Everquest II

Paul Ross  
 
8.0
 
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Everquest II

Videogames

Developer
Release Date
November 13, 2007
MSRP $
39.99
ESRB

These days when someone talks about an MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role playing game for those of you just emerging from having lived in a dark cave), usually only one title comes to mind… “World of Warcraft”. It wasn’t long ago however that a different name graced the lips of gamers, a title so addictive that it was deemed “crack”, and given the nickname “Evercrack”.

 

Of course, I am talking about “Everquest”. After years of restless nights, the Mountain Dew fueled minions of the MMO gaming community have a new chapter to add to a beloved franchise. Taking place in a parallel world, EQ2 plays a lot like the first did with a number of marked improvements.

To start, you are in a training level with some easier battles and quests to get you used to the way of the Everquest world. Here you’ll find your standard training quests, opportunities to advance a few levels, and tutorials about the game’s interface. Even for an advanced gamer, I’d still recommend you taking a little time in this first section, as there a few idiosyncrasies which you’ll pick up on that will aide you in later sections of the game.

After the training village, you’ll need to declare your alliance with either good or evil. Good will start you in one city; evil will start you in another. Aside from battling in the game guild system, there is very little PVP use of this new dynamic, which was very disappointing. The evil or good affiliation does afford different quests and game dynamics, so the replay value of this game is great. There is a definite and obvious push to lure you in and keep you hooked, because most of the revenue that Sony hopes to generate from this game comes from residual income gained through the monthly fee you’ll pay to subscribe to EQ2,

Quests seem to be pretty linear. Granted, you don’t have to complete specific quests, and you do have free range movement, but everything seems rather sequential from level to level. As you adventure, new areas become open to you as you are able to venture out beyond your starting town (The only thing really holding you back is the difficulty you’ll have trying to venture out to tougher areas with less experience under your belt. I (personally) found it difficult to progress without making sure all the available quests were complete in a given area. Some players may not mind skipping around, and if you play that way, you’ll probably have a less linear experience than I did.

Speaking of quests, there are MANY more quests in EQ2 than in the first. Granted, quests don't differ much from other MMOs. You spend a lot of time running errands, gathering information, collecting or repairing different items. But the availability really spices up gameplay, especially considering how much more time you spent in the previous iteration of this game just running around and killing monsters. For objective oriented gamers, this new style of gameplay affords a more rewarding gaming experience, especially since you hit a ceiling pretty quickly with regards to the frequency that you obtain new levels. While this is nice, it also causes you to have to run around quite a bit, which does get a little annoying.

Quests and quest progress are recorded in a quest journal. You can keep up to 50 quests at a time, although if you amass that volume at once, your head will likely spin! The current selected quest’s primary objective will be displayed at the top right portion of the screen (very handy!)

There are two things that make questing more difficult. The first is a lack of mini-map for easier navigation. There is a compass to give you a general sense of direction, but when looking for specific locations I was frustrated by the larger map without access to a smaller one.

The second frustration I had was the vague nature of some of the quests. You are given a little information on what needs to be done, but a lot of what you need to do you just needs to figure out. While this may be part of the fun, if you get lost it just ends up just being frustrating.

Sometimes, especially early on, I would find items that were part of quests that I had not yet undertaken. This would have been frustrating, but quest items don’t actually take up inventory slots, so this was actually kind of helpful.

Speaking of inventory, you better learn to pack light. You have very few inventory slots, which may be expanded with the use of packs. Even with the additional slots, you run out of room quickly! You also have a bank, but there are limited slots in the bank account too. Micromanaging the inventory is a bit of a pain, it would be nice to have all your inventory available in one screen, but you have different windows for different sacks and bags that you open… a minor frustration, but still quite inconvenient!

One thing about EQ2 that I love is the fact that you can pick something up even with a full inventory after defeating a monster! These items will go into your overcrowded inventory, and will not be available until you make room… but that has saved me a number of times from having to rush off to sell something, or drop something else that I intended to sell or trade later on.

As you develop your character, you will be able to fine tune your skills to match your class. Classes are very well balanced, and there are no distinct “better” classes that I picked up on. There is a good focus on group play, making the MMO idea not just a fun concept, but a necessity for many quests.

One downside to the new class/race system is the lack of distinction between races. While this does lend to an easier system to balance, it also takes away a little of the majesty of exploration that you got from the first Everquest. Races and classes feel the same in early levels; however you do get to specialize your class a lot more in later levels to really make your character your own. As you gain levels, you gain new abilities, which can be enhanced with books obtained by monster drops, merchants and other players. You also gain non combat skills, such as fishing, trapping, and mining which can assist with crafting as well as obtaining quest items.

Speaking of, crafting actually can be dangerous, as it can produce crappy items or actually hurt or kill the player. You do get to advance your crafter and specialize as you would in other classes. Other MMO games offer crafting, but few are as dynamic or involved.

Passive effects and spells last a long time in EQ2, which means less recasting (Hooray!) The interface is a standard click/hotkey combat system. Different abilities have different recovery times and different strengths, so your battles often involve a good deal of strategy. Different foes have different weaknesses, so it’s important to have a library of different attacks, and to travel in diverse groups.

There is a new “heroic” attack option, which upon activation deals out extra damage by putting together a chain of attacks. Flying solo, this is pretty handy, although most of the time your group will mess up your heroic attack unless you are working in close accord.

Actions all rely on one refresh bar, so fighters don't have a recovery advantage over mages. Monsters that will attack you are outlined in red; more powerful monsters are identified by the color above their head. You also have to option to initiate combat, which you’ll have to do early on in the game. Being quick will give you a hefty advantage, so have your hotkeys armed and your finger on the trigger when in combat areas.

