I accomplished one of my in-game goals by finally setting foot inside Deathtoll. I remember first reading of Deathtoll towards the end of the Kingdom of Sky beta. What I read left me with no doubt that Deathtoll was the ultimate raid zone, the new “end-game”, and a zone that I desperately wanted to see but probably never would. At the time I was in a casual guild which often struggled just to put together two full groups, which more or less restricted us to the single group instances, with the occasional two group raid thrown in provided all the stars were aligned. Raiding was the furthest thing from my mind, partly because I was content with our little guild as it was, and also because I had always assumed the end game raids were for the uber guilds. Just going into Halls of Fate was a big deal for me, and can remember our guild wiping on the first named in there, Doom Guard Tammuz. Needless to say, Deathtoll seemed a little beyond my reach.
That little guild eventually lost some members to other games, and Davyydeous moved on, and landed with a casual raiding guild after trying out one or two others. Almost a year after the release of Kingdom of Sky, I suddenly found myself with raiding access to the KoS zones. Of course, I needed to gear myself up first, so Deathtoll was going to have to wait, but just going on any raids was exciting for me. As luck would have it, by the time I was sufficiently geared up, my guild decided to change directions and go “hardcore” which left me out of the loop because I couldn’t meet the attendance requirements. Deathtoll would have to wait.
While searching for a new guild, one of my requirements was their ability to raid Deathtoll. I soon found a good fit, and was quite excited to see that Deathtoll was on the raid calendar just two weeks after my joining. I waited in anticipation as Deathtoll day drew closer. I’m sure that may sound silly to some, but EverQuest II is much more to me than what my stats are, and what armour I’m wearing; I love to explore the world. If there’s one thing in common between all my favourite games, it’s that they pull me into their worlds through a great sense of atmosphere, and after all this time, I had built Deathtoll up to almost mythical status. Just the name itself, Deathtoll, can illicit so much. It’s one word, simple, and to the point. With just that one word, the designers have established that this is a zone to be feared. The Official Game Guide by Prima Games begins its description of Deathtoll like so:
The name should be a warning to all who have wondered about the land within. It is your death that the bell tolls. Not just a possibility, but a certainty.
I just eat that sort of thing up. Top all of that off with the fact that at the end of it all is a gigantic dragon made of bone just waiting to stomp you to death. Sign me up! Of course, now that the zone has been out for a while, and strategies have been honed, it’s not quite the fearsome place it used to be, but there was a time that clearing Deathtoll was a sign of a guild that knew what it was doing.
So there I was, finally zoning into Deathtoll, fully expecting my game client to crash or my internet connection to die, but all went well. I was instantly impressed with the entrance to the zone; the gazers floating there (possibly my favourite mob model in the game), with the gaping dragon skull jaw open in the background. The entire zone, architecturaly speaking, is very impressive, very atmospheric. I especially liked the dragon hung up and displayed in the Altar of Ending; very cool. I was equally impressed with the mobs themselves, especially the Amorphous Drake. That was a cool fight to see. Then there’s Tarinax the Destroyer, who certainly has to be one of the most impressive looking mobs in the game.
When all was said and done, we had a fairly smooth run through the zone, clearing all the nameds. It marked the first time our guild defeated Cruor Alluvium, and we did so on the first pull. It was certainly a satisfying experience for the guild, and for me, as it lived up to all my expectations. The only downside? I think it’s a shame that a lot of the design work on the zone may go unnoticed because there’s no time to stop and appreciate the architecture of the zone. It’s places like Deathtoll where I wish there was a “screenshot mode” that let you walk around untouched, snapping photos. Anyway, it doesn’t look like we’ll be heading back to Deathtoll any time soon as we begin to shift our focus towards Echoes of Faydwer content. Maybe that’s a good thing, because it would just feel wrong to me if Deathtoll became another routine raid on farm status.