Game Over Online ~ EverQuest II (c) Sony Online Entertainment

EverQuest II (c) Sony Online Entertainment

Published: Thursday, October 28th, 2004 at 07:20 PM
Written By: Brian 'Digcat' Cipponeri

EverQuest II from Sony Online Entertainment brings gamers together in an online fantasy world unlike anything youíve seen before. Preceding the success of the original EverQuest game, which is to date the most successful MMORPG ever created, EverQuest II retains some concepts and role-playing content from the original EverQuest but thatís about it. Scheduled for release on November 8th after more than four years in development, weíll take a look at what you can expect from EQII.

The technical features of EQII and the game system itself are designed to tingle every sense of imagination and itís difficult if not impossible today to compare the scope and magnitude of this game to any other. SOE has really pushed the development envelope and created a game that is masterfully crafted and takes advantage of all the cutting edge technology thatís out there today.

There is no doubt that EverQuest II will meet gamerís expectations head-on with a graphically stunning world, 3D sound, full voice-overs for all NPC characters, a robust MMORPG interactive game system and so much more. The game simply gives and gives and gives. Players are really going to be excited and have a great time playing EQII.

Starting Out: Character Creation
Letís take a look at a few aspects of the game first hand and see just how much fun playing EverQuest II is. First off, weíll look at character creation. Right off the bat itís impressive to see the amount of flexibility that we have in designing a character and thatís a good thing because having a truly unique character is one of the most fundamental aspects of an MMORPG. The days of every character looking alike or having to choose from only a few basic character models are long gone.

Youíll want to take your time and tweak your character with a look that suits you best since this is your online avatar, which is a representation of yourself in the game. There are literally millions of possible combinations to choose from to make your avatar look totally unique from the color of skin, lips, ears, hair, tattoos, piercings, and many other things.

Youíll also be able to select your race and alignment during character creation, which will decide which city you start out in. The city of Qeynos is for good alignment characters and the city of Freeport is for evil alignment characters.

After your character is created, getting started is easy. Thereís a starting area that everyone has access to where youíll select your initial character class or archetype (mage, fighter, priest or scout). The starting area, called the Isle of Refuge, is filled with quests that can take your character up to level 6 and it also allows you to get outfitted with some useful items such as armor and weapons. Beyond the starting area, you can continue to adventure from and around your home base city. Once you reach level 10, you can select an archetype profession to customize your character further and then at level 20, you will be able to select your final profession specialization to complete your characters archetype development.

Getting Into the Game: The Interface
Navigating around the world and interfacing with things such as objects, NPCís and creatures is easier done than explained. Itís similar to first person shooter navigation where you move around using the WASD keys and click on the objects that you want to interact with.

The mouse wheel scrolls in and out of first or third person view to suit your play style, or you might want to change your view depending on whether you are in a dungeon or outside. Third person view allows you to view a fair distance behind you so you can see some of your surroundings. The middle mouse button allows you to rotate the camera view around your character so you can look around yourself without actually turning around.

Whatís nice is the level of customization that you have within the interface itself. All of the status windows can be re-arranged on the screen and multiple chat windows can be created and configured to display the chat text that you want to see. The options menu is very extensive and allows all of the keys to be remapped and it lets you configure just about every other aspect of the game such as chat colors, video options and a whole lot more.

Ease of use is very important since you might be playing for hours at a time and you donít want to use a cumbersome interface. EQII definitely comes through with shining colors with a simple and good-looking interface. In addition, the game can run in full screen and windowed mode so if you want to run other applications in the background and play the game in a window, you can. Itís extremely nice to be able to check email, instant message people or run voice chat software in the background to talk with friends without getting booted out of the game.

