Everquest 2

When the original Everquest hit the mainstream back in 1999, a newfound online addiction became readily available to the masses for a small monthly fee. Gamers were at last able to escape the stagnant pool of linear role-playing that had long since dominated the genre and sink their teeth into a living, breathing world full of action, adventure and in some rare cases romance. While the majority of aspects of Everquest remained similar to many RPG’s that had preceded it, such as slaying monsters and raising skills and levels, it was the evolving world and human interaction that made the game an absolute legend. Sales quickly topped the charts and within the time-frame of a few years, hundreds of thousands of people had experienced the Massively Multiplayer Online Role-playing Game phenomenon of Everquest. According to everquest.com by the time Sony Online Entertainment celebrated their five-year anniversary, over a million people had invested their time and money into the game’s addictive immersive atmosphere.

In late 2004, evolution took another stab at online gaming and produced an heir to the throne, SOE’s very own Everquest 2. EQ2 hit the stores with a bang and hastily flooded the households of thousands of gamers. With a price tag of $50 upfront and an additional monthly fee of $15, Everquest 2 promised a sprawling fantasy universe to the public for a hefty price. For many, however, those hard-earned dollars could not have been spent soon enough. Dozens of fan-based
EQ2 websites had long since burgeoned communities of starry-eyed gamers years before the game was finally released, prompting a craze of pre order purchases burdened by ever-changing release dates.

Yet, at last, Everquest 2 had finally been released. Suddenly, the question that gamers had been asking resounded through the halls with a new sense of urgency: Would the sequel to the king of online gaming truly be worth the wait and the money? Could it live up to the hype and surpass its famed legacy? It was time to find out.

Built upon a solid foundation of years of experience and technologically geared for the future, Everquest 2 presented a unique package of online reality and fantasy, free of the many mistakes and annoyances that plagued previous MMORPGS such as Ultima Online and even the original EQ. Frustrating aspects of the original such as “kill-stealing” (other players stealing the monster you were attempting to kill) and “camping” (sitting for hours on end waiting for a particular monster to spawn), had been revised or eliminated altogether. Other players were now unable to attack any monster you had locked on to and initiated combat with unless they were in your group. Quicker monster spawn times and enhanced combat techniques resulted in a much more intense approach to battle, feeding the gamer addiction of gaining surplus amounts of experience in shorter lengths of time. Faster methods of travel were also implemented in EQ2: players could now travel on horseback or fly saddled upon a soaring griffin, allowing the online experience to be, for the most part, continuous, exciting and interruption-free, whereas in the original, simple boat rides and walks on foot could take as long as half an hour or more.

Amidst all these changes, the goal of Everquest 2 remained the same of any RPG: Gain experience, treasure, gold and prestige. As the name of the game implies, there could be no end.

This time around, every created character began with a piece of Norrath to call their own: a one-room apartment, complete with weekly rent. Upon gaining prestige and experience, characters could move up in the world into sophisticated and exquisite abodes they could call home. Guilds could be formed and mansions rented. One could focus on trade skills if so desired, such as fishing, metalworking and provisioning. All in all, these elements allowed for an economy dictated by the actions of online players; players could roam the lands of Norrath either in first or third-person view, exploring the world with the motion of the mouse; and countless quests could be undertaken, good or evil.

Everquest 2 not only broke new ground by being the first MMORPG to successfully launch without problems (server crashes, etc) but also it pushed the envelope by incorporating detailed audio into an online game. For the most part, superb voice acting was recorded for many of the NPC’s to provide another means of engaging the player and allowing them to absorb the environments around them and immerse themselves.

The question remained, however: Was it worth the wait?

Review:

Hail to the King, Baby! Hail to the King!

Clutching a rectangular-shaped plastic bag tightly in my hands, I stepped through the front door of my home and waited for the screen door to firmly latch behind me. I looked around slowly, cautiously, barely breathing, but no one else was home. I let slip a cry of glee and bolted to my room with a half-skip and a jump. Sliding my brand new copy of Everquest 2 out of the bag and tearing open the box with the giddiness of a schoolgirl in love, I plopped down into my desk chair and anxiously suffered through the installation. Finally, after the game had been installed and all the patches downloaded, I logged into my new world. I had been waiting for this moment for over a year and a half.

A 4-year veteran of the first Everquest, I immediately recognized the many familiar faces and races of characters to choose from: trolls, dwarves, elves, iksars (Lizard-people), ratonga (Rat-people), ogres, humans and more. I had thought long and hard of which race and class I wanted to play. With a deep grunt and a couple mouse clicks, I started a male barbarian and waited for my new world to load.

Your Majesty, Did You Get a Haircut?

