Recently, Sony Online Entertainment was kind enough to set me up with a copy of EverQuest 2: Echoes of Faydwer. Not only does this contain the latest expansion, but the boxed copy of this and their upcoming expansion contain all the prior expansions as well as the original edition of the game. This is great because it means that new players can just jump right in without being concerned about picking up a whole bunch of expansions. For most games I write about at Onrpg.com I spend about 40 hours in game before penning a review. Currently, I have logged in over 300 hours on EQ2 and still have not experienced everything this game has to offer. As such, I apologize to all of our readers for such a delay in getting a review done but I wanted to be as fair and thorough as possible. This also causes a dilemma as the new expansion launches in November, but the wait will be well worth it.
The first thing I need to comment on is the sheer variety of play styles SOE has given players of EverQuest 2. As of right now, there are 14 races and a whopping 24 classes to play. Your choice of race will determine which classes you have access to…but not in a bad way. There are an almost even number of good, neutral and evil races to choose from, and most of the classes are neutral by nature. Any class that is alignment restricted has a counterpart. Necromancers are countered by Conjurers, Shadowknights by Paladins, Coercers by Illusionists, etc. There are differences between these classes, but neither could be classified as “better” than its counterpart. If you really want to be able to play an evil race with a good class there is a series of quests in the game that will allow you to betray your city and join the other. On top of all this, none of the classes feels like a duplicate of another and they all have their strong points that they bring to a group. Make no mistake, while you CAN solo your way to the maximum level, you will find that a group is much safer and efficient. On top of the number of races and classes available, there are nine different crafting professions to choose from, 11 if you count the two sub-professions that Echoes of Faydwer added. While the best endgame gear is not crafted, some of the best gear for leveling comes from crafters, but more on that later.
Once in game, the graphics will straight up blow anyone away. They are without a doubt the best in any MMORPG to date and still beat out most of the titles being launched in the near future. Even the wings on the monsters AND on the players that have them flutter. If you have a high-end machine that can crank out the very high or ultimate settings, prepare to have your breath taken away. Some may question the art direction for the game, but I personally feel that the art fits the world and conveys the story they are trying to tell so I have no problems with it. Spells and combat arts (their term for skills) all have wonderful particle effects that really helped me feel like I was in the world for the first time ever in a video game. The environments are all very well done and one of the most rewarding experiences is flying on a griffon in the areas that have them and just looking at the scenery and mobs below. There is little doubt in my mind that they intend on tweaking the graphical engine more as expansions come out to incorporate even more as our machines catch up to their capabilities.
The sound in EverQuest 2 more than fit the bill. Everything has a unique noise it makes, even weapons. Even your character can change the way they sound by choosing from three different voices. Never did it feel like any sound effects or music were out of place and in times served to get me even more absorbed into the world that they have laid out. My primary character was a Shadowknight, and as such I could hear when I blocked something with my shield or when I slashed and connected with my sword. Not enough games put the attention that is needed on sound for if they did, they would have succeeded much like SOE did with EQ2.
Unlike many online games, EverQuest 2 has a pretty damn good community. No matter how hard a company tries, there will always be a percentage of jerks around. Thankfully, the community takes care of these people themselves and they do not become a major problem or distraction. Other than the typical channels that pretty much every MMORPG has, there are also a lot of unexpected ones that really do a good job at directing people to certain places for what they desire. Looking for a group? Check the channel that fits your level as they go up by 10s (1-9, 10-19, 20-29, etc.). Need something crafted, or have questions about crafting? Depending on your alignment you can join Good_Crafting or Evil_Crafting. There are even channels for your specific class as well to ask questions or discuss your abilities with. All this is in a quick and easy to use chat options menu. If you are looking for a PvP community, servers exist for that and the same goes for role playing. This helps keep the community on all servers fairly constant.
What really impressed me was the gameplay. As I stated earlier, there are just a ridiculous amount of ways to play EQ2, and that is furthered by the addition of Alternate Advancement points that can be used to add more skills to your disposal. The crafting used to be overly difficult, but they have made it a bit simpler and a lot more rewarding. One can go around the lands, gather materials and every now and then come across a rare resource which is used in crafting very powerful armors and weapons, or used to create very powerful spell books and combat art potions (do not ask me why fighters learn skills from potions) to bolster the strength of the user. With the latest expansion, players can also create adornments to add additional bonuses to their gear, making them even more powerful than they were. They could also choose to instead create little mechanical devices that serve a variety of purposes, including assisting in combat. One great part of the game is the mixture of instances for a single group or for raid groups (of up to 24 people), and contested areas that players have to compete against others for the rights to fight named (boss) mobs. This helps to ensure that the endgame is never boring. It was by far the most refreshing experience I have had yet with any MMORPG.
One of the only issues that I had with EverQuest 2 is performance. Unless you have a really powerful machine, you cannot run the game on high graphics settings. To give you an idea of how much of a resource hog the game is, I run an Athlon 64 x2 5200+, 2 gigs of RAM and a Radeon x1950 Pro 512mb card and I can only run the game on “very high” at around 25 frames per second when soloing or in a group. When I go and raid, I have to drop the game to the lowest settings unless I want the game to grind to a halt. This is no doubt due to the highly advanced graphics engine they created for the game two years ago and continues to hold up well. Minimal problem, as EverQuest 2 is directed at the crowd that is most likely to have advanced machines, but a bit troublesome for those who are not as fortunate.
All in all, I have nothing but the highest praise for this game. Having played at least 200 MMORPGs over the last 8 years, and this is by far the best game I have played EVER. Sure, there are some tweaks they could make here and there to truly make it a perfect game, but nothing that is damaging to any of the important aspects of the game. While you have to buy the game, and expansions, and then pay a monthly fee on top of it all, it is the only game at this time that I can say is worth your hard earned money.