An EverQuest II Holiday

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Thankfully, the EverQuest 2 servers suffered some type of a major crash tonight. While that might not seem good, it was enough to break the game's hold over me, at least until the Sony techs can get things back online.

My publisher Nate Wooley says I am a game gourmand instead of a game gourmet. In other words I bounce around from game to game quite a bit without really specializing on one title or another. Hey, in my line of work it's kind of inevitable. So it is quite rare that I ever stop to play a single title for any length of time.

Playing an online RPG is even rarer for me due to the amount of time and effort a player has to put into it to be successful. The last time I tried to get into an online game was Asheron's Call. That endeavor ended because the group of friends I played with adventured every night, whereas I was busy doing reviews of other games. Soon they were so far above me in levels that we could not even adventure together when I did have time.

So generally I stay away from online RPGs.

Nobody was more shocked than me when I became addicted to EverQuest 2. Especially considering I did not like the original one at all, I was surprised to find myself logging in each night for just a couple more minutes of gaming. This of course led to a couple more minutes and then a couple more until hours had passed.

In about two weeks we are going to run a comparison review from reviewer Royce Brainard between EverQuest 2 and World of Warcraft. In that review he makes some valid criticisms of EQ2, like the high ratio of group monsters to solo ones which forces more dependency on groups. But criticisms aside for now, I wanted to explain why I love this game so much, and why I think others will too.

First off, the world is beautiful. And not just beautiful in a "Thief: Deadly Shadows" this-makes-the-game-more-interesting kind of way. More like in a "Farcry" the-world-is-so-beautiful-I-forget-sometimes-to-fight kind of way. The cities in the game look like you would expect medieval cities, at least in a fantasy setting, to look. And they are alive. Both NPCs and player characters wander around conducting business and going on quests.

The lands are even more beautiful, though deadly for the unwary. I choose to be a scout type character and one of my powers is the ability to go into stealth mode, which gives you a form of invisibility. So I can often sneak past really bad enemies to discover what is beyond them. The game actually awards you experience points for discovering new areas, so its fun to explore, and profitable too.

In a lot of ways EverQuest 2 reminds me of Morrowind, which is in my opinion one of the best – if not the best – single-player RPGs ever created. I spent over 800 hours with that game, which given my game habits is nothing short of epic. I have not played that long with EQ2 yet, but I suspect I might. I love the non-linear nature of this game. You can spend your entire life crafting within the city if you like and never have to step outside, though I think adventuring is where the real fun is, at least for me.

The other thing that brings EQ2 alive is the voice talent. Sure they got some Hollywood stars to voice the two main leaders, but other than the intro I've never seen either one in the game. But there are about 70 voice actors listed in the manual, and let me tell you they did an awesome job bringing life to the peasants and even the monsters. A great deal of NPCs you run into either in the wild or within cities has a voice. It really helps to make the game seem more real.

Also, with only one exception, every player that I have ran into has been friendly and every group I have been in has been a good one. There really is a great bunch of people playing alongside me and I owe a lot of my character's success to helpful folks I met along the way.

Anyway, EverQuest 2 does not really feel like a game so much as a place. When I am playing I kind of feel like I do when I am on vacation. There is that thrill of seeing something new, something historic, and having a good time with someone you love. In a recent Washington Post review I wrote, I said playing EverQuest requires an understanding spouse. While I have not convinced her to jump in and play with me, she has given me a lot of time with the game.

So here is your recommendation and your warning. EverQuest 2 really is a special game. It's the most living, breathing, alive game world I have found. The magic will entertain and enthrall you, and might just leave you spellbound as well. So if you give it a try, clear your calendar first. I know I will be spending a lot of time there over the Christmas holiday.

So happy holidays from Norrath!

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