterpart to the sinister, lizard-like Iksar. They were everyone's favorite unplayable race from the first EQ, so it should be a big rush for fans to lace up their scaly boots at last.

With the new race comes a new starting point: the islands of Timorous Deep; a new city: the Village of Gorowyn; and even new gods to cuddle up to. The level cap here will rise to 80, and maximum guild levels will get bumped up too. If you don't understand that, perhaps this will make sense: there's a new mount and it's a Kunarkian rhinoceros. Let's all say that again, and really think about it: you can ride... a rhinoceros. Yeah.

Above: Concept art from EverQuest II: Rise of Kunark.

With Kunark being such a beloved area from before, you naturally ask what zones and areas will be resurrected, right? The focus was on selecting things that fit the storyline (which is still under wraps) and would be fondly remembered by players of the first EQ. Thus, as it turns out, pretty much all of your favorites look to have made the cut. We've mentioned Timorous Deep is all here, as is Karnor's Castle, the dungeon of Sebilis, Emerald Jungle, Skyfire Mountains and Veeshan's Peak, complete with dragons.

This is not to say everything is exactly as you remember it. With 500 years difference and at least one planet-wide catastrophe between the two games, it makes sense that things have changed. Chardok used to be an underground dungeon. Now, it's a fortress specifically designed to defend against aerial dragon attack. The Lake of Ill Omen might look a tad different, and the Jarsath Wastes is a returning area, but it contains two other zones and some new content.

Speaking of new, there are several other locations you've seen written on the cloth map, but never trod upon before. And as you venture through new quests designed for everyone from level 2 soloists to high-level groups and raiding parties, be sure to notice how rarely you load. The expansion will introduce a "regionalized" streaming system that should result in fewer loads between zones. It also wouldn't hurt to also keep your eyes open for epic weapons: uber-powerful gear that will have even more kill-juice if you find it while questing with a group instead of a giant raiding party.

For those not looking to get all Kunarkian, Fall will also see the latest live update arrive, including the addition of the Arasai. They're an evil version of the fairy-esque Fae, pint-sized but no less powerful than full-scale races.

All told? If you're into either version of EQ, start your holiday shopping now.