I'm going to be honest: for a long time I was on the EverQuest 2 side of the divide. Being a long time Norrath fetishist, this MMO sequel tickled my fancy for high fantasy. Something about its untamed lands provoked excitement, something about its namesake demanded loyalty, and something about mariners bells really brought out the fast traveller in me. That is until I discovered World of Warcraft.
Now, I'm not being that guy, but it is a simple fact that Blizzard are simply better at explaining themselves to an audience. It's not that EQ2 is convoluted, but that it’s just endemic of a certain breed of MMORPG: overstretched to the point of gluttony with Tears of Veeshan as a case in point.
There are just so many expansions, booster packs, and 32X extensions to this current build of Norrath that it's hard to get a grip on everything. The world is a smattering of design and added-on content, from Odus to Faydwer - and you just know the developers are now scratching their heads thinking "what were we on when we designed the Isle of Mara?". I'd hazard a guess and say a mixture of Bruce Lee films and Buddhism.
Which sounds like an entirely negative way to start any talk of Veeshan and its Tears. This latest expansion, quite frankly, isn't going to win over any Johnny-come-latelys to the Highkeep party, but it does showcase exactly what SOE have been doing for so many years: catering to their fan base and keeping them loaded with content.
And if any of you so much as utter 'NGE', I'm getting the hose out and clearing you off my lawn.
While certain MMORPGs leave fairly hefty gaps between installations of content, Norrath has continually been bubbling along with new ingredients added at a regular pomp. It's pure and simple veteran service, and there aren't many online adventures with quite so much to do as EQ2.
So while I can't sit here and pretend to know exactly every detail about this latest bit of the map to gurgle forth from under the sea, I can admire it for exactly what it is: a bit of fanservice and an extra bit of carrot and stick to continue the, by now, epic journey into EQ2.
But it does bring up something of an interesting question: are we now into a two pronged road of MMO design? SOE's flagship online-em-up hails from an old school of boosters and expansions, and ToV is the legacy of this fact. Like a NRA devotee’s household, Norrath has received so many safe rooms and underground bunker add-ons that it's hard to see where we started.
Which, ultimately, can make it a difficult experience for any newcomers. While I myself have played EQ2 throughout the years, my head was swimming as I climbed back into the ebb-and-flow of Qeynosian life.
From dungeon makers to finders, everything but the kitchen sink has been thrown into this MMORPG, with the delivers presumably screaming after the thuds "HAPPY NOW?!". There is enough content within this online world to take up two life times.
Though sadly this can be detriment to the actual game itself. There are so many bits and pieces bolted on that it's hard to fathom the right path, or indeed not feel like you're missing out on something. Now that levelling travels at a hop, skip, and jump, entire islands can be missed out and all of that old content, the content that somebody once slaved over, is now lost. It seems like shorted-sighted design.
Which brings me back to World of Warcraft. The one thing that can be said about Blizzard's behemoth is that it uses its space well. Azeroth expands, but the developers take time to go back to older areas, revamp, and repair. Something that is clear in their expansions.
But then there are those that want new places to explore, and to continue on the ever trundling treadmill of content, and that's fine. This is EQ2's niche, and at no point would I ever describe it as a bad game; in fact, I think it's a fairly amazing one.
So ten expansions deep, it's nice to remember that EverQuest: Current is still skipping along nicely. This latest bit of kit adds in more alternate advancement points, a new class in the channeler ( a sort of healing ranger), and nine new dungeons. And importantly, there is also a storyline about dragons thrown in for good measure.
Players can jump in at level 85 to check out all of the new stuff, and why not? It's free, and with EQ: Next around the corner, it's about time to brush up on your Norrath lore and street cred. See you in Velious.
Adam Tingle / Adam Tingle is a columnist and general man-about-town for MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and FPSGuru.com. He enjoys toilet humor, EverQuest-themed nostalgia, and pointing out he's British: bother him at @adamtingle