Many missions and combat situations require groups to be successful. A lot of non-MMORPG players are reluctant to team up with strangers, but you’ll need assistance, especially in higher level quests, to be successful.

Recovery after battle requires you to keep a supply of food and drink, which will be automatically used after sustaining damage. You actually don’t use food and drink at any fast sort of rate, but it’s always good to replenish your stock when you are stocking up on supplies, because getting caught in the wilderness without the ability to recover is probably going to get you killed. Enemies have a good range, and lock on you for combat. If you don’t have much health, it’s easy to die.

Death in battle isn't horrible. If you die, you can recover near where you died, and later have your equipment repaired. The bad part of death is that you have to earn a set amount of experience back before you can gain new exp. If you find your body, and collect a spirit shard, this experience debt is reduced.

Graphically, EQ2 is a marked improvement from the first. Considering the release date, it's still very pretty by today's standards. Armor you wear shows on your character when you equip it. While most gamers expect that these days, it’s still an awesome feature! (Any game that doesn’t show your armor automatically loses points in my book, and it’s a point I look for in RPGs.

Scenes are bright, colorful, and visually stunning. Characters are customizable, to a point (although other games have done character customization better). Light and water look good, which can always be a deal breaker in even the prettiest of games. Edges and boundaries are well done as well, and while you will experience a mild amount of clipping in some areas, most are so vast that when you do clip, you can just walk around.

Animations look good, and character movement is fluid. You also don’t have the old Tomb Raider clomping as you walk around, I wasn’t even aware of my character’s movement after just a brief period of adjusting to the controls. Often the details that you DON’T notice are more important than the details you do. When something is done well enough that you take it for granted, that means it’s good!

Towns are almost too sprawling. While this adds to the "world" effect, it's annoying for task oriented people. I found myself getting lost among the vast architecture and large townscape. Often times I’d pop into a house or hut only to find nothing of any game play value actually inside (A note to game developers, empty spaces frustrate gamers!). They may add a lot to the overall appeal of the environment, but put something in those empty rooms that I can interact with on some level.

The large worlds are reflected in the size of the game… 7GB disk space! This game came out in 2004; in 2007 this is still a huge amount of disc space! It’s well worth the space however, and worth the small frustration of size to see such a large and immersive environment.

The music in EQ2 is beautifully composed. There is a full orchestra, and the composure is epic sounding. It’s really a beautiful sounding game, you’ll want to play with the volume cranked up, as the sound effects are natural, and loud enough… sometimes you can actually be startled (not quite scared) in some areas.

EQ2 also features the addition of voices. This is really nice, but inconsistent. Some characters will read part of the dialogue, and omit other parts. While I would like to see more of the dialogue filled in, even the parts add more personality and give you a voice to fill in the parts you read with. I understand that as the game evolves through updates that some dialogue may become out of date, and to preserve file size (and due to budget constraints) some dialogue must be omitted, so this is really just a moot point.

In game conversations now allow you to click different responses giving different answers as you go. This is quite cohesive with current day standards for RPG dialogue, and fits Everquest 2 quite well. Different choices yield different responses from NPCs, which also adds personality.

So in summation, we’ll start with the pros. Everquest 2 came out in 2004, for computers that is quite a long time (as this review is being written in December of 2007). EQ2 has stood the test of time, with updates and expansion they have driven the game forward, giving it a lasting appeal. Graphically and audibly EQ2 is still very pretty by today’s gaming standards. There are more quests and character classes than in the previous version which again are appreciated. The emphasis on teamwork and cooperation makes it worth playing online versus alone as a standalone game like many RPG gamers are used to. The good versus evil idea is a bit cliché, but also ads two different game play experiences. The crafting skill was fun, and it was rewarding to level up in other non-combat skills.

Now for the cons; I still detest the business model of paying a monthly fee to play a game. Granted, it has proven profitable, and allows for more content and server maintenance… but $15 per month is $180 per year to play a game! I’d really like an on screen mini map to track my progress, and quests would benefit from a better organized quest journal. It’s pretty easy to get lost or off track, but I guess exploration is part of the Everquest experience. The biggest con is that EQ2 still has the crack-like addictive qualities of its parent, Everquest. I really had trouble playing other games I was supposed to be reviewing, and my editor is probably upset at the amount of time I spent playing EQ2 before actually writing this review. Sorry Nathan!

 

Editor review

So in summation, we’ll start with the pros. Everquest 2 came out in 2004, for computers that is quite a long time (as this review is being written in December of 2007). EQ2 has stood the test of time, with updates and expansion they have driven the game forward, giving it a lasting appeal. Graphically and audibly EQ2 is still very pretty by today’s gaming standards. There are more quests and character classes than in the previous version which again are appreciated. The emphasis on teamwork and cooperation makes it worth playing online versus alone as a standalone game like many RPG gamers are used to. The good versus evil idea is a bit cliché, but also ads two different game play experiences. The crafting skill was fun, and it was rewarding to level up in other non-combat skills.

Now for the cons; I still detest the business model of paying a monthly fee to play a game. Granted, it has proven profitable, and allows for more content and server maintenance… but $15 per month is $180 per year to play a game! I’d really like an on screen mini map to track my progress, and quests would benefit from a better organized quest journal. It’s pretty easy to get lost or off track, but I guess exploration is part of the Everquest experience. The biggest con is that EQ2 still has the crack-like addictive qualities of its parent, Everquest. I really had trouble playing other games I was supposed to be reviewing, and my editor is probably upset at the amount of time I spent playing EQ2 before actually writing this review. Sorry Nathan!

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