EverQuest 2 Review
publisher: Sony Online Entertainment
developer: Sony Online Entertainment
PIV 1000, 512MB RAM, 64MB video card w/ pixel shader
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Nov 08, 04 (released)
|» All About EverQuest 2 on ActionTrip|
First off, let me say I want to slap all of the developers in the back of the head. Whose idea was it to release all these must-have games within six weeks of each other? Don't you geniuses understand that the gaming public does not have 27 hours a day to dedicate to playing games? (Speak for yourself, you whiner. - Ed.) Do you also think we all have an extra $500 sitting around to spend on all these titles within a five week period? (Have you ever heard of armed robbery? - Ed.) Don't get me wrong. I love the fact that I finally get to play some of these titles that I have been waiting years for, but I know that in six months from now I am going to be bitching like an old man with no teeth at a corn on the cob eating contest because of the lack of good titles available.
All right, now that I got that out of my system, let's get to the task at hand. Unless you have been living on a desert island for the past few years, or through force of will alone, blotted out anything to do with the release of World of Warcraft (WoW) and EverQuest II (EQ2), you have to know about all of us pointy-eared, pasty-complexioned, online role-playing fanatics, who have been waiting with baited breath for one, if not both, of these juggernauts to ship. Both titles are available now and SixShooter has already fired off his impressions about World of Warcraft, leaving me to talk about EverQuest II.
Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) is hailed as the creator of the first 3D MMORPG with the original EverQuest. EQ had more expansion packs since it debuted five years ago than I can count. (He can only count to five folks; he's yet to realize you can add up the fingers on the other hands as well. - Ed.) If it were not for the crush of competing titles that have upped the ante with better graphics and new features, we might not have even seen EQ2, just more updates and expansion packs for the original. But SOE is savvy enough to take advantage of a prime opportunity when they see one and so last week I found myself installing the game from not one but *2* DVDs. After the 7 GB install and the expected minor patching, I logged onto the server and began exploring this new world.
If you read our preview, you already know that a lot has changed since the first game. Five hundred years have passed and massive cataclysms have altered the face of the world. The surviving races are drawn towards the two main cities, one good and one evil: Qeynos and Freeport respectively. Once the player has aligned himself or herself with a city, they then set out on the path of their chosen profession, warrior, mage, priest or artisan. Players advance along these paths by completing quests, battling monsters, finding treasure and exploring the vast, new world. Everything one would expect from a MMORPG. So has Sony created the game that will dominate the market for the next five years? Have they been able to capture all of the fun of EverQuest? Also, what is different this time around? As we try to answer those questions as always, we have to look at three key aspects: Graphics, sound and game play.
EQ2 uses a brand new game engine. As great as EQ was, I think everyone can agree the graphics are dated by today's standards. No expansion pack was going to propel the original title to the same pixel-shaded, vertex-dicing, motion-blurred experience that the new crop of MMORPGs are bringing to the marketplace. EQ2 features one of, if not the most, powerful and advanced graphical engines available in an MMORPG today. The beauty and power of the engine are apparent from the start of the game, as you begin creating your character. The character creation system (like other parts of EQ2) shares many of the same basic features found in Star Wars: Galaxies engine, allowing you to adjust everything about your characters look. While the system allows you to customize your character, it does not have a real lasting impact in game. Sure big things like hair color and gender are noticeable as you interact with others, the slightly longer nose or broader chin don't really stand out or get much attention paid to them while you are running around hunting gnolls. Also, all these beautiful graphics do come at a cost. While the box says that 512 Megs of RAM and a PIII 1 GHz CPU is required, long load times and choppiness that would be ever present makes these requirements a joke. Playing on a rig with anything less than a gig of RAM and a P4 (or an AMD 64) is not recommended.
What does stand out is the extensive motion capture that was used to animate humanoids and the smooth fluid movements of creatures. The tutorial that follows character creation serves as much as a showcase for the new graphic engine as it does to reacquainting players with the controls. Animations are smooth, fluid and are enjoyable to watch. The environment itself is the most like a living world that I have ever encountered in a game. Different regions are distinct-looking, while still retaining a very natural and non-manufactured feel to them. Simply put, EQ2 is a great looking game.
Where SOE has really raised the bar for all MMORPGs is by adding voice-overs for NPCs. No longer will player have to squint at the lower left corner of the screen as they receive details for their next quest. Instead, as you walk down a side street you hear bits of conversation between guards, merchants calling for you to come browse their wares and the mutterings of common folk as they try to complete their day to day tasks. When I first heard that EQ2 would feature so much spoken dialog voiced by professional actors, I cynically shrugged it off as a gimmick. After playing EQ2, I am amazed at how much it adds to and improves the gaming experience. Other details like the ticking of the Quenos clock as you pass through the town square or the call of sea birds and the crash of the surf as you run along the shore line. Again, the world is vibrant and alive due largely to the fine audio, which is a definite improvement from the original EQ.
Along with changes to graphics and sound, the game mechanics have experienced a redesign. When starting a new character, you choose from one of four main classes: fighter, mage, priest or druid. At levels 9 and 19, you undertake quests to define further your profession. This is good as it allows you some time to grow into your character as you gain levels and not have to have the exact details for your toon mapped out from first firing up the game. However, it also means that at lower levels, your character is going to be almost exactly like every other member of your class until you reach those profession hallmark levels. Sony announced at the end of the Beta that players who reach the current level cap of 50 will be able to undertake quests that allow further specialization in your chosen class that will help make your character more unique.
Crafting has also gotten an overhaul. I mentioned before that players could choose to be an artisan as well as your adventurer profession, choosing to spend part of your time creating items for other players to use. The crafting system has been changed to what I can only describe as mini-game like. As you construct your items, icons will appear on the screen and you will have the opportunity to click on a corresponding icon that can result in an item with better quality or properties. Hitting the wrong icon can degrade the quality of the item or even deal the crafter damage. It is possible to actually die during this process! (Your game character can die, not you. THAT would be a huge step forward in game interactivity.) This new system has irritated some, but just about everyone agrees that it should thwart unscrupulous players who leave a bot running to pump out items and gain crafting experience while they are AFK (Away From Keyboard).
8.1 Very Good
Great graphics, great ambient sound, NPC voice-overs add to the game, heroic Events add to combat;
No PvP in a world that actually justifies it, four character limit per account, character creation process too detailed.