It may seem strange that as a big MMO fan I didn't play the original Everquest. Forget about, World of Warcraft, Guild Wars and all the other modern Massively Multiplayer Role Players, Everquest was one of the key titles that introduced the MMO genre to the masses. The game had great financial success and without it online gaming would be a very different scene. Spawning several add-ons the game also had a sequel, Everquest 2 released in November 2004. Again, it may seem strange but I didn't get round to playing the initial release, but I do now have my hands on the most recent expansion Echoes of Faydwer.
Whilst an expansion EQII:EOF has content for new players, with a lofty level cap of 70 the game offers a complete gaming experience and many hours of play. Existing players can bring their characters across to the new areas and take on the challenge of new beasts with the reward of new treasures.
The game introduces a new race called the Fae. The Fae are a fairy like creature, having the traditional cutsey look and delicate wings. They are tiny compared to some of the other races but one fun ability is 'falling'. Due to their wings the Fae don't take falling damage and so can dive off the highest peak only to flutter down to the ground unscathed. Falling off things might not seem like much of an innovation but it certainly bought a smile to my face. I'm the guy that likes shortcuts I like being able to jump out of a tree top city to land at the relevant destination, rather than having to take a lift and hike across.
Graphically the game is a touch disappointing, when held up next to other current games on the market the visuals are dated. The graphics fell dull, they lack the immaculate style that Guild Wars shows or the well rounded feel from World of Warcraft. The textures do little to impress and character models seem a touch uninspired.
The game plays out in a typical MMO style. Beginning with little equipment and few skills, killing enemies or completing quests gives your character experience which increases your characters level. Increasing level improves stats and gives access to more powerful skills. Like it's peers, low level characters will be near identical, as characters progress the choices made affect how they develop. One feature that is worth mentioning is the deity system. You choose a deity to align your character to and then must complete a related quest. Once completed this grants access to new skills depending upon your character level.
One thing I was pleased with was the length of the tutorial. I often feel a little patronised when playing an MMO, I don't like to be spoon fed for several hours I would rather get right into the action. EQII:EOF gave only a brief introduction to the mechanics of the game and most information is delivered via optional information boxes.
The range of character classes is huge compared to other games on the market. At first I thought there might be too many and some of them may be pointless repeats or slight variant. From playing around with a few different classes it does seem like each class stands out and is worth being in the list. As I didn't have time to try every class I can't give a definitive conclusion.
In the games favour there is plenty of meat on the bones. A diverse character progression scheme and a full crafting system really help to give the game a 'complete' feeling. I often feel with MMO games that there are things missing or vast areas that are empty or devoid of real content. EQ2II:EOF really is bursting at the seams.
There is also new high level content to give existing players something to do. The normal things are present, new quests and uber items to threaten newbies with. As I am new to the game I can't really comment on how this new content affects the highest levels of the game, though having asked a few existing gamers their opinions the general consensus is that the content is welcome though it has shifted the balance of the games classes and existing guilds.
I think that now would be a good time for players interested in the series to give it a try. The density of content and bug free gaming make it a fairly enjoyable game. I'm not sure if the graphics engine can survive much longer and I feel that it's the games weak point, this could definitely put some gamers off as time passes. As a whole the game doesn't stand up against the genres leaders but if you're looking for a classic MMO this may be worth the investment.