EverQuest remains one of the most popular games on the PC to this day. I finally took interest and picked up a copy of the famed online RPG in order to see for myself what the entire buzz was about. I had long heard of the EverQuest vs. Ultima Online wars, and being a long time UO player, I always defended the good old world of Britannia. I thought that it might change after my experiences with EQ; this was not the case. EQ failed to entertain me in any form, and I honestly don’t understand why people continue playing what is basically an ugly, boring online RPG.
Many different species and classes of characters inhabit the great world of Norrath. Without getting too technical, the basic character creation system is deep enough to satisfy most. The gamer can pick appearance (though very limited), and then more importantly, stats can be altered somewhat to your liking. I enjoyed this part of the game; like Ultima Online, the modifications that can be made are numerous and gamers can tailor anything they really want or need.
As with most online RPGs, there is really no specific, linear plot that is followed in the world of EverQuest; rather, the game is basically a bunch of quests the character can choose in order to gain levels, power, and explore the world of Norrath, which has a somewhat detailed history in the EQ manual and such. That really isn’t key though, and the main focus is really the character’s attribute development and the interaction with other human players.
The gameplay in EverQuest seemed addictive at first but quickly wore out, and I realized how insanely boring the game is. Partially due to what I felt were lackluster camera issues (no matter what viewpoint I chose), the gameplay merely consisted of my battling horrible looking enemies in bland environments in order to gain skill and experience. While the same can be said of Ultima Online’s gameplay, I found UO’s character interaction, magic, skill and growth systems much more enjoyable and balanced.
The town design was so poor that the only thing I could do was wander around the fields in search of “adventure” and “quests”. These quests mostly consisted of killing millions of enemies or killing millions of enemies to get an item. I never once came across something with the depth and complexity of UO’s faction wars or the like. I spent the first hours and at least the first ten levels of my character’s life just wandering around hoping to slay some beetles for experience and money. Honestly, I was disappointed here.
The graphics in Ever Quest also disappointed me. Running a high-end PC, I assumed that one of the things that would suck me into EverQuest would be the amazing 3-D graphics. I had been used to the sprite-based graphics of Ultima Online, and while they are detailed and pleasant, I thought a step in the 3-D direction would be better. This was not the case. Running in 1024×768 and 32-bit color with anti-aliasing in effect, the game still looked horrible. The characters and monsters are made of few polygons, with a noticeable blocky look to them. The environments are just as bad, with one-color shaded polygons adorning miles and miles of grassland and running the entire length of city walls. It really looks like a poorly constructed polygonal game made by amateurs.
Though I am under the impression that a massive overhaul is in the works, until it is done, my opinion stands. An overhaul should have been done a while ago; the game certainly shows its age.
The sound in EverQuest is quite good. I had been used to the horrible MIDI tunes of Ultima Online, and the refreshing pieces in EQ were certainly welcome. They aren’t excellent by any means, but they are appropriate and not grating to the ears like UO’s generic garbage. The sound effects are equally as impressive, with splashes, sword clangs, and footsteps all accurately represented audibly.
Again, the audio experience is not revolutionary (PCM tracks read off the CD would have been preferred to MIDI, but it is a massive online game and I understand the need for attention focused in other areas) but it is more than acceptable and you might even find yourself tapping your feet or humming some tunes. Or you might keep making the sound those skeletons make when they attack you!
As mentioned before, the control in EverQuest, while customizable, was awkward because I didn’t care for any of the views. The way it controlled with use of the keyboard movement and/or depression of mouse button just seemed annoying with the pre-set camera angles. Distance is adjustable, but that’s about it. This might be more a personal issue though.
I also found the layout most annoying. The menus and such have to be layered in order for full access, and this is not an easy task for a novice. Typing out messages isn’t as easy as just typing away; certain command keys have to be hit, and this becomes a frustrating task, unlike UO, where speaking is as easy as typing what you want. The whole communication system was frustrating, though that was the most glaring problem I had.
The world of Norrath is huge and even I did not explore every inch of it. Unfortunately I stopped playing due to excessive boredom. The combination of poor gameplay and poor graphics really dealt a killer blow to the game. I was looking forward to something good, but a simple online addiction quickly wore off, showing the game’s true colors.