More of What You Want: Graphics and Sound
Setting itself apart from other games, EQII is designed to really push the envelope with robust graphics and vivid sound. The graphics take advantage of the latest features in video cards for extremely detailed textures, bump mapping, shadows, reflections, and realistic water. One of the most fascinating things about the game is watching the creatures and players come to life as you play. Character movements have been realistically generated using motion capture, which further enhances the smoothness and realism of each movement. Youíll see the grass blowing with the wind, butterflies zipping around trees and nighttime turning into day just as if it was real. In this fantasy world, seeing is believing.

Sound effects and music might not be noticed as much as the graphics but they subtly set the mood during play and do a great job of it. The sound adds a dimension that can have you jumping out of your chair or feeling at ease and relaxed. I like that the scuttle of monsters or other characters scurrying about in dungeons can be heard and sometimes Iíll stop and listen for the sound of echoing footstep to tell which direction a group member ran off in.

Fast paced dramatic songs put players on their tiptoes in dungeons while smooth upbeat tunes make for a nice stroll through the villages. During combat, the music energetically ramps up to incite an adrenaline rush in the players and then fades away into a sweet melody when victory is attained. What really puts the game over the top is that every NPC character, including monsters, have their own voice-overs. What youíll find is that the level of interaction is incredible because just hearing the voice of a beautiful maiden or a scruffy pirate can set the tone and feeling within the game. I personally like the voice-overs of the monsters saying things to you during combat, which adds that much more to each encounter. SOE is also supporting multiple languages for English, French and German in both text and voice-over, which is again nothing short of amazing for this type of game.

Game Aspects: Character Development and Community
Character development is central to the game system and taking your character from a low level gimp into a powerful godlike force is a fun and rewarding experience, and thatís one of the pleasures of this game. To keep your character moving forward, there are tons and tons of quests you can obtain from NPCís and a quest system that keeps track of all of your open and completed quests. Many quests revolve around collecting items or killing certain creatures, but they range from that to advancement quests and even quests that can unlock new game areas or give you bonus abilities such as special attacks.

As your character advances into the mid-teen levels, the quests become increasingly harder. While solo content is available, most of the fun places to explore are designed for group exploration and many of the quests will require a group to complete. A group can consist of up to six players and special group spells called Ďheroic opportunitiesí allow group members to work together to cast additional bonus spells during combat. Progressing into the higher levels, the need to create raid parties consisting of up to four groups (24 players) to take on some of the bigger encounters is an important part of this online community gaming experience.

Many players will find themselves joining guilds or at least grouping up with friends they play with on a regular basis. The guild system continues to improve and provides players with additional benefits such as a community of friends to adventure with and also status points. Status points are essentially guild experience and can be used to purchase things. At this time, the points can be spent for the purchase of a mount such as a horse.

There are many different aspects and areas of development that allow each individual character to have strengths and weaknesses that differ from other characters of the same profession. Through facing different kinds of challenges, youíll be able to add to your characterís fortune, skills and glory. Characters will typically gain new skills and spells every level or two that they gain so there is always some reward to look forward to and it usually doesnít take long to reach a reward point. Casual players will find that they can log in for a couple hours a day and gain some character advancement every time they log in.

Aside from adventuring solo, with groups or in a guild, players can also develop artisan skills such as tailoring, smithing, woodworking, alchemy, chemistry and other crafts. Tradeskills allow characters to create items such as furniture, spell scrolls, armor, weapons and other items, which can be used, sold or traded.

You can easily spend as much time working on tradeskills as you can in quests and the system is quite extensive and fun to use. The rewards for being a master tradeskill artisan are great and allow the creation of some very nice items indeed, but it is difficult to achieve this status and will take some dedication. Even at low levels, itís easy to craft basic spells and seems to save some money as it is less expensive to craft some things than buying them from other players.

Weíll be watching as this massive online world begins to take shape. There are so many more things that will be unfolding and added to the game over time as this world continues to grow and evolve. EverQuest II is most definitely an experience that will captivate the minds and hearts of millions of players over the next few years and the best time to get in and start playing is on day one. And when that day comes, you can bet we'll have a complete review.

Questions or comments about the upcoming release of EverQuest II for the PC? Talk to us!

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