Saturday, December 9, 2023

A Bird's Eye View Of Ballads Of Zimara

Yesterday's post on gathering in the new EverQuest II expansion kind of got away from me. What I sat down to write was a quick screenshot post celebrating my early experience of what The EverQuest Show described as "one of the most aesthetically beautiful expansions in a decade".

That's actually a quote from a player in the Ballads of Zimora beta. Fading, the host of The EverQuest Show, calls it "absolutely stunning", adding "There are four new gorgeous zones, each more beautiful than the last". In a video review he goes on to say that BoZ is "much more accessible early on than say Renewal of Ro" and that he found it held his attention better and made him eager to go on playing in a way that, as an EverQuest player, he didn't always experience with EQII expansions.

The review covers both EverQuest's latest expansion, Laurion's Song, and Ballads of Zimora and at least in the case of the latter I found it reflected my own experience so far. I haven't bought the EQ expansion yet because I just don't have time to play both of them at once but I plan on getting it sometime in the New Year, most probably in the Spring.

Here's the video. It's an entertaining watch.

As I implied in my first post about the expansion, Ballads of Zimara is probably the most user-friendly I've seen for a good while. That's not to say recent EQII expansions haven't been easy to get into - they definitely have - but this one seems to have made accessibility a real focus.

I'd say BoZ marks the best re-insertion point for ex-players since Altar of Malice a decade ago. If you were thinking about coming back - or if you've never played and would like to see what you've been missing - this is probably the best opportunity you're going to get. 

I just wanted to front-load that thought before getting to the meat of the post - the pictures.

The irony of doing a post like this, at this point in my progress through the expansion's content, is that even though I have four max-level crafters now, I've hardly seen any of it. Even though the crafting timeline technically takes to you to three of the four overland zones, it barely introduces you to more than the areas around the portals and the safe city-hub.

Even when you get to fly, as a crafter you really don't need to go anywhere. Most of the quests play out either within a few steps of the questgiver or very close by. Even when you do need to go to a specific place elsewhere in the zone, as when you visit the Isle of Wisdom in Zimara's Breadth, you're taken directly there and given no reason to explore the area around.

This certainly isn't any kind of complaint. As I've said, the brevity and succinctness of the crafting timeline is an absolute positive for crafters. It does mean, however, that most of the screenshots I have are of the same locations and they're almost all taken from the sky.

Then again, as I've also said, Ballads of Zimara is a skybound expansion. It's set in a fractured skyscape of free-floating sky islands, where locals get about by cloud-taxi or their own wing-power. It's counter-intuitive but, while the spectacle is all there for those who can fly, the kind of detail Fading brings out in his video and post can only be appreciated on foot.

To that end, I maybe should have saved this gallery of of snapshots for when I've completed the Adventuring timeline. I'm sure that will take me into many more corners and show me plenty of sights I haven't seen. 

That'll be something to look forward to, when I've done it. I'll be sure to take plenty of pictures as I work my way through the Signature adventure questline, which I believe will take me all the way to the final, open zone of the expansion, the Djiinn stronghold Vaashkaani.

The crafting storyline doesn't mention it. It was only when I read the EverQuest Show review that I knew it even existed. Soon after, though, while I was out gathering on my final crafting run, I saw what had to be Vaashkaani, hanging in the sky high above me at the end of a shimmering, glittering column of light.

I flew up to see if I could reach it but just like Maj`Dul, the city which floats above the Desert of Ro, you can't get there by physical means. It takes magic.

And of course I forgot to take a screenshot of the city itself, which makes for an amusingly bathetic ending to a post about celebrating the visuals in the game. It looked spectacular but you're just going to have to take my word for that.

Or else go see it for yourself. 

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