Sony Online Entertainment shook the MMOG world last week
when they announced that one of their most notable games, EverQuest II,
tossing its hat into the free-to-play ring
.  While the new format will be
limited to a separate server and the community will be segregated on its own
official forum, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the effects of EQ2 Extended
won’t be felt across the entire playerbase. As an
EQ2 veteran myself I couldn’t
resist the urge to take a peek at what the new alternate server had to offer,
and what it didn’t. What I found there might surprise you!

I’ll say it upfront. The idea of the game that I have been
playing for the last six years going free-to-play does not tickle me. Perhaps
it’s the gaming snob in me that shies away from nearly all free-to-play games or
maybe it’s the idea that somehow EQ2 isn’t passing the corporate bottom line
snuff with current subscribers. Either way the news that SOE is trying on the
F2P format made me immediately go “Ewww…really?”

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Log in right from your browser to get started. Almost
no wait time needed!

Getting over my initial distaste, I sucked it up and logged
in to see what I was, or wasn’t, missing.

Downloading the Extended client is easy and practically
non-existent even. The game uses streaming to get players into game as quickly
as possible. You load the browser based launchpad the first time you log in
(you’ll get an icon on your desktop once it has loaded up) and the game takes a
few minutes to download the necessary files to get started. The rest loads as
you go so you’re basically downloading the game while you play. This is great if
you have a fast connection but less than great if you don’t.

Character creation looks a lot neater and much more user
friendly.  You have four neutral races available to you for free: Barbarians,
Erudites, Half Elves, and Humans. The neutral Gnomes and Kerrans, as well as all
the good aligned races and the evil aligned races are available as purchasable
upgrade packages. The character creation has been completely revamped and
overall it just looks nicer and feels smoother. You have all four archetypes
available, but only two classes (the most iconic of each archetype) within each
archetype are free. The fighter has the Guardian and Berserker, the priest has
the Templar and Inquisitor, the mage has the Wizard and Warlock, and the scout
has the Swashbuckler and Brigand. The rest you will need to slap some cash down
if you want to play them or upgrade to the gold or platinum service.

The default UI has also had some updates and is very
streamlined and modern looking. All your major wants and needs, including the
EQ2 menu button, the Station Cash button, and the most used interface buttons,
such as the character windows or the quest journal, are contained at the bottom
of the screen on a single bar. Keep in mind, the UI changes will also be hitting
the live servers eventually so all players will be able to benefit from a more
organized UI.

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The New UI is a welcome change for all.

I chose to play a Barbarian Berserker starting in Halas and
of course, the very moment I logged in I went straight to the Station
Marketplace window to see what I could get my greedy hands on and was very
pleased to see that I had unlimited SC to play with during testing.

Not unlike the live servers, the Marketplace offers plenty
of fluff items such as appearance armor, pets, mounts, housing items, etc.
Unlike the live servers, however, you can also buy armor pieces, weapons, a wide
range of tactical potions, XP potions that raise adventuring, AA, and tradeskill
experience gain up to 100%, the latest expansion, membership upgrades, and
tradeskill components including rares. I immediately bought a level one armor
set (6 pieces), weapons (duel swords), a full set of appearance armor, a 65% run
speed mount, a stack of 100% experience potions (lasts two hours and raises all
forms of experience at the same time), and a stack of 100% heal potions. At
first glance I don’t think anyone would have been able to guess that I was a
newborn character but I wasn’t any better off than a good twink would be.

With my XP potion and beefed up gear, I blew through the
first 15 levels in no time at all. At level 12 I noticed that a new set of
better armor became available to me for purchase.  It’s reasonable quality
Mastercrafted armor. You can’t buy the whole set but you can buy the major
pieces and augment easily with quested gear. Having this armor available would
be important for Bronze players because gold earnings are capped making it
nearly impossible to buy this gear at higher levels. Mastercrafted gear would
also be very sufficient for most casual players who solo or occasionally group.

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These are definitely NOT fluff items.

