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Fantasy Re-Review: EverQuest II

Updated Wed, Dec 16, 2009 by Shayalyn

Fantasy Re-Review

EverQuest II


With this review, I assume the reader is somewhat familiar with EverQuest II. If you've never played EQ2 and you'd like to learn more about the game, check out these resources:



What's Changed

My history in EQ2 is pretty similar to that of a lot of other gamers I've talked to--I started out strong and loved the game. I was dazzled by the features and graphics, which seemed stunningly high tech at the time. I lasted about 6 months which, according to my rather unscientific analysis, is longer than most. Who knew that spending 20 levels in one massive zone only to move to another that looked, more or less, just like the first would become dull? SOE should have. But I digress.

Heading back into EQ2 was a bit surreal. The changes SOE has made to the game were apparent right from the character creation screen. When I played at launch, newbie characters started as one of four archetypes:

A Fae Warden

I ventured back into EverQuest II as a fae warden. Hey, it's a free safe fall!

fighter, scout, priest, or mage. At level 10 you narrowed your choices down and chose a class (Druid, for instance). At level 20 you picked your final sub-class (Warden). That system has been eliminated, and players now select from a daunting list of 24 class choices right from the start. Being able to choose your final class immediately instead of 20 levels later was a good move on SOE's part. Nobody wants to grind away 20 levels of the same old same on two different characters just to find out whether they'd rather play a Warden or a Fury.

A couple of new races have been added. The Fae entered the scene with the Echoes of Faydwer expansion, and with them came a new starting city, Kelethin, in the Greater Faydark forest. The evil fae, Arasai, were introduced later in game update #35, along with another new starting city, Neriak. (These locations, the renewal of beloved zones and cities from the original EverQuest, look completely different but still have a high nostalgia factor for EQ players.) While I haven't downloaded the extra content necessary to play an Arasai (I'm not generally evil, although my husband would probably beg to differ), I have to concede that while the coolness of a fairy race may be questionable, the reintroduction of Faydwer and the Greater Faydark, along with a host of other familiar zones like the Butcherblock Mountains and Lesser Faydark, was a stroke of genius that almost had me breaking into a chorus of "Memories."

Almost.

Graphics & Performance

Back when EverQuest II launched I was running a decent gaming system. It wasn't the latest and greatest, but it was perfectly respectable. SOE had been hyping the stunning graphics in EQ2, and saying things like, "Our game will look good and keep getting better as technology improves." For me, at the time, it often looked like mud. I could turn up my graphics settings in the safety of my own little room at the village inn or in open outdoor zones, but when surrounded by 5 other group members delving into a dungeon I was doomed to run my game on the lowest settings or suffer crippling lag. While I would never advocate the "technology will catch up" approach when it comes to developing MMOG graphics (see my upcoming Vanguard review for more on that), I have to say that technology has indeed caught up to EQ2 and the game looks splendid.

That said, I've never much cared for EQ2's character models, and I hear a lot of similar complaints from fellow gamers. SOE introduced what it called SOGA character models in late 2005. These models, created in cooperation with Gamania as part of the EverQuest II East project, offer a distinctly Asian flair. (They were designed to appeal to the Asian marketplace.) Players can choose whether to view the SOGA models or not, and even select which races they would like to view as SOGA models. You can also customize your character's SOGA appearance, even if your character is already in existence, but only once.

EQ2 performed well on my current system, as I think it will on most current gaming systems. And I found myself newly impressed with some of the glittery effects I couldn't quite take advantage of back when EQ2 launched and my PC just wasn't up to par. Lighting and bloom effects give the zones an ethereal look. NPCs' mouths move when they talk--and in many cases they actually do talk thanks to professional voice overs--and they gesture and appear more lifelike than the static NPCs in older games.

Graphics & Performance Score: 9

Combat

Combat is the one thing about EverQuest II that I find rather flat. EQ2 employs a system called Heroic Opportunities, designed to make combat more interesting than the hit-auto-attack-and-go-AFK combat in

A Fae Warden

Completing a heroic opportunity creates greater damage and spectacular spell effects.

older games. While you'll likely die in battle if you don't concentrate and use HOs (don't look at me, I didn't make up the acronym), you're still not going to find combat any more exciting than a lot of repetitive button mashing. With my keyboard set-up, playing the level 15 Warden I made and leveled up for this review, what I ended up doing was this:

Begin combat using Snare or Root
Trigger a Heroic Opportunity with hotkey button 5
Advance the HO with hotkey button 2
Complete the HO with hotkey button 3
Heal with hotkey button 6

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Even so, props to SOE for at least trying to make things more interesting with Heroic Opportunities. HOs can get more challenging in a group, but they tend to be repetitive during solo play.

Combat Score: 7

The Bling Factor

EverQuest II, for its time, served up some fresh innovations. (No, I'm not necessarily saying EQ2 was the first to use the following systems or technologies, so keep your fanboy indignation in check.) It uses voice-overs for prominent NPCs. It has a memorable and impressive musical score. It offers collection quests, allowing players to pick up items found on the ground and add them to a collection. Completing the collection earns the player a reward. (And for those of you who played EQ2 back at launch, those collection items no longer consume valuable backpack space--you can double-click them and add them to your collection via an interface.) Player housing is equitable and instanced--each player gets a newbie room at the inn in their starting city for the meager upkeep fee of 5 silver per game week, and can move up to fancier, more expensive digs from there. EQ2's crafting system is, although not perfect and really still akin to button mashing, oddly addicting, as evidenced by my character becoming a level 20 crafter long before she became a level 15 adventurer. (And I'm normally not a crafter, so that says something.) The same goes for harvesting--it's difficult to pass up a node and not want to harvest it.

The bottom line is that there are still features in EQ2 that make me think, Hey, that's cool! And I still hum the EverQuest theme song (which replays itself in EQ2) from time to time.

Bling Factor Score: 9

Summing it Up

All in all, EverQuest II is a surprisingly slick and well-executed game. It was advanced and ambitious for its

A Fae Warden

The Crushbone orcs--even those who "fail the empire"--will add a nostalgia factor for EQ players.

time, and because of that it has aged well. There's no sense of the game being archaic and outdated like some older games can come to feel. And a lot of the troubles that plagued EQ2 in its early days, like the archetype system and the small and limited feel that the new world of Norrath had, have been all but eliminated either through updates or expansions. Overall, I've been pleasantly surprised by my second look at EverQuest 2. My account is still active, and I'm still playing it, even after this review hits the virtual newsstand.

If you're waiting for another MMOG and don't know what to do to pass the time, it may well be worth digging up those old disks, downloading an epic patch, and giving the game a second look. Or if you've lost the disks or you've never tried EverQuest 2, you can pick up the game with all the current expansions for $39.99 at your favorite game retailer or Direct2Drive.

Average Score: 8.3


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