A long time RPG lover, at the turn of the century, I was bombarded by countless rants about the next big thing to change the face of RPGs. I just had to see what the fuss was about. So, I went to the nearest Electronics Boutique and asked the helpful clerk about this MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) that people spoke of. He quickly jumped at the opportunity to hook another one (that being myself) and pointed out Asheron's Call and Everquest. Stumped by the choice (and my tight wallet), I sought out friends and reviews for guidance.
After much ado about gaming, I chose to go with Sony's Everquest (what can I say? I loved my Playstation!) After getting it installed on my not-so-good computer and playing it for the little while I had that night, I was hooked for life. An online RPG game that lets me fill the shoes of a true ranger, running around swinging my newbie sword, killing giant insects, I was nearing heaven. Two years later, I'm still playing it as if I bought it yesterday.
Being an RPG, you attain levels like any other. You kill millions of meanies and watch your hp/mana and skills increase. The many trade skills in this game keeps a lot of the gamers hooked. It gives them something to do other than hitting the auto-attack button and some of the player-only made equipment is nothing to laugh about and can even become profitable when you reach a certain mastery of the respected skill. With the latest expansion, the customization of characters' abilities have attained a new level with characters able to reach level 50+ and with each class getting their own set of skills by level 59.
Something I've always disliked about this game is the fact that the battles have nothing to do with how well you control your character; only how well you equip them. This has to be the biggest downside to this game. You give your little avatar the best and biggest thing you can find and hit your auto-attack button…then…you pray you have lady luck by your side. Though in later group fights, strategy does come into play. This aspect is so subtle and second nature to you once you've played for a while that you don't realize that you're doing it. If you play a rogue, you'll instinctively sidestep to get a clear shot of his back. If you play a ranger, you'll make sure not to make the mob too mad at you and attack its flank so they can't riposte. Things like that make this game feel as though you are your avatar.
With items playing a huge role in how well your character performs, comes "twinks" or characters who have things that they could never get without help. This does hurt the game a lot. Imagine starting out, getting to level 10 and rummaging enough money to buy that awesome fine-steel long sword you saw on a merchant only to run across some level 4 twink with this wicked sword, killing things you were having trouble with. Though, on the flip side, its nice to be able to make a twink of your own and I'm certainly guilty of uber-izing my alter-egos.
One thing that saves this game from becoming frustrating to the newbies who drool over twinks, is the fact that most twinks won't be around long enough for you to hate them for the rest of your life and some even donate pieces of their gear. (I'm guilty of that too!) So, bumping into that ideal twinker, you could end up with some equipment that will help you along in your quest to become uber! Gotta love the community aspect of this game.
The meat of the game resides in the 40+ gameplay. This is where the game truly shines brightest. Now comes the huge slugfest we all know and love. Here, you have 40+ people, all massed to take down a common foe. Packed in groups of 6, you buff up and prepare to run into the lion's mouth, hoping to not only live, but be one of the few who have conquered this great foe. From huge dragons, to ghastly lizardmen, you cheer as the final strike lands and you see the grand message: "Nagafen has been slain!" The first step to greatness has been made and you're on your way to joining the elite. By this time, you'll be in a guild and have a constant group of people you interact with, this in turn, becomes your family within Norrath and therein lies the biggest sustaining factor in Everquest.
Yes, the graphics were nothing like some of the console games I was used to and I came into this with that in mind. The characters are not what you would call attractive and the few facial features given to you are far from satisfactory, but this was before the third expansion, Shadows of Luclin. This expansion gives the game a facelift and what you can do with the character features is way more to my liking. You cannot only choose more diverse faces, but now you can change the hair color and choose from three different hairstyles. And come on, you all know seeing what you equip show up on the screen to be something we all love. The characters look much better and the new graphics that depict armor are just beautiful to look at. And for those of us who love to look good, matching gear is a whole other can of worms. I found myself buying sets of armor so I could have different looks for my moods…I know…weird, but oh so addictive!
The landscape has always impressed me. Considering the fact that you have about 50 characters running around the same zone as you, makes just about anything seem impressive. But with the new overhaul, not only is it impressive, it's justifiably so. Even with my crappy computer, the world just looks that much better and I'd even go as far as to say that its better looking than any other MMORPG out there.
Some of the zones in this game are so breathtaking that even screenshots are wallpaper worthy. The variety in scenery is incredible, from lush forest to snow covered plains to vast deserts. The number of zones is another thing to gasp about, boasting over 120 zones to explore.
Though not apparent when you play, this game actually has a very deep history and for all those who would like a good long read, many sites have hours of lore. But this aside, because you actually play a part in this everlasting story, it becomes not only the story of the characters introduced by Everquest, but your story.
You are very much what you put in. Because this is very much a community filled with gamers of all sorts, your name will eventually get around. Much like real life, you are a relative unknown in the world, but as you become stronger and begin to raid more frequently, your name will be wide spread and people you didn't know will come up to you and congratulate you on your recent achievements. And depending on which guild you decide to join, your experience will be greatly different from the guy next to you.
With a guild to back you up, you begin to kill bigger things, attract more attention to you and your guild and soon, you're part of the most renowned guild on the server. Ok, so you might not be so lucky, but the possibility is there.
So, in essence, the storyline is very much what you make of it. So, you are the story and therefore, how could it be bad unless you had a bad experience…hmm…and there's the rub.
Not much can be said about the music other than the fact that it's not annoying. Some of the tunes are fun to listen to, but I wouldn't buy the soundtrack. The sound effects, on the other hand, are very realistic, from the lightning to the footsteps, the sound makes the game that much better. You can even use the sound to your advantage i.e. you hear the stomping footsteps of a giant nearing, and flee for cover. To be able to use the game's sound as a warning device, you can't ask for much more from it.
Some of the sounds you, yourself, make can get repetitive, though I've been playing for two years, anything can get repetitive at this point.
Honestly, this game should never be played in any other view than first person. There are some occasions that the distant view comes in handy, but not nearly frequent enough to make it invaluable. Also, because most people play Everquest in first person view, the controls are no different from that of a FPS. You have your basic shortcuts, such as holding down the alt button and pressing any number key to cast the corresponding spell.
With all the patches during the course of the two years I've been playing, this game has done nothing but improve. From little things like being able to buy in stacks of 20, to being able to position where your bags open up on your screen, its made this game that much easier to control.
Though hard to get used to at first, once you are accustomed to all the chat channels available to you, it becomes a great convenience to have. You can join channels that do nothing but auction equipment and the likes. You can create your own channel and even put a password on it, making it easier for you to talk to a number of friends all at the same time.
Speaking of friends, if you're a newbie to the game and have no clue what you're doing there, try to look for a high level character in your area. Most of the high levels who hang around newbie zones tend to enjoy lending a helping hand to the real newbies of the game. This in turn can be the start of a nice and long relationship. This game emphasizes friendship and big battles, so if you don't make any friends within a week of playing the game, you'll start getting bored of it. That's where all the bad reviews come from (that's my theory! I'm sticking to it!)
With a customization of the keyboard and some time to get into the flow of things, this game can easily hook you for a couple years, or 'til you realize your girlfriend dumped you, whichever comes first.