Trail of Trials, Part 3 – Norranthain Nostalgia

For part 3 of my trial adventure, I went to a place I never thought I would go back to – Everquest. I have a bit of a history with Everquest, and swore I’d never give them another dime. After playing EQ2, that oath has not changed, but I did somewhat enjoy my visit to the parallel world of my former stomping grounds.

Now, in fairness, EQ2 is a dated game. It was released in 2004, so comparing it apples to apples to a game like STO is unfair at best. That said however, as the game continues to live in today’s date; my comparison will have to take into consideration that the other games exist. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, on to the review.

EQ2’s download was surprisingly quick, and I expected it was only a patch client. When I was given a login prompt I admit to being very surprised and happy. This would soon fade. Side note: I had to make a new account since my existing Sony account for some reason refused to allow me to play EQ2’s trial, despite the fact it clearly recognized I never had played it before. Back to the login though. After logging in, I went to create my character and began what would be a fairly frequent event – waiting for the data to download. It took a full 4 minutes for me to be able to see my character choices, and then several other times during the setup I would get sent back to the loading screen while it went to find whatever textures I had just asked for. Very annoying. I would have preferred AO’s model, where the startup client doesn’t have much beyond those character choices, because that is your first impression of the game. Loading in the game was also very slow, with another extended load/downtime.

I started the game in the game proper, which surprised me. I knew that EQ2 had “newbie areas”, but apparently these are gone (more on this later). The starting area was not difficult though, so I did not have an issue with it besides some surprise. I greatly enjoyed getting my new abilities the second I leveled. Abilities in EQ2 are tiered with you getting a lower-powered initial ability and then having to find drops to power it up. I’m not sure of what exactly the tiers are, but I personally found adept (apprentice is starting rank), journeyman, expert, and grandmaster.

EQ2 is very quest oriented, as it should be based on the name. EQ used to take a lot of slack for their eventual change of relying less on quests and more on adventuring, but EQ2 seems to have that under control. I played through level 20 and never wanted for quests. There were NPC hub given ones, dropped item quests, and pickup item quests. There’s also a “collection” series where you find glowing question marks on the ground and look to complete a set of items for a fairly nice item. I managed to complete one on my very last day (and started it on my first) and got a pretty solid wrist item. A great many items reference famous EQ1 items in their lore or story which I really enjoyed in a geeky kind of way.

Because I personally enjoy crafting, I made a point to play the crafting side. The statement often listed on guides is that you can become a master crafter without leaving town. This is only partially true. Like crafting in most games, doing this will require you to spend buckets of cash at the local auction hall, which you cannot access in the trial. Crafting itself is a game of whack-a-mole, requiring you to press certain buttons in response to visual cues to avoid damaging the item and yourself. While I didn’t have a problem with this, I had to continuously press other buttons to avoid failing to craft the item itself, and no visual cues to why I needed to press anything were given. After the cruelty that was EQ1’s crafting system, I guess this is better, but in today’s gaming world, it really cannot be considered to be good. I leveled my tailor to 20, hitting all three “crafting level” fork choices. The only useful thing I could make was big backpacks.

EQ2 itself has been given a major update as some point in the past, called “EQ2i” by sites I would visit. When I would run into a dead end, and the out of character channel was not helpful (which was fairly often – usually the chatter was basically a few friends talking to each other), I would make sure I was looking at a guide that had this in it. So much has changed since then, from adventuring to crafting, that looking at an outdated guide was worthless.

One thing I did truly enjoy about EQ2 was housing. Besides the wide amount of items I found to put in my house via loot and quests, I found out I was eligible for some reason for every veteran award they had, which gave me ~6 house pets and an enormous amount of housing items. The freedom to put anything anywhere reminded me how much I hate LoTRO’s housing limits. Also, the housing is much roomier and enjoyable, with many more choices, and a new revamp due out any day now with Halas that the playerbase is drooling over.

In closing, EQ2 is a dated game, but if you enjoy single player content in a multiplayer world on a slightly aged graphics engine, you could do worse. They offer a 14 day trial which is quite generous and should allow you to determine if it is a good fit. Based on what is available right now though, I can only give it a 2.5 Oz’s out of 5. The graphics were a bit too blocky, the crafting system annoying, and the loading of resources constantly bothered me too much to be forgiven easily.

At this point, I’m heading back to LoTRO, but I may give this a try again in the future.

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Jaded old gamer, and father of gamers, who's been around long enough. Still, he's always up for giving the Next Big Thing a whirl.

