Everquest 2

Guest Post

Several months ago, shortly after the release of the World of Warcraft (WoW) expansion, The Burning Crusade, I had already leveled my rogue to 70, was keyed for every heroic instance, and was, quite frankly, bored out of my mind. I seemed to be faced with only two choices – go out and kill monsters to grind reputation, or run through a dungeon I had already completed twenty times. I was definitely ready for something new. Around that time, an e-mail arrived in my inbox advertising EverQuest 2’s new free trial, called “Play the Fae.” They had introduced a new fairy race in their latest expansion, and were offering seven free days to try them out.

I had tried EverQuest 2 (EQ2) when it was first released, but had been unable to get into the game before I got sucked into World of Warcraft with my friends. My old computer could barely handle the graphics load of EQ2, and now-gone concepts such as group experience debt (an entire group being penalized when one member died) caused frustration.

Nevertheless, I was intrigued by the idea of a fairy race (Could they really fly?), and decided to download the trial and give the game another shot. It was free, right?!?

A few hours later, I was happily making my first fae. Since I had enjoyed my rogue in WoW, I made a swashbuckler in EQ2. I zoned into the fae starting zone – “The Nursery” – and was surrounded by plants and flowers several times my size. It turned out the fae couldn’t exactly fly. Instead, they had a glide ability that allowed them to jump from great heights and float to the ground without taking damage, and they could jump over gaps too large for most other races to traverse.

Despite the fact my computer was stuttering along as I played (I was still using the same computer I had originally tried the game on two years ago), I was nonetheless thoroughly addicted. I couldn’t wait to upgrade to a computer where I could experience the game in its full glory. Several months and one new computer later, I haven’t looked back.

So what made EQ2 so different from WoW? Graphics were certainly one thing. EQ2 had some of the best graphics I had seen in an MMO to date.

If I had to sum it up in one word, however, I would say: depth.

Your first sign of that depth comes at the character creation screen, when you’re faced with eighteen races and twenty-four classes (not to mention the eleven artisan classes you encounter later). Character creation offers much detail in customizing appearance – size, hair, eyes, ears, nose, lips, cheeks, chin, fur, wings and scales (where applicable) are all individually customizable, providing the chance for a truly unique look. As your character levels up, you get the opportunity to further customize him or her through choosing racial traits and special abilities every few levels or so.

There’s another way in which you can customize your character: Traditionally good or evil races are not bound to remain that way in EQ2. If you start as a ratonga (evil race) in Freeport, for example, you can betray Freeport. After you’ve completed your betrayal quest, you would be thrown out of Freeport and become hated by the city. You would become what are called “Exiles.” Exiles have their own special city called Haven that one can only find if they’re an exile themselves. In Haven, you can choose to remain an exile (unwelcome in all cities) or do quests to eventually become welcome in the city of your choice. For example, you could choose the road to become good and eventually become a citizen of Qeynos.

Your next sign of depth comes from your not one, but four, experience bars. The first bar is your generic MMO experience, gained from killing monsters and completing quests. Your second bar comes into play when you choose a tradeskill. Yes, your tradeskill levels through experience, just like your adventure level (but more on that later).

Your third bar is your achievement experience. Starting at level ten, you gain experience into a special bar for completing quests and discovering new locations. Each achievement level you gain grants you a point you can spend in one of two pages of achievement trees, which can increase your character’s attributes or grant you special skills.

You can gain up to 100 achievement points, and if you complete any full line in an achievement tree, you gain a special prefix for your character’s name.

Your fourth bar comes into play when you join a guild. Guilds level just like characters do, although their experience is called “status.”

Guild status points are gained when characters in the guild complete special tasks (called “writs”) for their home city or long difficult quests (called “heritage quests”). As a guild levels up, their members gain access to rewards – nobility titles, cheaper housing and special mounts, for example.

Another interesting aspect of EQ2 is that not only do your characters level up, but your own skills and spells have the opportunity to level up as well. Skills, such as fishing or slashing, level up through use, similar to WoW. Spells are a different story, however. When you gain a new spell, you gain it at the Apprentice I level. Higher quality versions of the spell, which are each slightly more effective than the quality below them, are available as tradeskill-craftable items or as drops from monsters. I enjoy this aspect because it gives me one more thing to strive for and provides a market for tradeskilled goods (three different classes of tradeskills allow you craft spells).

Tradeskill use is an important part of the economy in EQ2. Tradeskill-crafted armor and weapons are some of the best you can get outside of quests rewards, or drops from named creatures in groups or raid dungeons. Food and drink are a consistent buff on your character’s health and power regeneration, and the only really worthwhile food and drink is made by tradeskills. Carpenters fashion a wide variety of furniture that is used to decorate a player’s homes.

