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Return to Everquest

Phil James Posted:
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Shhh!  Be vewy vewy quiet.  I’m hunting mmos.

I’m not an indiscriminate hunter, blasting everything in my path.  No, I’m trying to bag that elusive game, the one which is going to be my home for many years to come.  The problem is that I don’t know which one it is yet so I’m treading my old hunting grounds to see if one of the games I have tried and abandoned could be the next one for me.

This month I’m going to try out Everquest.  Why don’t I already love this game?  To understand my past with EQ a history lesson is in order.

You never forget your first love.  I first came to mmos with the arrival of Star Wars Galaxies.  I was living with a huge Star Wars fan at the time (huge meaning a dedicated fan that is, not morbidly obese) and he couldn’t get his wallet out fast enough to buy Galaxies on its release.  Being a video game junkie I gave it a go, but wasn’t hooked.  Sorry, but my geek credentials don’t extend to being a fan of the holy trilogy – I’m ignoring episodes 1 – 3.  However, I did get my first taste of mmos and a pattern was formed in my mind; I had discovered where my tastes lay.  Not long after SOE released a fantasy mmo (much more my cup of tea) and upon trying Everquest II I was hooked, my preference had blossomed into full blown love. 

For a long time I played only EQII, sacrificing the following:

  1. All other games.  My consoles were now relegated to dust collecting duties
  2. My credit card balance.  I maxed the damned thing out buying a pc capable of running the resource hog that was EQII
  3. A portion of my monthly pay.  Yes, I am part of the ranks of those who have taken ‘sick’ days in order to play my mmo.

After a while I learned that EQII was a sequel (I’m a slow learner).  There was an original EQII, although I imagined that it was probably called EQ One.  It turns out it was just called Everquest following the same trend set by the films that I call as Jaws One and Nightmare on Elm Street One.

Giddy with my new discovery I got my hands on a copy of the Everquest Trilogy Box and installed it lickety-split.  As I’m writing about returning to games that fell by the wayside there are no prizes for guessing whether or not I stuck with it.

So why did I leave?

Well, the graphics for a start.  Coming from playing more modern games, the retro look didn’t really cut it for me.  I don’t have anything against dated graphics, but like many people I have an easier time overlooking them if they are from a game I already love.  Deus Ex, I’m looking at you.  So before anyone sends me any death threats (I know how protective we all feel about our beloved mmo of choice), I am aware that many of the zones have had a facelift over the years, and the new zones look pretty lush too.  But it was still hard for me to get over the feeling that I’d taken a step backwards.

The UI got in the way of my enjoyment.  It’s like a steam engine that the same engineer has run for 50 years,  It’s clunky, counter-intuitive for anyone new, operating it with any success means learning its quirks.

 Lastly, I felt as though I was a lone voice in the wilderness.  With most of the population at the level cap, soloing was pretty much my only option.  In a game designed for the group experience this was a pretty big handicap.  Couple that with the slow pace of the grind, then the road to playing well with others looked endless.  This has been fixed now.  Experience is gained at an amazing rate until level 50.  However, that only applies to the non-progression servers.  Like a fool, I’m opting for the slower route.

Right about now some EQ fans might be thinking that I’m some buffoon who clearly doesn’t appreciate the fine qualities of Everquest, that I’m writing about a game I just don’t get in order to set it up for a fall and pour my lake of scorn all over it.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The truth is that I really, r-e-a-l-l-y want to love Everquest.  By not being there during its early years I feel like I’ve missed out.

 Over time my tastes have changed.  I’ve played quest-fests for years, where quest hubs are strung along like pearls on a string.  I’ve followed the linear path of ‘adventure’ for too long now.  I don’t want to be sent out to slaughter wildlife and return with 5 tails only to be told that now I need to gather 10 more tails of a slightly different beast.  When I started out in EQII I was always running out of quests for my level and would spend my time exploring, grinding, chatting, grouping - you get the idea.  I want to experience that again.  I’ve missed out on whole worlds due to not taking my eyes away from the quest tools and waypoint arrows.

With the launch of the progression servers in Everquest I got my chance.  I’m not going to go into much detail about the server itself as there is already a fine article by Adam Tingle on this very site.  Instead I’m going to go all Grampa Simpson on you and tell you of my adventures there.

Character creation was the same rudimentary affair that I remembered.  Well, in picking your class and race there are a lot of factors to consider, but in customizing your alter ego’s appearance options are limited.  I opted for a Human Monk with one of the several faces on offer (dark hair, no beard) then I was whisked away to my new home town of Freeport.  I chose the Monk as it’s one of EQ’s dps classes and according to the forums it’s fairly easy to solo.  You also don’t get bogged down with a lot of abilities or spells, so I could spend my time slaying instead of keeping track of my buffs or organising my spell book.

West Freeport has a small newbie yard for young ‘uns like me to cut their teeth in.  It’s pretty convenient too.  There are a couple of merchants there, some guards to run to if you get into some difficulty with a mob laying the smack on you, and there are plenty of critters to carve up.  For the first few levels, it’s recommended that you solo so that’s what I did.  Getting through those first few dings was a pretty painless affair despite the slower xp gain of the server. Once I hit level 5, however, things took a downward turn.  EQ used to have ‘hell levels’, the xp gain for these levels was much lower than normal, making the next ding feel like a lifetime away.  Luckily these are gone now, but at level 5 I did struggle to find a sweet spot to camp and advance at the rate I had for the first four levels.  My experience is nothing compared to what veterans had to go through back in the day, so I feel for you guys, I really do.

There was only one thing for it.  I had to do what every fool and his mother knows that Everquest is all about.  I had to make friends and really kick start my game.  After a couple of shout outs in chat and a few clicks in the lfg window, I found myself a partner.  Before long we were joined by a third and we were ready to camp some Orcs.  Coming from newer games, camping was a new experience for me.  For anyone who jumped on the mmo bandwagon in the post WoW era, camping is finding a spot with mobs that are a decent challenge and staying put, clearing them out over and over every time they spawn.  Sounds dull?  Actually, no, it isn’t.  It leaves plenty of time for keeping one eye on the tv and also for chatting – you know, the social part of mmos.  I learned a lot too.  We ended up with a full group which included two Monks besides myself.  Nobody scoffed at my ignorance, in fact I got a lot of tips to improve my game.  Good people these EQ types.

I also managed to get out of the level 5 doldrums.  The carrot dangled in front of players, making us want to team up is the xp bonus for full groups.  In a short space of time, I zipped up to level 10 before calling it a night.

So that was my first experience of the new/old EQ.  So far it’s been fun and friendly and not as overwhelmingly complex as I remember.  But I am still not for from the starting line.  Even at the progression server rate, there are still 17 expansions to go through, and that’s a long road ahead with lots to learn.  Still one step at a time eh?


Phil James