14 thoughts on “Trail of Trials, Part 3 – Norranthain Nostalgia”

  1. I have to disagree with you on the crafting. Yes it requires you to not only press buttons for visual queues, but choose which buttons to press between them to get the best effect. A quick read over each buttons functions will show you the benefits and detriments of each skill. Crafting is about balancing these skill to form the final product. I found it refreshing from what I call “farmville” crafting. Clicking the button guarantees you an item. With EQ2 at least it requires some involvement in the process.

    Its not for everyone that is for sure. However I don’t think you can call it a bad system. It’s just designed to make the player part of the process rather than easily auto piloting through your skills like other major MMOs.

    Interesting to read a post from the other side of the spectrum though. Thanks for sharing Oz.

  2. EQ2i is the name of the main EQ2 wiki. It’s not an updated version of EQ2.

    Did you group at any point? It is unfair to say that it is filled with single-player content if you didn’t. There is a great deal of group and raid content.

  3. Deeply innacurate account of EQ2, particularly the crafting. In that, typical of most reviews of MMOs by people who don’t actually play them regularly.

    I do think that it’s virtually impossible to comment meaningfully on any MMO without playing it for a minimum of several weeks and preferably several months. That’s not to say that you can’t comment meaningfully on the experience of beginning to play the MMO. Obviously you can. Just that reviews of that experience shed very little light on what the game is actually like for those that continie to play it beyond the trial period.

    I really don’t know how this could be addressed. Anyone who’s played an MMO for long enough to have a real understanding of how it works is almost de facto going to be heavily committed to said game. Expecting anyone to play an MMO for several months in a neutral state of mind just so as to be able to review it fairly is clearly unreasonable.

    For the record, I’ve played EQ2 since beta and am very fond of it. Not as fond as I am of EQ1 or Vanguard or Rubies of Eventide (RIP), but much more so than WoW or LotRO. I don’t find EQ2 to be at all dated, either. It’s only a month older than WoW and of all the criticisms WoW gets, “dated” isn’t generally one of them.
    Not sure if you meant the gameplay or the graphics but as far as I can see, MMO gameplay has barely changed in the last half-decade and graphically EQ2 looks pretty good still.

    One thing that Oz is spot on about is the housing, though. I think that’s pretty much indisputably the best in MMOs, isn’t it?

    1. This *is* a review of that early beginner part of the game, which I believe is fair to do, because I am willing to think that most people would only play for the trial time and make a choice based on that experience. If you have to play for weeks or even months before you “get” the game, you will not have a huge amount of success. You need to show people the “real” game as quick as possible, even if it is only a glimpse.

      1. While that’s true, there is also the risk that the reviewer, because they’re still stumbling around confused, ends up saying things that simply aren’t actually the case.

        That doesn’t really help anyone. It poorly serves people who might want to give the game a try, and annoys the folks that do know the game.

        1. All the more reason for them to really nail the early part of the game and/or the tutorial. They are at the mercy of the first impression. How many people stopped playing an MMO after only playing for an hour or so and never came back? I’ll bet that number is a lot higher than the game companies would like it to be.

      2. I highly advise playing the newest trial which is set to launch in roughly 2-3 weeks. You’ll start in the new city of New Halas and be introduced to a completely different beginning trial experience.

  4. I do agree with Yogi regarding the crafting. I think EQ2 has one of the best crafting systems of any MMO I’ve played, especially considering all the quest lines aimed just at crafters. Kept my crafters happily busy at all times.

    As much as I’ve enjoyed the game though, I realize its not for everyone. Good to have choices!

  5. I like it mostly for the shiny battle effects and the very nice shadows :) It just looks fantastic when a golem is sneaking up a hall towards your part, and his body blocks the light from a ceiling-mounted lantern so you see a big black blob, outlined with red light, shambling towards you.

    I think that only happens with CPU shadows, and those kill CPUs real quick, but whoever did the light design for EQ2 knew that the dungeon atmosphere is really improved by such “simple” light and shadow tricks. I haven’t seen a single other MMO that does this.

  6. I also gave the 14 day trial a go. In my opinion EQ2 is a fun game with a lot to offer.

    When I played, I managed to find people who were not only willing to form a group wit me, but also join their guild if I wanted.

    The only reason I didn’t sub was that SEO doesn’t accept paypal payments.

  7. EQ2 crafting really does a terrible job of putting its best foot forward. For some inexplicable reason, the amount of “progress” required to complete an item is constant from level 1 to 80, even as your reaction abilities and crafting gear get better and better as you go. The result is that the very first items you make are that hardest to pull off that you will ever encounter. Once you hit the latest expansions, you can zoom up in levels doing crafting quests, but these aren’t available until at least level 50 (by which point many players have given up).