Sages and jewelers craft high-quality spells that serve players out in the field.

Crafting is usually performed at an appropriate tradeskill station in a city or town (although players can eventually earn the right to purchase a tradeskill station for their home). Crafting requires fuel, which is bought from merchants, as well as resources that are harvested from nodes throughout the world. Crafting an item might take thirty seconds to a minute, depending on how successful you are. Two bars on your screen mark how close you are to completing the item and the current quality of the item if it were to be completed at that moment. Crafter-specific skills can be used wisely to increase either your item’s progress or quality, usually by trading off one for the other. Upon completing an item, you gain experience toward your tradeskill level. You can gain extra experience by successfully completing items you’ve never made before. You also gain experience and guild status by completing special NPC-given orders for your home city.

Your character’s house is one of the most enjoyable ways in which you can customize your character. Your home can range from a cheap one-room apartment to a sprawling mansion of several floors. Furniture – player-crafted, quest-rewarded and status-earned – varies widely.

Some players spend hours making their abodes “picture perfect.” Others have turned their homes into pubs or stores for role-play reasons.

Homes can eventually become full of utility for their owners as well – providing tradeskill stations, mailboxes and containers from which to sell items to other players on the broker (think of the Auction House in WoW).

Although I have limited experience on the Player-versus-Player servers of EQ2, I know many people find PvP one of the most enjoyable experiences in a game. PvP on the Player-versus-Environment (PvE) servers of EQ2 is limited to consensual duels and arena battles. On the PvP servers, however, things are much different.

PvP in EQ2 is Good vs. Evil. The cities of Qeynos and Kelethin are good, and currently compete with the evil cities of Freeport and Neriak.

Exiles are attackable (and can attack) all factions. On PvP servers, you can be attacked by the opposite faction in all zones, although there are special rules and restrictions for the city proper. There are restrictions on the level range below you that you can attack (unless they attack you first) which varies by zone.

If you die from PvP, you will drop a chest that can be looted by the victor. The chest will contain half of the coin you are carrying and possibly a random item of treasured quality or lower. On the upside, if you somehow make it back to where you died before the victor can loot your chest, you can loot your own chest and retrieve your items.

Often in MMOs, playing with your friends can become hindered if either of you is restricted in playtime. One friend will start to vastly out-level the other, to the point that they can no longer enjoy the same quests and experiences together. In EQ2, this problem is resolved through the mentoring system.

Mentoring means that a higher-level character can group with a lower-level character and effectively become the same level as the lower-level character for the duration of their group. The lower-level character gains an experience bonus for being mentored, and any quests the higher-level character completes (that normally would be too low-level for him) earn him experience as well. Not only is this a great way to help out friends, it’s also a great way for maximum-level characters to experience content they missed while leveling up. With the huge number of quests available in EQ2, one can never complete them all before they hit maximum level. Mentoring is a great way to spend time at maximum level if one chooses not to raid.

Besides mentoring, raiding is also available at the end-game of EverQuest 2, as it is in WoW. My character isn’t yet high enough to participate in end-game raiding, but I’ve heard it’s complex and challenging, requiring full knowledge of one’s abilities. While there are some end-game raiding guilds that run on a schedule similar to those in WoW, there are many guilds that choose to raid only casually, and others that don’t raid at all. Raiding is not the be-all-end-all.

Many choose to mentor their friends, work toward status rewards with their home city, tradeskill or work on a variety of other tasks.

I feel I’ve only barely touched on the aspects of EverQuest 2 that make it enjoyable for me, but at the same time I know this article is already unusually lengthy. Therefore, I recommend that if you’re truly interested in EQ2, you check it out for yourself. You can download a free trial from Sony.

Be aware that the cutting-edge graphics of EverQuest 2 require a fairly up-to-date computer system. I recommend a PC with at least 1.8GHz of processing power, 1GB of RAM, and a stand-alone graphics card with at least 128MB of texture memory.

Integrated graphics accelerators such as those provided by Intel do not function well with EverQuest 2. With my computer specs (1.6Ghz dual-core CPU, 1GB of RAM, and a 256MB GeForce card) I can play the game with little lag on “High Performance” settings. Although I can’t play on the highest quality settings, the graphics are still gorgeous.

If you do try the game and end up on Antonia Bayle server, feel free to look up the purple-winged fae swashbuckler named Kaelinara.

I hope to follow up with future articles on the new Legends of Norrath trading card game, and EverQuest 2’s upcoming expansion – Rise of Kunark. In the meantime, happy playing!