Upon entering Norrath, the world of Everquest, I was visually blown away, as was my computer. Even with expensively high-end gear to run the game on and many of the graphics options turned down, the game was sluggish in all its glorious beauty; it was instantly apparent that SOE had created this game with a steady eye for the future and a need for their masterpiece to be able to evolve technologically at a brisk pace alongside that of the hardware designers. It seemed, however, that SOE had untruthfully suggested the minimum requirements for the game. In game, I perused the menus and was assailed by a vast assortment of tweaks and options, including pixel resolution, lighting, shading, amount of flora, water reflection, polygon count, etc.

The resolution and attention to detail in-game was amazing: trees swayed in the wind, flora moved underfoot, sunsets sent the sky up in great flames of orange and red and player characters moved and reacted realistically to the environment, reflecting in real-time upon the nearby waters. In the dark city of Freeport, where all evil races began, black crows circled in a twilight sky, then swooped down and darted through a crowded bazaar of merchants and townsfolk. In Qeynos, the castle-city of good, glass windows shimmered in the daylight as colorful butterflies flittered in the breeze. Graphically, EQ2pre order sent its predecessor to the ladies room to cry in a stall. I was in heaven.

Home Away From Home

I spent a lot of my time at first getting used to the new world and perfecting the controls. I was logging three or four hours a day, more on the weekends. A week or so later, all of my friends back home had started playing. I quickly
felt the game world become more comfortable and less synthetic; I had a home away from home to spend my hours chatting and fighting alongside long-time acquaintances. Alas, all my friends had decided to play evil races so swiftly I
created a troll warrior named Passive (later, at level 20, Passive Aggressive) and we formed an in-game guild. Now, we were truly part of a team.

The King is Dead, Long Live the King

I raced through the beginning levels of the game at near light-speed, fingers jittering with excitement, bypassing the “newbie” quests and tips, feeling constantly gratified, rewarded and content with the excessive amount of monsters to slay, people to chat with and things to do. I slaughtered goblins, wolves and snakes in the tall grass outside of Freeport. Moving on, I destroyed magical fairies, wasps, treants and slugs lurking in the swamps. Every new item was a glorious discovery and more than a few times I felt my heartbeat quicken as a powerful minion chased me down, only to escape at the last minute. I was having an absolute blast.

But a terrible thing began to happen to me, a feeling that I recognized from years ago. By the time I had hit level 27 with my troll berserker, I had begun to experience haunting flashbacks of why I had quit the original game (and then restarted and quit again, twice) in the first place: Experience and level gaining was once again dragging by at a suicidal, sluggish rate. The time required of me to improve my character by defeating minions and performing quests was disgustingly encroaching upon my real life. I was feeling the dreadful “level grinding” of the original Everquest, only this time in a prettier package.

As if I was experiencing some rare form of mental dÃ?©ja-vu, previously acknowledged thoughts had risen from the dead and were now racing through my head like frenzied greyhounds upon an online track of fading addiction. Was it really worth my time to invest in a game where the rewards of playing had already diminished one month into it? True, an online game benefits from new updated material but was $15 a month and hours of my life really delivering online retribution in the form of happiness? What was I missing that thousands of other people had noticed? Or had I simply become too jaded from earlier years of “level grinding” and “camping,” thereby corrupting this new experience with tainted memories?

I logged out of the game and canceled my subscription.

They Keep Pulling Me Back In

A month had passed since I had last sat down and logged into Norrath. I had been spending my time playing other games and only occasionally had I thought back to EQ2. During a visit back home with my friends, they had asked me why I had quit. They were all having an absolute blast, yet I wasn’t really sure how. Then they began to tell me the changes that had recently taken place in the game. Experience-boosting bonuses had been implemented, a mail system, sneakily ported from FFXI, had also been imported into the code. The economy had been assisted, items could now be imbued with magical powers, new items and monsters had been sighted, a small expansion pack had been released, bugs had been fixed and much more. As I sat there listening, pondering over what they were saying, I realized that perhaps I had been too hasty. One of the reasons monthly fees for online games exist is in the effort to help failing aspects of the game. Perhaps, I had been too hasty. My brother offered to pay my monthly fee if I would start playing again. After much talk, I agreed to start back up. After all, it wasn’t the first time I had quit an Everquest game.

The Revelation

I couldn’t help but noticed how much the world of Norrath had changed (and yet, stayed the same) in slightly over a month’s time. Things that had once annoyed me were suddenly not as bad as they had once been. Experience gain was faster; loot was richer; quests were more rewarding; I was actually having a blast! Chatting in-guild with my friends from home was pleasant and felt comfortable. Before I had even realized it, I had already gained several new levels and abilities. Trudging along seemed like a thing of the past and I began to look to the future with bright and hopeful eyes. Whether by chance or fate, I was back online playing my troll, Passive, hacking and slashing and having a great time. I sighed quietly and promised myself not to be too hasty again for I was truly back home.

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