Itís always challenging to review a game like this, what with EverQuest 2 being a massively-multiplayer, constantly changing online game and all. No two experiences are ever going to be the same. I may love EverQuest 2, but you might hate it if you pick it up and try to play. A lot of the game boils down to how you particularly choose to play it. If you want to play the game and get to the hardest dungeons and have all the coolest gear by the end of the day, youíre probably not going to enjoy it, but if youíre willing to give it the time, EverQuest 2 will quickly grow on you.
To begin EverQuest 2, you start off creating a character. There are about a dozen races to choose from, including all sorts of Elves and Humans, Dwarves and Gnomes, Trolls and Ogres, and everything in between. Then you pick your class, which can range from pure magic users like Wizards and Templars to pure fighters, like Berserkers and Guardians. If you can prefer, you can also pick a class that can use both magic and engage in physical combat. Itís all up to you. Once thatís all done and youíre satisfied with how your character looks physically, youíre propelled into the world of Norrath. Youíll then be walked through the basics of the game through a series of simple quests that have you fetching items for certain people, making deliveries, and killing your first few foes. Once youíve completed these starter quests, youíll have some acceptable armor that will protect you while you go out into the real world, where youíll face harsh challenges from dangerous beasts that want to eat you for breakfast.
EverQuest 2 is slow and methodical. Itís about teaming up with other people and fighting alongside them. You have to be trusting and rely heavily on the skills of your teammates as every member is an essential cog in your killing machine. Of course, you can go it alone and quietly build up a strong character without anyoneís help, but I personally find the experience much more enjoyable with the company of others. The community is the most important part of any multiplayer game and I think itís safe to say that EverQuest 2 has a very kind and helpful player base.
There have been a lot of changes between EverQuest and EverQuest 2. The most major change is that EverQuest 2 is much more quest-driven and revolves around a storyline. While the original EverQuest had a minor back story about wars of the past and how they shaped the world, EverQuest 2 has a much more direct story that it tells through a much more complex and rewarding quest system. Most of the experience that I earned in EverQuest was through simply killing as many creatures as I could, but my time in EverQuest 2 has been spent largely completing different quests that drive a simple storyline forward. Thereís much more evidence of the conflicts between different races, with many non-player characters offering valuable rewards for killing their enemies.
Each side has their own perception of how their enemies have treated them and what side you choose to fight for (if you choose to fight for either) is left up to you. There are few strings tugging on your character from the start of the game and I truly felt like I was free to make my own decisions, though ultimately most of my decisions boiled down to which combating party would give me better rewards for fighting for them. And quests have been made a heck of a lot easier thanks to a quest journal that gives you specific details about what you need to do in order to collect your rewards Ė thereís much less cryptic hunting, making for a much faster experience.
Another change to the established precedents of EverQuest comes in combat. While battles largely boil down to the same thing (clicking an auto-attack button and then using a few abilities and spells over and over again until you defeat your enemies), theyíre made much more exciting because the enemies are no longer horribly lame. In EverQuest, you were expected to spend your first few hours of gameplay fighting rats and garden snakes until you had enough experience to fight bigger rats and larger garden snakes. After that, you might get to fight a few goblins or Orcs, but you wouldnít really get into any cooler enemies until you had spent a lot of time logged in and leveling up. EverQuest 2 has changed that. The beginning levels do still revolve around killing some lighter enemies, but leveling up was made much faster, and by my tenth level, I was out in the fields fighting fire elementals and the undead. By my twenty-fifth level, I was slaying giants and flying griffons. Iíve never been as excited as I was when my group of companions and I attacked and brought down our first giant. Itís one of those video game experiences that Iíll never forget.
Itís hard to really chronicle every change and addition into the game. You can ride horses, buy houses, level up your guild by completing status quests Ė you name any major feature of any other MMORPG and youíre sure to find it in EverQuest 2. Itís a very complete package, especially now that the game has had some time to be updated. One of the most important things Ė the server connection Ė never missed a beat. It was incredibly rare to suffer lag or anything of the sort except in the most densely populated areas where lag is to be expected. Even the graphics are impressive. Spell animations are fluid and vibrant, often employing every color on the rainbow to inflict death on foes. The draw-distance is top notch too and each area has its own unique feel. The dead forest of Nektulos is decidedly uninviting, but the Baubbleshire, the home of the Halflings and Gnomes, is warm and quaint. Thereís even quite a bit of spoken dialogue by professional voice actors included in the game, so many times, you donít even need to read, you can just sit back and listen to the story unfold, another first for EverQuest.
But, if there is a complaint I can file against EverQuest 2 is that it often feels too big. This may be because the player base just isnít as high as Iím sure it was expected to be. I frequently explored new areas, popular areas, and didnít see a single person. It wasnít uncommon for members of my parties to be coming from the other side of Norrath to join us. Iím not saying that players shouldnít travel around and explore new areas, but I feel like if Iím in a zone built for players of my level, it should be a little easier to find party members to fight with in that zone. And when I couldnít find a party to join, my Norrathian experience got boring quickly. As a healer character, Iím not really suited to fight on my own and canít really do it in most cases. So if I couldnít find a group, I was stuck chatting on the designated chat channel for my level begging for a group. I think it would be a nice addition to the game if the developers included a ďLooking for MembersĒ feature for groups that want more people in them. That way, people that are looking for a group can find groups that are recruiting, instead of relying on group members that are already embroiled in their own battles to find them. This may seem like a minor complaint, but in a game of this scale, not being able to find a group regularly is a pressing issue. If I create another character, Iím definitely going to search for a more crowded server to play on, ignoring the character creation screens prompt to “pick a low-population server to prevent lag.”
Even if it is just a hodgepodge of the great ideas from World of Warcraft, EverQuest, and the countless other MMOs that have come out over the years, they all work very fluidly in EverQuest 2. The only thing missing from it is a larger player base and itís going to take a lot of work to get diehard World of Warcraft players to give this a shot. Itís a sad thing really because having played both games, I like EverQuest 2 much more. It seems to offer a more complete experience and seems to reward players much faster than World of Warcraft. For the money, EverQuest 2 offers a heck of a lot of content and itís continuing to expand and incorporate new ideas. If you arenít playing an MMORPG or think youíre done with the genre completely, download the free trial of EverQuest 2. You have absolutely nothing to lose by doing so and thereís a good chance that you might end up liking the game in the end.
Eight out of ten