Part of me feels a need to mark these sorts of anniversaries. Thirteen is significant in that is the age at which one passes into the tumultuous teen years, hormones all in a rage and stuck in between being…. and wanting to be… both a child and an adult.
EverQuest, the progenitor, went Free to Play on its thirteenth birthday, striking out to remake itself in a new mold like many a teen.
But MMORPGs are not people, and thirteen isn’t really the start of the teens for games the genre. MMO titles crow up fast and adulthood can be reached in just weeks or months. If anything, thirteen is well into middle-age, when routines have been establish, destiny pretty much set, and you have a stable of acquaintances who’ve already made up their mind about you long ago. EverQuest going free to play at thirteen was not an act of teen rebellion but a bowing to reality.
Now EverQuest II is thirteen, as WoW will be in a couple of weeks. I don’t know that there will be anything truly special about this turning of the calendar for either game. But I am in a nostalgic mood. It is autumn, I am back playing WoW and I have been poking my nose into TorilMUD again, having gotten ZMud up and running once more. (Expect more MUD posts.)
As part of all of that I was digging around and came across a Microsoft Word document. It was a summary of EverQuest II from a person who had been in the beta and sent to a member of our Shades of Twilight guild on TorilMUD to convince them to come and play EverQuest II. The document was passed on to Gaff who passed it on to me. It is the answer to the question, “Why did you run off to play EverQuest II?” for our guild.
We ended up in a mixed group of migrating EverQuest players from a guild and our TorilMUD guild coming together to form Knights of the Cataclysm on the Crushbone server back on November 14, 2004.
Crushbone had just been stood up, a second round server to hold the influx of players coming to the new game. We got there largely due to the document I am including after the cut. I do not know the original author’s name nor am I posting with their permission. I am justifying this as a bit of history that describes a lot of the things that were in place in EverQuest II at launch.
Many, many words after the cut. Real life names redacted.
Everquest 2 Review (Again)
[name] let me say that you will love Everquest. This game was made for people like you.
After you have installed the game the first thing you will do is create a character. (You can get a pre-order CD that will allow you to create and save your character ahead of actually playing. This isn’t really needed since making your character doesn’t take up to much time.) The first thing you will realize when you are creating your character is just how many choices you have when designing what your character will look like. After the initial choice of selecting the race you will be presented with a plethora of choices when it comes to altering the size, shape, color of just about every aspect of a characters looks. You can spend a good 5-10 mins. along just designing the face of your character. This is just the beginning of a complete game.
Once you have created the looks of your character you will be asked to pick an alignment and a starting city. Depending on the Race/Class combo you will be presented with either one or two choices for a starting city. Some races like Human and Gnome may start in either city, the evil city of Freeport or the good city of Qeynos. Some races like Ogres, Trolls and the new race Ratonga may only start in the evil city of Freeport and some races like Halflings, High Elves and such may only start in the good city of Qeynos. This choice is very important if you plan to play with friends as players in different cities are prevented from playing together for some time. (There is a level 20 Betrayal quest that one may do from either city to join the opposite city, at which point you would be able to join your friends not only in group but in Guild as well.)
You now have a complete character with Race, Class, Looks, Alignment, Starting City and name. You are then asked if you want to do the tutorial or not, I would HIGHLY suggest yes on the first character and feel free to skip it from then on. You are placed on a “refuge” ship heading to the Isle of Refuge or the IoR as we called it in Beta. Here you will be walked through some basic quests, like you were on the ship. The Starting tutorial on the ship is great to get you used to the basic commands and the GUI. Once you arrive on the IoR you will be 2nd level and you will get your basic gear after you choose your “Arch-Type” Your choices will be between Fighter, Mage, Cleric or Scout. You can read all you want about the basic arch-types on the Everquest2.com web page. Once you choose your arch-type you will receive your gear and skills for your level. From this point on you are able to run around the Isle killing mobs for exp/loot or quests. I suggest doing ALL of the quests on the IoR before leaving the Isle. You are able to gain level 6, +220% exp (Equal to level 8) before leaving the Isle. I suggest some place between 6 +110% and 150% exp that will place you approximately level 7.5 after you leave the Isle. I’m not going to go into detail about the quests on the IoR because I know how much you like quests and this game is rich with quests.
Once you speak with the ambassadors and leave the IoR to your starting city you are transported to your racial suburb. You as a refuge are not allowed in the main city. You much gain level 7, which you should have if you did enough of the extra exp like I suggested. Then you will start on your first “Hallmark” quests. You will find it under your Quest Journal nice and easy to use. Your Journal will keep track of up to 50 quests at a time showing all the steps you have done and your next step to complete. The first Hallmark quest will be citizenship quest. I suggest very highly that you finish this quest as soon as possible. This will take you to level 8 easy if you have gotten the extra exp as I explained on the Isle. You are not able to level past 7 until you are a citizen. As you are doing your citizen quest you should speak to all the NPC’s you will meet in all of the different zones surrounding your starting city. Each of these NPC’s will have a chance to give you more quests. Don’t worry about filling up your quest journal to 50 as these quests are usually short and easy to do in the beginning but can lead on to bigger and better quests later on. Once you have finished your Hallmark quest you will have access to your starting city and you will level to at least level 8. You will receive some nice gear and should have any where from 10 to 50 more quests to complete. It’s very easy to go from level 8 to 15 doing quests and killing small mobs in the noobie fighting zones that also surround the starting cities. Most of the quests you will obtain will have you moving through these zones. Level 16 is the last level you will be able to gain any exp in the suburb fighting zones. Once you have made it to level 16 you will have to leave the mob areas and head out into Antonica or the Commonlands
Antonica and the Commonlands are actually made up of many of the EQ1 zones. These zones are very large and very well thought out. Just like most of the other games you have played, the farther from the city gates you travel the more powerful and hostile the mobs become. You will recognize many of the zones from EQ1 but you will also find many zones that are completely new to EQ2. At this time you are well on your way to level 50 and you will have tons of quests and group encounters spread out, through out all of the areas.
The first thing I can say about game play is it is smooth and fast paced. Gone are the days of sitting for long periods of mind numbing time staring at a spell book waiting for spells, mana and hps to come back. Even if you are soloing with a non-healer you will notice that down time is much less of a game breaker then it ever was before in EQ1. If you eat and drink you will be granted sped up regenerative powers in both health and mana. Also gone are the days of the “Holy Trinity”. No longer do you need three classes and only three classes to play Everquest. Before all you needed to be a successful group was a Warrior, Cleric and a Enchanter. Now with the new arch-type system ALL healers are priests, all casters are mages and melee types are fighters etc. You can be a Fury, Druid, Cleric, Priest etc. All of these classes come at different times in your characters life but you are always the same Arch-Type. Every single healer in the game started out as a “Priest”. With that in mind every healer has the same base skills that are derived from the priest arch-type. With that said, a druid can heal as well as a cleric or a Shaman or a Fury etc. But what is nice is as you level up and choose your Sub-Class at level 10 and your final class choice at level 20 you gain more and more specialty spells and skills. But you never lose the fact that you are still from one certain arch-type. Sony did such a good job at balancing the classes they actually made the game boring and very repetitive. All of one arch-type was just too much the same. You couldn’t tell one healer from the other. The players in Beta were very vocal about this problem and Sony did another thing that surprised me a lot. They listened to the beta testers and not only made some changes, but made drastic changes they said they would not do in the beginning. They added groups of skills, traits and abilities that you are allowed to choose of the life of your character that will help to separate you from your fellow class mates. Not all Druids will be exactly the same. What Mastery Skills did you chose? What traits did you take? What mobs are your chosen creatures? These are very good and making character different yet not unbalancing the game. In Beta I played many characters but two stood out and were in my plans to test for my enjoyment. I played a Barbarian Monk, a Gnome Enchanter and an Ogre Enchanter (Yes, an Ogre Enchanter, remember there are NO class/race combo restrictions. Yes you can even become an Ogre Paladin. That would be very tough to do but it’s possible.) First thing I noticed was how balanced the classes were and even when I played the INT/WIS challenged Ogre I was able to be a successful caster I just had to change my tactics. I couldn’t Root and shoot because I would run out of mana faster since I had a lower INT and WIS. So I would root, dot and wait for the mob to break root and then beat it to death with my staff. Unlike the Gnome with very low STA and STR I had plenty to spare so I was hitting very hard with my staff as an Ogre and I was able to over come mobs with different tactics. Very Very cool.
Now that classes are balanced yet different, you are able to find groups much more easy. I find that soloing to at least level 10 is the fastest way to go. There are so many solo able quests that making it to level 15 isn’t even a problem just doing quests. Some quests will require you to have friends. Sometimes there are steps in the quests that will require more then one person to finish. But there aren’t to many and they don’t really start till you are a bit higher.. (12-16 depending on the quest)
Now that you are higher and want to start grouping there are some things that you need to know about this aspect of game play. Be very careful about with whom you group. When a player dies in a group EVERYONE shares in the EXP Debt. I don’t care if you are 15 zones away milking a cow if someone in your group dies you will take a piece of that debt onto yourself. In EQ2 you don’t lose Exp. You gain exp debt. Lets say you are level 15 with 20% into level and you die. You will see a section of your exp turn red ahead of where you current where when you died. You also will have a “Spirit Shard” on the ground where you died. This will be in the form of a ghostly image of your dead body. You get about 20-40% exp debt before you retireve your spririt shard. You can choose not to retrieve your shard, but I wouldn’t suggest it. You will gain the exp back in about 72 hrs in RL. But you will be gaining exp at about half your normal rate until the debt is repaid. If you do go back and retrieve your shard (Corpse) you will reduce the debt down to about 3-5% which isn’t to bad. If you are soloing It slows you down for a bubble or town of exp, if you are in a good group you can get out of your debt in just a few minutes. On the other hand if you are in a bad group you can find your self with a TON of debt in no time. This is one reason why finding good players to group with and making friends is very important in EQ2.
Now that we are grouped or solo looking for mob exp you need to know how to determine of a mob is right for you. They expanded greatly on the “CON” command from EQ1. Yes you can target a mob and see it’s color. They stayed with the tried and true method of the closer a mob is to the color red the tougher the mob is. But they have add to not only the colors but symbols on the target of the monster as well. In EQ2 they have added shades of colors to the con as well. Now you have Grey, Green, Blue, White, Yellow, Orange and Red. Green through Red is fairly normal as it was with EQ1 with the addition of the Orange color. But Grey is new. A grey creature invokes the trivial loot code. You will gain neither exp nor loot for this creature. But unlike EQ1 where even Green creatures that were worth no exp would still attack you; in EQ2 grey creatures will not attack you. You may still kill them for quest related items or to complete a quest but you will not gain any exp or loot from them. Then we come to the Group Vs Solo label. You will also note under the colored name of the creature the word Group or Solo. If you tag a creature that has the word “Group” it will bring all of its friends no matter what you do. No harmony pulls, FD pulls, etc. You get none or all. When you target one mob of a group, all of the mobs in that group will be highlighted so you can see what you’re getting into. Here is a twist. When you target a “Group” mob the color of all the mobs is the rating of the GROUP vs. your GROUP, not one single mobs vs you. It’s a group vs group con. With that said, if you tag a mob that is labeled solo he will be the only mob that will come. As you gain levels more and more mobs take on the social/agro status and will add on to fights as per normal with EQ1. Finally, when you target a mob for CONsideration when fighting you will notice the creature may have Triangles under or over its name. Triangles under mean the mob is an under con, and over mean he is an over con. Mobs can have 1 to 3 triangles. If the mob has a single triangle that means he is an over con for a one on one fight. If the mobs has two up triangles that means he is an over con for a group, and finally if the mob has three up triangles up he is an over con for a raid force. (2 to 4 groups of 6) and of course the opposite applies if the triangles are pointed down and under the name. It’s a nice system and gives you more to think about then choosing the mob you are going to fight.
Now you are grouped, you know what to fight now you have to actually fight and defeat the monster. Unlike EQ1 all fighter Arch-Types can tank fairly well, all Priest arch-types can heal fairly well and making a group is pretty easy. You just really need 1 from each Arch-Type (Figher, Priest, Scout and Mage) with two extra’s thrown in depending on what you think you need extra. Due to the speed and insaneness of the larger group combats having to healers isn’t a bad thing. Also Enchanters can save the day, between Stuns, Charms, Mez’s and Rooting Chanters are the KING of crowd control. Just like in any other game, group with smart people and learn to play your character and your fine.
One last thing about grouping and fighting mobs are “Locked Encounters” I’m not sold on this. This is basicly how it works. You walk up to Mob-X and attack the mob. A “Lock” will appear next to your name and next to the mobs name. This means that you are in a “Locked Encounter” with that mob. There is NOTHING I can do to alter that fight. Even if I were a friend and just wanted to heal you. NO one can do ANYTHING to help or hinder you. Now of course if you are grouped.. then every one in the group is included in the locked encounter. You can “Yell” for help which will “Unlock” the encounter and now others can attack the mob or heal you. But no one will gain any exp from that fight. Of course this was designed for two reasons. Kill Stealing and Power leveling. Do I think this will stop KS’ing? Yes. Do I think it will stop Power Leveling? Hell No. people WILL find a way. At first I hated it. But it has grown on me a bit. Not having to worry about KS’ing and Farmers is a very nice thing.
Crafting in EQ2 is unlike any game I have ever seen. It even rivals UO’s crafting which before EQ2 was the best ever done (Oddly enough the first as well..) DAoC and Horizons also had very good crafting systems. With EQ2 they went to the next level. You can play EQ all the way to level 50 and never go out and fight monsters for exp or grind exp, you can just craft your life away. Crafting is set up just like your adventuring side of your character. You start as a “basic” artisan and at level 10 choose a sub-class then at 20 choose your final class and specialty. In beta I was a Artisan, Scholar and then a Jeweler. You can be 3 Sub-Classes with 3 sub-classes off each of those. Example, Artisan to Scholar to Jeweler, Sage or Alchemist. Crafting is extremely complex and is way out of scope for this review. Just understand that crafting is very fun and complex. It’s a challenge. You can interact with other craftsmen making items they need for their finished products and they can in return do the same for you. The one thing I truly like about EQ2’s crafting is that in the end game the best piece of equipment will not be the “Sword of Uberness” that drops off the “Super-Hard Mob” but the Blade that drops off the Dragon + a couple of crafted items that will be combined to make a new sword that is even more powerful then the dropped sword. Thus insuring that Craftsmen will ALWAYS be needed.
I will keep this section brief. Guilds are where the game truly shines in EQ2. They have really added to the social aspect of the game with guilds. Not only can you get x-people to join up to form a guild and go out and kill mobs, now there is so much more. You will be “part” of your city as a guild. You will earn status points. They guild will level up with those points and new things will be opened up to your guild based on your status. You will be able to buy new items from merchants, get discounts, have access to items people not in guilds won’t have. You will be able to actually buy large guild houses inside of town etc. Now you will have to obtain that status through special guild quests, and you will have to work to maintain that status level as well. There are many things in the guild make up of the game I really enjoy. Only takes 6 people to form a guild and the limit is around 30 per guild and 24 per guild raid. They are keeping the game small and staying away from the 180 people Zergs of EQ1
I could go on and on about how sweat the textures are, how nice the fauna looks but I’d be wasting my time stating the obvious. EQ2 is the best looking game on the market bar NONE. Period end of story. IF you have the machine to drive it and the video card to display it (Which you will have) you can play EQ2 at the settings the devs wanted it played at and the game is stunning.
This is the hidden gem in the game of EQ2. The sound and voice overs are unlike anything you have ever seen in any game. I like to think I can come close to saying “I have seen it all” when it comes to computer games esp. CRPGS. I will say this. I haven’t heard a game that sounds like this ever. Period. The sound is great, but the NPC voice overs just push it over the top. You’ll just have to experience it yourself.
They perfected the GUI late in the life of EQ2, they made it completely customizable via XLM code and there are some very good people out there that are already making custom GUI’s for EQ2 just like they did for EQ1. Hell even the out of the box GUI is VERY nice. Multi-hot bars, chat boxes, everything is scalable boxes, fonts, etc. You can even choose to play the game in letter-box mode. (Don’t know why you would.. but you can.) They get a 10 for GUI, they took a great GUI in EQ1 and made it better.
Is Everquest 2 a good game? Yes. Is Everquest for everyone? No. If Everquest finished? No. Hell Everquest 1 isn’t even finished six years after beta. I don’t think MMO’s are ever finished until they shut the doors. Do I think [you] will like Everquest, yes actually I do. There are TONS of quests, simple at first and then gain in complexity as you level and the quests become harder. Also the game is more “player friendly” then Everquest was. You can’t find a group? So what, go do Quests, fight solo mobs, hell go work on your Artisan levels. Go gather materials to craft or sell to other crafters, hunt for collectables on the ground, explore there are many things you can do and it doesn’t take 6 hrs to do any one thing. They were very good at making sure even a person that logs on for 1-2 hrs a day can complete many things. They really did a good job on changing the feel and pace of the game. At the least EQ2 is worth every penny to try out. [person], [person] and I will be playing together. I also have 4-5 more friends from [place] that will be starting in Qeynos and playing on the same server. We are going to form a guild and work together.