To Solo or Not to Solo...
Going It Alone - How Solo Friendly is Everquest 2?
by: Paul "Slide" Shortt
Playing a game by one's self, especially in reference to a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game, is called soloing. Playing the game in a group of two or more is refered to as grouping. Makes sense right? Well, why would a person want to play by themselves when there are thousands of people to adventure with? Then answer isn't clear cut, changes from person to person and ultimately isn't that important. These types of games are non-linear. There isn't any one way it's supposed to be played.
Role playing games seem to have always relied on a group of adventurers traveling together to complete a common goal. I'm not just talking MMO's either. Games like Final Fantasy and Baldurs Gate (single player role playing games) have given the player opportunities to get together with other characters to make finishing quests easier. It kind of makes sense. How the heck is one guy going to take on the evil that threatens to destroy his world?
Back when Everquest 2 was first released, the emphasis was set to grouping. This was pretty apparent through the early levels of a characters life especially on the Isle of Refuge where characters began learning how the mechanics of the game worked. Even off the Isle, it was tough for a player to find an area to hunt without needing at least one other player to survive. Quests more often than not would point a player to dangerous parts of the world no player should dare face alone. I distinctly remember using my invis spells often through my toons' early levels. While grouping has always been an integral part of an MMO, the future of online role playing seems to be leaning toward the solo gamer. People just like the ability to play these games by themselves.
So how easy is it to play Everquest 2 alone? Sony has put a lot of effort into putting a lot of soloable quests and creatures into their game. Places where strong enemies barred passage to deeper parts of a zone have been dumbed down in difficulty. Many new quests have been added or tweaked to more easily allow players to finish them alone. In many areas, mobs in groups of 3 or more are labled with three down arrows making the odds of one player winning much higher. Zones have basically been split into sections of difficulty. Easier enemies will tend to spawn in one area whereas the more difficult triple up mobs will congregate elsewhere. Think of it as a ski hill with different levels of difficulty. The game has deffinately evolved from it's early days.
While quests and mobs have become increasingly easier and more widespread, they won't produce the best of loot. In order to see some of the great zones and defeat the challenging creatures Everquest 2 has to offer, players must get together in groups or raids. In order to wear some of the best gear in the game, players will need to get them from these epic monsters who drop master chests. Players tend to be content with this realization though. The play style of the casual gamer doesn't require end game content. In many cases the casual gamer just doesn't have more than an hour or so to play where some group activities and raids can take many hours to complete.
Why are more and more players looking for soloable content? What is the reason for wanting to stay away from grouping? I thing that there are a few different reasons for this. The quality of the average gamer isn't as high as it used to be. Between the "leet speak", griefing, bashing, and poor game play, it may be easier to just say "forget it" to grouping. As the popular saying goes, "We don't want no drama". Time constraints also make soloing more desireable. By the time a person finds a group to attack the latest Norrathian threat, there might not be enough time to finish a quest let alone start it. Common Goals aren't always easy to find either. Everyone usually has an agenda. That particular agenda may not match your own. I'm an advocate of helping people get through their quests, but it would be nice to get help in return. It seems more and more people are ruled by the "I've gotta get mine" mentality.
So while Everquest 2 has many good soloing aspects, it still emphasizes grouping in order to complete some of the more elaborate quests or kill some of the more elaborate monsters. It's very easy to play the game alone, but can be lonely. You won't get a lot of conversation out of the local merchants.
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