EverQuest II

Review

posted 1/7/2005 by Randy Kalista
other articles by Randy Kalista
One Page Platforms: PC
Despite the sharp line drawn between good and evil, there is no content for PvP, or player vs. player, on any server. Instead it is set up strictly as PvE, player vs. environment. There is likewise no consensual dueling system devised either. Combined, these missing elements will a big turnoff for many players which ignores a large demographic of online gamers. The guild system--however trite this substitution sounds--fulfills an indirect level of competition by ranking guilds according to completed quests.

The lack of a duel system is a shame, but I am not a fan of the random PvP killing that some games fall prey to. The fact that I can play EQ2 without ever getting jumped by some infamously high-level griefer is fine with me. But the environment in PvE provides sufficient dangers for adventurers.

There are consequences to dying in EverQuest. Now get over it. Several games are criticized for the stiff penalties brought about by dying, but the EverQuest universe applies them nonetheless. These death penalties force you to choose your battles wisely, to ‘punch your weight.’ Haphazardly running around and stabbing at creatures tougher than you is no formula for success. One may see it as discouraging heroic ventures, but it more appropriately discourages reckless endangerment.

That being said, dying brings about not one, not two, but four penalties: First: experience debt. There is no way to regain the lost experience except by killing more bad guys—or good guys if you have chosen the evil route. Second: Loss of your ‘spirit shard.’ When you choose a revival spot, a golden fairy-dust trail will lead you directly back to your spirit shard. Until then, your attributes are painfully marginalized until you reabsorb your spirit shard (depicted as your ghastly white body sprawled on the ground where you died.) Third: Revived sickness (if there was no priest to revive you on site.) This sickness lasts for a few minutes and leeches additional penalties on your attributes for the duration. And fourth: equipment deterioration. To repair your equipment you must seek out a mender, a particular type of NPC merchant that will fix your weapons and armor for a fraction cost.

One lifesaving implement is the positioning of guards, typically at the outskirts of various zones. If you find yourself in over your head—a feasible situation if mobs begin adding themselves into a fight—then you can shout for help and run toward a guard. The mobs will then fix their attention onto the guard and be disposed of quickly and efficiently. This eliminates the serious problem of “training to zone” where a character can string several creatures behind them as they run for the edge of the map, hoping to hit a load screen as an escape. This situation would typically leave large numbers of creatures standing about, ready to slaughter anyone else unlucky enough to be standing around or shortly arriving at the trained zone. In EQ2, creatures even have an operating radius they won’t leave, thankfully giving up the chase after running just so far.

If that sounds too adventurous, the crafting life may be for you. Although, be warned, becoming a crafter comes with its own set of dangers. In fact, many of the components required for crafting must be gathered in areas dangerously populated by beasts, and you can even die from certain anomalies that may occur during the crafting process. Nevertheless, the crafting system’s dynamic features are one of the freshest components of the game that will surely please artisans and dabblers alike.

The soundscape of Norrath plays throughout, light and unobtrusive—not necessarily flattering terms when ‘ambitious’ and ‘epic’ would have provided a more thrilling experience. The soundtrack has an opulent assembly, to be sure. Conducted by Emmy award-winning TV composer Laura Karpman, and recorded with the 81-piece FILMharmonic Orchestra, you can’t argue with the production values, but the score sounds frail and high-end like its suffering from a low-carb diet.

That sentiment sums up a lot about the game’s world design. No risk, no reward. Sure, fantasy is the playland of particular archetypes and there are certain rules to adhere to: elves have pointy ears and dwarves are excellent at mining. Faithful to such profiling, the EverQuest universe does not stray from the tried-and-true formulas. EQ2, from conception to execution, was never able to think outside of the box.


C
Set 500 years after the original series, the most influential MMO of all time goes under the knife for some desperately needed graphical and gameplay upgrades. Only this time, their “new world” of fantasy has moved to the middle of the road.


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