EverQuest: A Return to Norrath
Many of us remember the world of Norrath as our first home in MMO games, and mention of EverQuest brings nostalgia, stories, and discussions of "how things used to be." As the game approaches it's 10th year anniversary, an interesting question has bothered me over the past 4 or 5 years. How has the game stood the test of time and would it be playable to someone who has just began their experience? It's important to be reasonable and keep the age in mind when examining EverQuest in it's current state.
Logging into EverQuest gave me a familiar but unusual feeling like seeing the house you grew up in. At one time you knew every square inch of the front yard, but now the tree is taller and the bushes are different. The character creation screen, despite it's age, looked like any normal menu I'd see in a modern MMO game. Sure it didn't have the flexibility of City of Heroes or the flash of EverQuest 2, but the options it provided would be considered standard. A number of heads, torsos, and other body modifications allowed me to make a Dark Elf that would be just unique enough to not look like everyone else. Of course I never use these options and just hit the random button a few times but it's nice they are available.
These are some tough bouncers.
SOE has made their graphical updates to zones such as Freeport widely known, however I found Neriak just as much of a maze as I remember. Spanning multiple areas containing dozens of buildings I still found myself wandering around for almost 20 minutes looking for the exit. Fortunately the in game map system helps a little but zone navigation appears to still be an issue in many areas. Years of improvements in maps and area design have likely spoiled me, however after a few hours it was easy enough to get used to.
One of the biggest time sinks ages ago was getting from one place to another. Sure, there was always a teleport if you were fortunate enough to find a Wizard or Druid and had the cash, but if not it was Fred & Barney all the way to your objective. The Planes of Power expansion changed all that by adding a centralized area accessible through book teleporters laid out all over the game. Many of the veterans claim this is what drastically changed EverQuest removing much of the challenge. Others (myself included) believe this is one mechanic that brought it into the modern era of MMO games and increased accessibility.
If there was one aspect of EverQuest which separated it from every other product on the market, the combat was certainly it. A little tricky compared to a modern game like Warhammer Online or World of Warcraft, you are required to pay attention to what was going on. You must face your target at all times and know what each of your abilities does and when to use them. If that wasn't enough, you get new abilities almost every level so keeping track of them can be challenging. The con mechanic also was a little misleading sometimes, but at least it shares similarities with what we find in other games. Red con apparently means able to pull out your spleen through your nose in any game.
If there was one thing EverQuest was known for, it was the sandbox environment given to players for questing, fighting, and roleplaying. When you entered Freeport, there was no one was forcing quests down your throat. Going to kill rats, deliver mail, or wandering around aimlessly was all within your control and no feathers or question marks over the NPC heads guided you around. Times have changed and you are given quests right off the bat that progress you through at least the beginning areas. Providing valuable equipment and unmatched experience, these missions will took me through my first 10 levels and gave me a focal point to work on.
Somebody has to run this stuff!
The only downfall I found with the game was the sheer unfathomable amount of content to experience. Ignoring the fact that much of it requires group participation, no one is going to hang out with a complete noob, and with fifteen expansions it's difficult to know where to begin. Most of the expansions at least through Secrets of Faydwer are intended for higher levels but quite a bit of digging is required to figure this out. Even the old world is so enormous I couldn't quite make my way around without a wandering NPC beating me to oblivion. Once again, the map system did come into play but it required a lot of patience and determination.
Overall, I have to honestly say it would be difficult to recommend EverQuest to someone brand new to MMO games. Even seasoned veterans who haven't played might find an uphill battle especially if they don't bring friends. However, if you have 2 or 3 others who play regularly, this would create a decent group and allow you to experience the game as it was intended. Personally, my adventures were mainly solo, but a nostalgic return to Norrath renewed my excitement and faith that EverQuest isn't going anywhere soon.