MMOs are like Whack-a-Mole. A few years ago it would have been easy to try them all; up pops a new one and "whack!" down it goes. These days it's a bit trickier, new games are popping up with bewildering speed and it's impossible to hammer them down in time. What's an MMO addict to do? It makes sense to try games based on recommendations, and I may be biased, but I recommend EQII.
In the first part I covered character creation and the many quest types that EQII has to offer, but what else does it have going for it? Nothing according to some, but if you only listen to haters, you'd end up playing nothing at all. So here is a run-down of EQII's content.
Bankers and Brokers
The amount of items you can store in EQ2 is staggering. Your character has six slots for carrying stuff, and not long into your adventures these will hold bags, then bigger bags, until you are carrying six backpacks or strongboxes with 40 plus slots each. That's a whole lotta swag. Even with all this storage space you may run out of room if you are anything like me and hold on to items for sentimental reasons. That's where the bank steps in. Your bank gets you 12 slots for your character plus eight more slots to share between your characters giving you potentially over 400 spaces for your junk. Still not enough? Your home also has some vault spaces for you to fill up and also you can place more containers on your Market Board.
The Market Board spaces, while handy for storage, are intended for you to sell your wares. There is no auction system in EQII, instead each player places his items and sets the value they want. You can browse the market and match the lowest price or if you are more patient you can set the price you think it's worth and wait for the right buyer to come along.
A home is much more than a place from which to run your retail empire. SOE gives you a wealth of options when it comes to your pad. Players start off with very modest digs; just a few rooms for the low rent of a few silver pieces per week. However, it's not the size that counts, it's what you do with it. The scope for interior decoration is overwhelming, with a huge variety house items coming from many sources. Some are quest rewards, some are crafted, SOE sell some as microtransactions (this is pretty contentious, if you are going to read the comments to this article, then beware - I am predicting a lot of vitriol) and some items come from completed collections (more on these later). You can also get a selection of books with which to build a library. The lore and legend quests reward you with a book and a weapon to display on your wall - I have quite an armoury decorating my house. This barely scratches the surface of what you can do, it's well worth checking out the EQII forums where interior design has its own board. I'm no dab hand at decoration, but below is some of the junk I've filled my house with.
The lands of Norrath are peppered with collectables. This isn't the first time I've explained what they are so I'll keep it brief. Collectables, often called shinies due to their sparkly appearance, are scattered all over the world. When harvested they can be added to your collection, and completed collections can be handed in for a rewards which range from a piece of equipment, a house item or pretty much any kind of item really. The other benefit from completion is that you get a bit of AA experience.
AA, or alternative advancements, are another way to progress your character. Whenever you complete a quest, explore new areas, kill a named mob or complete a collection, you are awarded AA xp. Fill your bar to 100% and you gain an advancement point to further customise your character. Other games have similar systems, possibly giving you a point per level and capping at a few dozen points. EQII has an AA cap of 270 and this gets raised with each expansion. Once characters reach the endgame, it gives you something to do beside rep grinding and raiding. Completing grey quests still gives AA so many players go through older content to max out their characters. The lead up to a new expansion is always a good time to stock up on shinies as the AA cap increase means that players pay through the nose to complete unfinished collections for those valuable points.
There was a time when AAs were called achievements. That came to an end with the advent of the new achievement system. This will be a familiar concept to anyone keeping up with modern gaming trends. You get achievements for dungeons and raids, for exploration, pvp and for killing large numbers of mobs. Rewards come in the form of appearance armour, titles and house items. Plus there is also the kudos that comes with them too.
It's worth going into appearance items in a bit more detail. EQII has come under some flak in the past for the lack of variety in the armour models. While this is not an unfounded accusation, people often overlook the appearance slots.
At the top of your character's paper doll, there are two tabs: Equipment and appearance. Equipment needs no explanation, appearance dictates how you want your character to look. Let's say you love the stats on your new helm but hate the way it looks? That's ok, just drag a different head piece into the appearance slot and you can get the benefit of the stats you want with a look that's just right for you. My main character in WoW used to have the most wicked looking mace, it had a huge skull at the end with spikes coming out of the eyes (yes I realise that I sound about 12 years old here), but eventually I upgraded and it just lay in my bank out of sentiment. Given the option I would have carried the appearance of this weapon around for ever, EQII gives me that option.