Over the past decade, the Everquest series has come a very, very long way. The folks over at SOE have made sure it continues to make a strong presence within the realm of MMOs, and it is always fun to be able to dip into new additions to the series. With that in mind, I was really excited knowing I was going to be able to step back in Norrath again, this time for the most recent expansion: Age of Discovery.
Aesthetics – 8/10
One of the things I have always enjoyed about Everquest 2 was the overall feel of the game. The experience you get going into Norrath is unique. You’re surrounded by detailed monsters, zones, and landscaping, especially given its time of release. The visuals are not always the sharpest, but it is evident that SOE is changing that, especially with the release of the new expansion. Although there are not many new shinys to the game aesthetically with the advent of Age of Discovery, the new additions definitely make a difference, such as the newer version of Freeport. They have made the entire city so much more uniform and vibrant. After having been able to travel to many areas of the game, players will definitely experience the true depth that SOE added to Freeport with Age of Discovery. Moreover, the UI is pretty well fleshed out given the addition of the new Dungeon Maker, so you are given many options to choose from. My only complaint about the UI is that it almost feels cluttered at times and a bit overwhelming. However, I would much rather have more options than I need, so I am able to customize and cater things to my taste than to have too few.
Gameplay – 8/10
Fun! That’s the best way to put it. One of the biggest missing attributes to many newer MMORPGs is, you know, the whole RPG feel. Let me clarify. Everquest 2 actually makes players feel like they are the focus of the game, they are controlling the story, and they are given the option to do what they want. If you pay attention, you’ll notice that there has been a lot of thought and detail that has been put into questing by adding a lot of solid interaction between players and the NPCs. Age of Discovery provides a new class: the Beastlord. It is a very interesting class that allows you to have a pet, known as a Warder. There are many different Warder Families, skills, and attributes to provide for a well-developed experience.
Crafting has always been a cornerstone to the game, so it seemed fitting that SOE took the time to expand upon it with Age of Discovery. The new Tradeskill Apprentices allow you to learn new recipes that you wouldn’t be able to get otherwise. Moreover, you get daily quests from them, potentially rewarding you with some of the elements needed to craft the new recipes.
Moreover, there has been a lot of talk regarding the new Mercenaries that also come along with the new expansion. Essentially, you’re able to hire an NPC that caters to what you need it to do, i.e. heal, dps, tank, etc. There are many different types of mercenaries for players to choose from, and it’s based on availability and spotting. Each of the mercenaries you find will have different types of abilities and skills, so you can never expect to find all the same abilities across every mercenary. As the name implies, you have to pay for their service but in return, they are able to act as a separate group member that can aid you for whatever you need. However, they will not be able to perform nearly as well as an actual experienced player, so they are by no means a complete substitute. It’s simply nice that SOE provided the option for players in the event they needed an extra hand.
Innovation – 9/10
Age of Discovery was refreshing to play. I had the most fun whenever it came down to trying their new Dungeon Maker system, which allows players to essentially have the ability to create and customize a dungeon. There is a plethora of options, ranging from different monsters to even the small little touches, such as a torch or candle. To be quite frank, I found myself decorating more than I did adding or choosing monsters, because it was so fun. There have been quite a few attempts from developers to provide MMO players something similar, but I really enjoyed what I experienced with the Dungeon Maker in Age of Discovery. The mercenaries, although not something completely new, I felt were refined in a way that was commendable. A lot of games try to have player substitutes through NPCs, but many times they just come off as being detached from the game. The approach to have timed characters with various skills and abilities to match what you need was enjoyable. After all, given that MMORPGs are supposed to mirror the ideas of a real setting, wouldn’t it only make sense to have to pay for the services of others?
Polish – 8/10
Everquest 2 is a fairly clean experience, partly because it’s a veteran game. I did not find myself lagging severely when I was out questing in open areas or in more populated cities. However, I did notice that there were a few hitches almost every time I switched over to do other things in Windows (ALT+TAB) in the middle of the game. I was forced into having shut down the game entirely about half of the time. On the other hand, the new systems, such as the Dungeon Maker, seemed to be very complete and well-developed. All in all, you should have a fairly smooth experience when it comes to Age of Discovery. There wasn’t anything that greatly took away from the overall quality or state of the game prior to its release.
Longevity – 7/10
There are many hours that can be spent playing Everquest 2, but unfortunately, Age of Discovery does not add hundreds of hours of gameplay to what was already there. It just keeps you going for a bit longer. Most of what you’re going to get out of this expansion is trying out the new class, the Beastlord. The Dungeon Maker, the mercenaries, and Tradeskill Apprentices are all great additions to the game, but it isn’t enough content that will fill up a year’s worth of time. The expansion is really just providing you a bit more to the original experience, without drastically changing anything. It’s about adding features, not new places and levels.
Social – 7/10
Quantity vs. Quality is where is all comes down to, unfortunately. Everquest 2 has just recently hit its seventh birthday, and the community is simply not as large as it used to be. The game has turned itself in a way that everyone plays within the confines of their own guild or set of friends. You won’t need to be muting any chat channels anytime soon, because there’s not much action going on. Keep in mind, this is not necessarily a bad thing due to the fact there is a strong core of quality, dedicated players. However, this may act as a disadvantage for those who are thinking about delving into the game for the first time. I am glad SOE provided the mercenaries, because if you’re just starting out, it’s good to get all the help you can get. Moreover, if you’re someone that’s really into roleplaying, I think the most fun you’re going to have is talking to the NPCs. All in all, it really does become a matter of preference. If you enjoy being able to instantly group up with a lot of players to go become some epic, overrated hero, this is not for you. On the other hand, if you like taking your time enjoying the lore, adventure, and zoning involved in an MMO, Age of Discovery just expanded upon something that may be worth your time.
Value – 6/10
Now, Everquest 2 is technically F2P, but given the current F2P trend, it’s not really. You have to purchase the expansion for $40 on top of having to spend money to unlock a lot of other features of the game, such as different races, classes, different chat channels, etc. In other words, if you want to get the full on Age of Discovery experience, it will come at a price. As mentioned previously, Age of Discovery does not provide players with drastic changes, and it doesn’t really feel like an actual expansion, but rather, a big update. Quite frankly, given the current state of the game in relation to what is available and coming, I don’t find the complete cost justified for newcomers to the Everquest series. On the other hand, if you already have many things unlocked or are an avid player, I would go ahead and pick it up.
I must say I had a very fun time being able to play Age of Discovery. I came up a bit short-ended, but not completely disappointed. My major issue with the game is that I don’t think I would call it an expansion. If you are someone who was thinking about playing Everquest 2, make sure you try out every corner of what’s available free of charge before taking out your wallet. There were a lot of features that I thoroughly enjoyed, but I just left a bit hungrier for more.