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Not enough coin to upgrade your gear? Get out your

The UI puts emphasis on the Marketplace. When you interact
with a merchant you will find, next to your coin count, your SC count. While the
merchants I visited did not offer anything for sale with SC, it’s obviously set
up for that purpose. This integrates SC into everything you do in game and there
is no forgetting that you’re playing on the Extended server as ads present
themselves every 30 minutes (*patch notes indicate that these now occur every 60 minutes) of gameplay on the bronze package.

What I like about the Extended server:

  • - Quick
    start and user friendly design. It is clear that the changes have been made to
    entice new players.
  • -
    Reasonable items offered on the Marketplace. Nothing puts the player into super
    duper god mode, rather it hands the ultimate casual player who has a little
    spending money on hand the tools to get through the game without having to
    constantly play catch up.
  • - It’s on
    its own server. I’d faint then /rage_quit if this touched the live servers as
    I’m sure many players would. It reminds me much of the Live Gamer Exchange
    servers but Instead of players getting the cash for selling the items, it’s
    going directly to SOE.
  • - It shows
    off the best parts of EQ2 before you realize you’re missing anything with the
    bronze package. I love the newer starting zones and it is easy to leisurely work
    your way through that content without feeling like you have any time constraints
    like you always feel with limited time trials.
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Pop up ads are more than enough to keep me away.

What I don’t like about the Extended server:

  • - Coin is
    not offered for sale through the Marketplace but it almost seems like it should
    be. Items offered for sale are not bound to you in any way so you can buy a
    stack of ulteran diamonds and immediately toss them onto the broker essentially
    paying real life cash for plat. It just seems like they should cut out the song
    and dance and make plat buyable or stop players from abusing the system as they
    surely will.
  • - Lag, lag,
    lag. Because the game streams, if you actually want to play right away, it is
    fairly choppy at first. Performance is a big deal on a first impression and poor
    performance is going to turn a lot of players off before they’ve had a chance to
    really check out the game. Streaming is a nice idea, but it definitely needs
    some work.
  • - Upgrade
    reminders. Every 60 minutes a window pops up letting me know that I was bumming
    on a bronze package. This quickly became REALLY annoying and not in an “Oooh, I
    so wanna upgrade now that you’ve reminded me for the 10th time
    today!” sort of way. My suggestion would be to have these reminders pop up when
    players attempt to do something that is limited (like sell on the broker or once
    gold limits have been reached, etc.) rather than getting all up in my Kool-Aid
    about it. The constant pop-ups just feel desperate and do nothing to motivate an
    upgrade purchase.
  • - This is
    what is replacing the free trial. That means that unless you are directly
    referring a friend to play, all new players will be sent here rather than the original servers. Once players are established here they really have no reason
    whatsoever to play on non-Extended servers. Why is this bad? SOE is striving to
    renew interest in EQ2. The goal is to filter interested players to the Extended
    server meanwhile the population on the older servers will continue to shrink as
    vet players move on to newer games. If things go according to plan, the old
    servers will get smaller and smaller while the Extended server(s) will get
    bigger. For vet players and guilds on dwindling servers, this blows.

So what’s the verdict? Aside from the issue of losing new
blood to the original servers (which is sorta a really big issue), EQ2 Extended
is no more significant to live server players than the Live Gamer Exchange
servers. Most players won’t notice its existence. Playing with subscription
models is totally reasonable and with trends pushing towards micro-transactions,
SOE is probably doing the right thing by jumping on the boat with a relatively
still kicking MMOG. Not only will this bring EQ2 new attention but it will also
(hopefully) boost revenue overall which will be something we all can enjoy.

Will I be playing there? No. I maintain two EQ2
subscriptions for my household and while it would save me some money to maybe
move around a character or two and drop one of my subs, there really is no
actual benefit for high end regular players on Extended. I’m also pretty happy
with my home server even if I do have to work hard for my badassness just like
everyone else.

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our EverQuest II Game Page.

Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016