The land of Norrath has always been a home to me. From its creation and growth in Everquest, to its destruction and slow rebuilding process through Everquest 2, I’ve found that it is a world of adventure and discovery. Almost seven years after launch, Everquest 2 has done a good job of keeping content fresh, exciting, and mysterious. Since launch there have been numerous expansions, which have extended the game world past twice its original size.
The expansions have added many new continents: Faydwer, a nature lover’s paradise and once home to the Dwarves, Gnomes, Wood Elves and High Elves; Kunark, the ancient home of a lizard-like race called the Iksar; the Sinking Sands, which was once the Desert of Ro near Freeport; the Overrealm, which are floating islands above the world; Innothul, a swamp-like land which once was home to the Ogres, Trolls and Froglok; Odus, a magic infused land above the world; and Vellious, and icy wasteland of danger.
Each area is rich in aesthetic flavor and beauty, and each has a unique feel to it, which helps keep the game fresh as players journey from beginning to max. For example, in traveling through the continent of Faydwer there is a very wild feel to it, as nature is important to many of the cultures that live in the area. At the same time, there are elements of clockwork and steampunk due to the ancient city of the gnomes being there. Now from there one may travel to The Sinking Sands, which is made up of deserts and Arabia themed wonders; a very different feel.
As the game stands now, players are able to get to a max level of 90, with character development continuing far after hitting max (usually). Alternate Advancement (AA) points, think of a more mix and match version of talent trees in World of Warcraft, but you use experience to gain points instead of gaining them at level up. Levels are gained with the conventional kill and quest experience, but AA experience is rewarded through various means such as questing, completing collections, finding rare items, or killing powerful enemies. This provides players with a reason to venture off the beaten path in search of the much-valued AA points.
Players returning after a few years will find a very different experience starting up a new character. Many classes are now available for both factions, with only ones inherently good or evil, such as a Shadowknight or Paladin, being faction specific. A handful of new player races have also been introduced, such as the Fae, a fairy, and the Sarnak, a dragon/Iksar hybrid, and starting areas have been added and changed to fit the way the in-game world has changed over time.
The old, outdated starting area of The Isle of Refuge, which led to Freeport or Qeynos, has been eliminated and replaced with Neriak, the dark elf lands, and Gorowyn, home of the Sarnak, for evil players. For good players, Kelethin, a city built in trees, and New Halas, built in the middle of a glacier, are the new starting areas. These starting areas do a good job of introducing players to the game and getting them acquainted with the new features that have been added.
One thing added which changed the pace of the game in a massive way was the introduction of new mount types. There are four different types of mounts, all with their own pros and cons. Ground mounts are your standard mount type. They run on the ground faster than any of the other type, but that’s about all they can do. They next type, which was newly added, are leapers. Leapers aren’t as fast as ground mounts, and can’t really go far, distance wise, once up in the air, but they jump extraordinarily high, which can help in mountains or cliffs. The third type of mounts are gliders, which were my personal favorite. They’re the fastest of the airborne mounts, but once in the air they can only glide down, hence the name gliders. Finally, we have flying mounts, which are slow on the ground and relatively fast in the air. While slower than gliders, they can stay in the air for as long as necessary, which comes in handy if a player has to go AFK in a dangerous area.
Battlegrounds have also been added for those who enjoy PVP, and though I didn’t personally experience them I do know a little bit about them. There are three maps, each with different methods of gameplay and player limits. One is a 6v6 capture the flag match, where players battle deep within one of the Kunark jungles. The second map, another 6v6, is a capture and hold map, where opposing teams try and keep an object away from the other teams as long as possible. Finally, there is a 24v24 king of the hill type of map, where players must capture and hold various territories on the map to score points.
As for PVE, a lot of the difficulty has been reduced in overland zones (depending on when you last played) and a player can get to max with any class solo. If you’re one who enjoys grouping you don’t have to fear, however, because a host of epic quests, dungeons and raids have also been added. For those who have trouble finding groups or a guild to play with, or don’t have the time to seek them out, guild search and application features have also been implemented. This makes finding a group of players to regularly team up with is a lot easier than I find in most games.
As for actual gameplay, I found it to be pretty standard with many mainstream MMORPGs, but still different enough to have its own feel. Enemies can attack solo, but also be a part of a group, and though this has been around since launch, I like the concept. Many of the quest lines in a zone have a hint of intrigue and mystery to them as well, giving a feel to the zone and adding some spice to the “Kill X” or “Collect X” types of quests. However, that’s not to say those are the only types of quests to be found in Everquest 2. Exploration, escort, and lore quests are all a part of the Everquest 2 experience, as well as a slew of quests for crafters and even some for PVPers.
On top of all that, there’s a lot of variety in Everquest 2 that keeps the gameplay fresh. All of the classes, and there are a lot of them (24 to be exact), have their own special aspects and roles in a group or raid, which make playing classes, even in the same sub-group, a new experience. Also, the amount of zones make multiple play-throughs new and exciting, instead of being streamlined through the same one or two zones for each level bracket.
As with any MMORPG, I find community is one of the biggest factors bringing long-term enjoyment to player (it is for me, at least). My main community experience came from the guild I joined, which I found using the guild search. Another feature which brought me closer to my fellow players, and was highly convenient, was built-in voice chat that automatically linked with your guild, group or raid (should you be in one). Zone-wide chatting was also fairly active and always allowed me to feel like someone was there.
All this being said, Everquest 2 did have its fair share of flaws. Staying on the theme of community, in my time in the world I saw very few groups outside of dungeons, and even then they were usually all members of the same guild. I saw no role-playing either, aside from a player here or there having a back-story to their character, and I was on a designated role-playing server.
Lag was also an issue at times, though not nearly as much as I expected. In fact, I experienced few technical problems during my stay in Norrath. Occasionally an enemy would disengage from combat, or would be un-damageable (though they wouldn’t attack either, if this were the case). While this was slightly annoying, it was nothing that couldn’t be fixed by just finding a different mob to fight.
The SOE store is another thing some might have a problem with, though others may love it. I, personally, like how it’s set up, as a lot of the items on there are appearance only, though there are things like mounts, combat potions, and other things that could help one in game, though they aren’t really a necessity.
Overall, I found my return to Everquest 2 to be a lot of fun. Revisiting old zones with new characters gave a sense of nostalgia, while at the same time leaving me excited and giddy to see how they had changed. At the same time, visiting new zones with old characters allowed me to unlock new mysteries and battle new evils as I journeyed through magical cities and deadly wastelands. Easy to find and welcoming guilds added a greater sense of community and companionship to the game, while epic quests and dangerous dungeons brought us together for a common cause.
The world of Norrath is one of danger and excitement, mystery and conspiracy. It is a place ripe with adventure for those brave enough to seek it, and riches for those strong enough to persevere. It is a gorgeous, immersive world that I’m glad to have experienced once again, and I recommend those interested to check it out. There’s even a free version for those who would prefer it, so why not jump in and see the magic for yourselves?