Norrath Needs You

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The much awaited sequel to the groundbreaking massively multiplayer online role playing game EverQuest has arrived! Norrath once again is in need of strong warriors and fearless magic users to fight off the hordes that threaten what remains of the world. And I was lucky enough to get in on the BETA testing for EverQuest 2. So now I can tell you what I found out.

This time instead of starting in the comfort of your home city you start being dragged out of the sea after the calamity that sundered Norrath as we knew it. The on-ship sequence serves to introduce you to the interface and controls of the game and get you into the spirit of the title. Then you are let off on the Isle of Refuge (where all the refugees that get scooped out of the drink are taken) to begin to prove yourself worthy of helping rebuild Norrath.

The classic races are there – Human – Elves – Dwarves – Ogres etc, except the Frogloks are not immediately available for play and it sounds like there may be a quest to open the ability to be a Froglok. The exact information on this is "Rumors have surfaced that the Frogloks are facing grave peril! Follow the clues scattered around Norrath to discover how you can aid this noble race and make them available to play." Unfortunately I could not find a Froglok NPC (nonplayer character) that would talk to my Dwarf of Iksar.

Also they have introduced the Ratonga. "The Ratonga are agile, crafty and surprisingly charismatic. Little is known of their past. They are keenly perceptive and highly intelligent, but tend to be selfish and manipulative." I did not get to try them as time ran out for me (I got into the later stages of the BETA) before I had a chance to try one of the little guys.

The classes start with the basic Fighter, