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EverQuest 2

Developer: SOE | Publisher: Sony Online Entertainment
Players: 1+ Player Game | Release Date: 11/08/04 | Genre: MMO

If you poll 100 people and ask them to name a MMORPG (massively-multiplayer online role-playing game), the name EverQuest will come up more than once. While EQ was not the first game of this type, arguably it took the genre to a whole new level. When people actually lose their job because they would rather stay home and play a game, you know someone is doing something right or wrong if you were the dude losing his job. With the success of EQ, there was never any doubt that there would be a sequel. Now, we have EverQuest 2 which takes all the things that the developers learned from the original game and tries driving the gaming experience to the next level.

The hardest part of reviewing a massive game like EverQuest 2 stems from trying to cram all the information that you want to point out into a couple pages, but as always the best place to start is at the beginning. If you have a DVD drive on your PC, pick up the DVD version. The CD version takes something like 10 CDs to install. You’ll also need a fairly modern gaming machine with about 5GB of harddrive space free and at least 512MB of RAM; part of my RAM died on my PC leaving me with 256MB of RAM and the game was so slow as to be unplayable.

When you first connect to Sony Online Entertainment’s servers, you’ll be greeted with a few patch updates. If you don’t have a broadband connection, it will take a while. Once you have your account created and logged in (like most games of this type there is a monthly fee to play), you choose a server to play on. For me, I had a friend already playing, so I chose the same server as him or we would not have been able to play together. The game tries offers servers that aren’t as crowded first, but I was able to pick the server I wanted though it claimed that it was full. From here, you create your first character. You can only have four characters on your account unless you upgrade it to be able to make eight.

Character creation is loaded with tons of customizations. The first thing I chose was my race. Race dictates which city you will join. There are two main cities, Freeport (evil) and Queynos (good), and you are limited somewhat by your race selection on which one you will go to. Some races are evil only, some good, and some can join either city. While you don’t make your city choice immediately, keep it in mind when picking a race. The races range from the brawny ogre and barbarian, mentally stout gnomes and erudites, and the exceedingly agile halflings and ratonga with various combinations in between. There’s also a locked race that will be opened at some point through in-game actions. While your racial choice might limit your starting city, it doesn’t limit your class. All races can be any class, but more on that later. Once a race is selected, you customize your look to be able to stand out in a crowd. Barbarians can have tattoos; ratonga can run around with a monocle; and trolls can have some very goth-looking nails driven through their eyebrows (eye-ridges). Overall, you’ll probably spend a few minutes trying to compose your look. A lot of these choices will be hidden later on though. Mages tend to wear voluminous robes that hide everything but their face and hands, and many warriors will be completely encased in plate armor. I do take my troll warrior’s helmet off occasionally just to try to scare people – he’s pretty ugly!

From this point you are ready to enter the game. Two options exist: enter the interactive tutorial that takes place aboard a ship or jump straight to the Isle of Refuge (newbie land!). New players definitely want to go through the tutorial. MMO veterans might find it a bit boring, but it covers a number of things that are unique to EQ2. These beginning areas impressed me with how well they tossed the player right into the action without letting you get lost – enough guidance to keep you on track and enough action to keep you from being bored. You work your way through the Isle until you reach level 7 and then journey on to your city of choice.

One of your first choices once you make it to the island is to choose a profession. While your final class choices won’t be made until level 20, this initial choice that you make will start your character down the path towards that final decision. Classes are broken into four archetypes: warrior, mage, scout (thief), and priest. Just before level 10 players are given a quest to choose their next class which is based on their initial class choice. Fighters can become warriors, brawlers, or crusaders; mages can become sorcerers, enchanters, or summoners; scouts can become rogues, bards, or predators; and priests can become cleric, druids, and shaman. You still retain all your skills from your previous class, but you branch off into new skills and spells based on this choice. Right before level 20, you have to make your final class choice, and at this point your choices will be limited by whether you chose to be good or evil (There is a Betrayal Quest that can be completed, so you could make an evil ogre into a noble paladin. It isn’t easy though.). Some of the subclasses can be either alignment. So at level 20 you have these choices: warrior – berserker or guardian, brawler – bruiser or monk, crusader – paladin or shadowknight, sorcerer – warlock or wizard, enchanter – illusionist or coercer, summoner – necromancer or conjurer, rogue – brigand or swashbuckler, bard – dirge or troubadour, predator – assassin or ranger, cleric – templar or inquisitor, druid – warden or fury, and shaman – defiler or mystic. Players can also tailor their class somewhat through picking certain racial and class “Traitsâ€? as they level up. Every few levels garners you the ability to pick a trait from a list of choices. With that said, up till level 10 all fighters will pretty much be the same. After level 10 your character will begin to diversify itself.

Along with adventure classes, there are also crafting classes that players may pursue. Players can create food, drink, items that grant higher levels of a certain spell or skill, armor, weapons, totems, and even furniture. While furniture might sound like a luxury item, it grants owners of more expensive apartments a discount on their rent. Crafting is tied into to the game’s economy to the point where people have been able to become quite wealthy off of making sub-components to sell to other players.

As I mentioned before, EQ2 is a system hog, but it provides the best graphics in any game of this type to date. Where World of Warcraft has a cartoonish look, EQ2 strives for more of a realistic appearance. My computer troubles serve as a good illustration. Before I upgraded my system, I had the graphics detail cranked down into the gutter. Things still looked better than average, but nothing to write home about. With the new system, I cranked the settings up to near the maximum setting and was amazed. My character had been standing in a barren patch of dirt, but now he was almost waist deep in scrub grass that shifted with the wind. Of course if you are in a congested area, the higher settings can cause some slow down issues.

The game lives up to the name when it comes to quests. I was shocked by the sheer number of NPCs or objects that I came across that wanted my help. Objects often held clues that led into collection quests or other quests entirely, and the NPC offerings ranged from delivery missions, “shake down one of the localsâ€?, and retrieve certain objects to having to clear an area of invaders so a merchant might give you a good deal. Where some games might be accused of focusing too much on “level grindingâ€?, EQ2 offers such a wide range of quests that anyone who makes those accusations here only has themselves to blame.

If there are any concerns for the game, it is the lack of any player-versus-player action to keep high level characters involved in the game once they have maxed themselves out. Sony does have an aggressive plan in place for the release of new content to keep the already enormous world growing.

By Greg Meadors - 07/06/05
ESRB Details: Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol, Violence

Screenshots for EverQuest 2

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