    One final tip is to join a guild. Guild halls have a harvest box where players can deposit the “common” resources used for leveling recipes. In general, most players will have these in such great quantities that no one will mind if a legitimate newbie mooches some of them, especially if you use them to do crafting writs (which grant the guild experience).

  8. Not to pile on, but I think EQ II has one of the better crafting systems around. It has three big things going for it:

    1. It doesn’t take a huge amount of time to level.

    2. The items that you can make are useful (i.e., at least on par with solo quest rewards, Kunark 1-20 quests excepted).

    3. Everyone can gather everything, so high end crafted gear is actually worth more than the mats that go into it.

    I can count on two fingers the other MMOs I know of that in which the crafting doesn’t fall down on one or all of those criteria.

    I really dig your writing style btw :-)

  9. Just a general summary response to the comments thus far –

    I did read the info on the crafting buttons, and despite mashing one that said “Increases durability by 10.0” constantly, my durability would often plummet. The only way to avoid this was to basically chain mash 1-2-3-6. When I asked for help understanding the crafting system (thinking that I MUST be doing something wrong because of falling durability), I was told anyone smart uses a crafting bot by the people in the /ooc channel. The gathering of materials by anyone is a good or bad thing, depending on your perspective. From my limited view, as nodes were far from rare, my opinion would be a good thing.

    The items I made had a required level of 1, and were often useless, as I couldn’t even transmute (similar to WoW’s Disenchant) as crafted items can’t be broken down. Until I got to crafting level 20, nothing was better than what I looted or quested.

    As far as grouping, I only managed to get in one group. I wouldn’t put that as a bad thing on any game – newbie area/time grouping is notoriously rare. That said, outside of Kelethin city proper (and often in it), I ran into perhaps 5 total players in my entire 5 day play time. And only one talked to me.

    The dated graphics comment was based on the models. Enemy models that had faces had the exact same issue that STO had – lack of animation that felt “creepy”. Would I consider WoW as dated if I went to play the trial? Probably, but it’s also a different graphics style. WoW went the cartoon style, which tends to be longer-term in looking ok. Watch a Bugs Bunny cartoon – does it still look good? Now watch Beetlejuice and see if you find the special effects as good.

    Any game is hard to review on such a short period of time. It’s the critic’s dillema; you have to make a complete decision based on limited info. Even so, because of my extensive history with EQ, I put more into the trial than I did with some others. I can tell you that several times I could see how Sony’s games were linked. EQ2 guard finding trail is stolen directly from EQ1, and is used in Free Realms. The Fae, I have no idea if they were in FR first or EQ2, but it’s the same model, at least the one I saw. And of course I mentioned the references to famous EQ1 items.

    I’m not sure what the major update was called then. I read quite a bit about how this change did things to the game, and nearly every post referenced “EQ2i”. If that is only the Wiki’s name, then I apologize for the error.

    Not every game is for everyone; that is of course obvious. The trial period should be a place where your absolute best foot is put forward. In 14 days, perhaps I would have been better sold, but I did mention I specifically stopped at 5 days in, and for me and my play style, at day 5, I was not sold.

  10. OOC in EQ2 is about as useful as OOC in any MMO: in other words, almost totally useless. The only game where I’ve seen newbies get decent advice, ever, in over a decade of playing MMOs, is LotRO.

    As for the crafting, yes, the in-game “tutorial” is quite weak. The short answer to why you would hit +Durability and still get Durability drops is that every “tick” has a chance of being a critical success, success, failure, or critical failure. When you’re starting out, and your “arts” don’t add significantly to “success chance,” it’s not unexpected to get a “critical failure” on a regular basis. So yes, EQ2 crafting is a pain to get into, especially for certain crafting classes (since each class has slightly different “arts”). But at higher levels it’s both lucrative and relaxing. You sort of get into a zen state where you have a rhythm of keys you hit and you try to fit the required event reactions into that rhythm. Not for anyone, but still much more involving than, say, LotRO crafting (i.e., click and forget). If you were to get into the game, the site is probably the best resource for crafters. Allakhazam is pretty good, too.

    And yes, EQ2 has by far the best housing system of any MMO so far. Probably the single best system in the entire game. There’s a reason they feature it so prominently on their website (i.e., Norrathian Home Shows, etc.).

    Honestly, I -like- EQ2. I think it’s probably the most polished MMO out there. I just don’t like Norrath all that much. The world really is just too tongue-in-cheek for my tastes (using a gnomish cannon as your mode of transportation across the chasm, then jumping in an auto-piloted dirigible for the next leg of the trip, etc. *shudder*). It’s no worse than the world of WoW (whatever it may be called), but I don’t play WoW, either ;^)

    I’d love to see a semi-serious IP based on EQ2 game systems.

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