Friday, February 24, 2006

The Search for the Holy MMORPG: Part Eight

(Continued from The Search for the Holy MMORPG: Part Seven)

Rediscovering EverQuest II
If you've been following this series, you know that we finally decided on World of Warcraft as our MMO of choice. We've been playing it a few weeks now and we really enjoy it. It's easy to learn, easy to play while still challenging, very open ended but never leaves you wondering what you're supposed to do next. Basically, it takes a lot of the best parts of MMO's and does it right.

But the other day, as I was reading my email on my home PC, I looked on my desktop and saw that I still had EverQuest II installed. I had cancelled my account a while ago because the game was too geared towards groups and raids, was not casual enough for a 3-hour/night gamer like myself, and left me wondering what to do next many times. Curiousity got the better of me, however, and I double-clicked the EQ2 icon on my desktop just to see if it would still work.

Well, the game launched and immediately started downloading all sorts of updates. This was taking quite a while, so I decided to leave it overnight and check it out the next day. In the morning, before work, I saw that it had finished. So I went ahead and clicked the big PLAY button. Lo and behold, I was able to login and my old characters were still there!

Of course, this is most likely Sony Online's way to get players back. I checked my account status and it said my account was good for 7 days, and then I would have to pay to play. Ok, I'll give this a shot just to see how it has changed.

I decided to create a new character to get a feel from the start. I was surprised to see that the limitations of race/class combinations have been lifted, so any race can be any class. I created a Froglok Monk named Redsoul (in memory of my old EQ1 character Redsoul Blackfoot, a shaman).

I'm still in the starter island doing small quests to level up before going into the main game, but I have to say, so far, it is a much improved experience. The interface is not as immediately easy to use as WoW was, but it is infinitely more configurable. The questing system is very similar to WoW, and talking to NPC's can be quite humorous.

I have been able to solo this whole time and just reached level 7. This is where I reached the first "instanced" dungeon encounter, where no one else can come in and interrupt my gameplay unless I was grouped with them. In WoW, I have yet to encounter an instanced dungeon, but I hear rumours that they exist :-)

This is also the first time I died. I was able to complete most of the dungeon until the very end, when the boss and a bunch of her cronies simply overwhelm my poor little froggie. I'll have to try again with different tactics, but so far it has been quite fun.

There are some significant differences between WoW and EQ2. First, the graphics in EQ2 are far superior in my opinion. They are not cartoony like in WoW. Of course, this comes with a significant performance hit. WoW is more approachable from the start because of the simple user interface, but I wonder if EQ2 is infinitely deeper in scope and details. Only time will tell.

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