Finding a group of players to run an excursion, even with the chat restrictions, is fairly easy. With many players requesting others in the visible 1-9 chat and also the excellent group tab, these hardy parties are easy to come by. As Extended is a relatively new server, the game is slightly bottom heavy so the mid-level ranges are fairly bustling with activity. A dungeon crawl is usually punctured by numerous groups travelling by and on more than one occasion, my group had formed with another to raid the lower depths of some catacomb. In all, I could see no real reason to go from my Bronze Membership (free) to the silver (around $20) or even further to gold or platinum.
But why did I stop at 25? Well while I was enjoying my adventures in dungeons, I came across numerous pieces of loot that would look rather spiffing on my person, but unbeknownst to me, if the item was Lore or Legendary, these items could not be equipped. To be frank, I felt this random restriction was the first time that SOE had really pulled the trick of ‘bastard’ in my whole experience. Of course I cannot expect the company to really put out a triple A title for nothing but this odd choice for restriction was a bit of a low blow.
When these unusable items started to accrue in my, already sparse, inventory slots, I decided that I would either bank or broker them. Again, unsurprisingly the game left many bank slots shaded forbidding red and to my eternal surprise, the broker was out of bounds for either buying or selling.
On a side note, I have felt that EverQuest and SOE never got the whole ‘Auction House’ system right. In previous, subscription-based years, I have found the broker to be a cumbersome and difficult to navigate maze of menus and toggles – its only redeeming feature being that a slight effort had at least gone into it. Now the revelation that the game prohibits everything but Gold or Platinum users to fully use it is a farce.
Well, actually the above is not entirely true. Bronze membership can indeed use the broker system, as can Silver (freely buying items) but the cash shop forces ‘Broker Tokens’ upon you which are sold in 10s for a few dollars. Personally, I felt this to be another low blow in a F2P game that really holds much promise and value. The restrictions in place such as the broker and items, leave a general distaste in the mouth that reminds the player that no matter what, you’re going to part ways with cash.
So as I stumbled to level 25th in tattered rags and objects dutifully crafted by own hand, I decided that with all due respect, my journey could no longer carry on without parting ways with money. The restrictions placed are essentially slow burning torture devices which will eventually make you dig out your wallet. By a certain level, your character will be vastly inferior to those than can afford the ‘item unlockers’ and other such items so therefore, I decided that play was now hindered beyond reprieve. 1 day and 8 hours had been clocked, not too bad?
So with all the above bitterness banished for the moment, let’s actually take a look at the cash store. Players start off with bronze membership and can either opt for a ‘pick and choose’ method – selecting certain item and broker unlockers, or they can opt straight for silver membership. While it isn’t free, the silver membership will give you almost everything you need to survive in the game to the higher echelons and become a worthwhile character. In fairness, the 20 dollars that it costs is essentially the retail price of the game you are playing, and again, this is game that boasts 11 expansions to date (although some are adventure packs). Paying 20 bucks for all that content? Yes, that’s not a bad deal really.
So in closing, EverQuest 2 Extended is almost, very nearly almost a free-to-play MMORPG – and in fact, if you can hold-out long enough, I would say that you could get to the level cap without spending a penny (maybe on the latest expansion). Unlike many games that purport to be free, EQ2E really offers a system of ‘pay for what you need’ sure, some things are restricted but I doubt you will ever find yourself paying the same price of a subscription fee a month. With numerous hours of play, I found something that could serve as a full-time obsession or a part-time distraction until bigger and better things arrived. In a nutshell, SOE – you have impressed me.