Summary: EverQuest, possibly the world's most successful MMORPG, has a sequel coming and soon. Come read Jakub's preview of this new, improved, very spiffy-looking and 100% Vision-free sequel.
So here I found myself with a stack of work piling the “in” box… pile… mess, and the EQ2 beta invitation was harmlessly hidden deep in Thunderbird, off where it shouldn’t tempt me. Still, given the gushing I’ve been doing over World of WarCraft, it seemed only fair to at least try EQ2 for a comparison. You know, a baseline off which to judge how awesome World of WarCraft will be.
Am I ever glad I tried it. EverQuest 2 is very, very little like EverQuest. The hated, despised, tyrannical “Vision ™” is nowhere to be found. There are real, actual quests. Interacting with NPCs isn’t a matter of spamming them with the right keyword in chat – they have menu chat options. Boy, is the world ever full of content. It seems like every NPC has voice acting behind it, and quite a few of them have quests. Yes, they’re the “go kill X to fetch me # of Y” type, but that’s been RPG canon for the better part of 20 years. The quests also result in huge XP rewards – it might take a player hours to grind from even level 5 to 6, but he can go from 5 to 7 in one hour with quests.
EQ2 falls in between World of WarCraft and the original in terms of how much freedom it offers. World of WarCraft has a relatively small world and the progression of the players is quite obvious – it’s almost like a traditional RPG in that regard. EverQuest basically dumped a player in his starting zone, said “well, here you are – try not to die”, and left it at that.
EQ2 has an impressive tutorial and beginner’s island, for starters, but there’s more. There is no serial progression of quests as in World of WarCraft, so it leaves the player to explore more for himself but unlike EQ, there are many things to do in the city. Cities have housing, markets, crafting equipment is there – but it’s for the player to find. Crafting itself is a hugely involved process, judging from the number of things a player has to do while making something, though I’ve yet to figure out how to do it. There are manuals to buy, ingredients to acquire and – quite honestly – I don’t even know where to get started on it.
On the side of good, we have Qeynos, the former human city on the western part of Antonica. On the side of evil is the dastardly town of Freeport, which used to reside on the eastern part of Antonica. The huge continent, formerly dominated by the Karanas and deserts of Ro, has been, well, demolished. Only a rump of it remains near Qeynos, the rest of it is scattered around the ocean, waiting to be re-discovered and re-conquered.
The player’s allegiance is generally pre-determined for obviously good or evil races, but some, like humans, half-elves and kerra can choose which city they wish to join. There is also a quest available before the player’s subclass is chosen.
Subclass? Yes. Initially everyone starts as a ‘commoner’ before choosing an archetype upon landing on the newbie island. The archetype is one of the four basic class types – fighter, mage, priest and scout. After leveling a bit, players choose a class. There are three per archetype. Fighters can become Warriors, Brawlers or Crusaders. Finally, each class has two sub-classes available. About one third of these are restricted to good characters, one third to evil, and one third neutral. A fighter who became a crusader can then become either a Paladin or Shadowknight, depending on his alignment.
EverQuest 2 fits, yet again, between World of WarCraft and the original in terms of grouping. Groups aren’t quite as necessary as in EQ – from hearsay a fighter can actually solo this time around – but they are the faster way of advancing levels. 6 players together, of the appropriate classes, work much faster than one. However, even a pair of players, particularly the traditional fighter-priest combo, makes for a formidable combat group.
Though we obviously haven’t gotten to high levels, all signs – including SOE’s own words – point to high-end content being made more accessible for players. Raids are planned to be a big part of the game but gone are uber-guild raids of 200+ players. Both farming and raid monster availability problems are being dealt with via instancing. Instances – carbon copies of a dungeon created when necessary – will only permit a player inside only a certain amount of times per time period, and they only allow so many players in. So a large raid might not only require, but permit only 4 groups in together at the same time. Many of these raids can happen simultaneously on the same monster thanks to instancing.
Combat is an involved process, arguably as busy if not more so than World of WarCraft’s. The interface has been significantly overhauled and is quite unique. There is the quick-slot bar but the game permits many of those on at the same time. In fact, EQ2 encourages letter-boxing of the screen to fit these items as necessary. All non-hot keyed options are derived from a single root icon that expands into a full-blown menu. As with WoW, there’s definitely a feeling that this can get very cluttered – both games look like they’ll have too many icons to deal with in combat – but the customizability certainly makes things manageable.
I’d have to admit to being both surprised and impressed with EQ2. Surprised that it’s not aimed exclusively at the hardcore EQ player, that it’s as good as it is and just how far SOE has come since EverQuest and even SWG. The beta is nicely polished but we do hope that Sony takes the time to clean everything up and, if necessary, it won’t bow to the Christmas-release pressure. MMOs are often broken by their launches and people aren’t as forgiving now as they were when the original EQ had its launch.
You can find out more about the game at EQ2Players.com. Please note that for some reason it doesn’t work as well with Mozilla as IE.
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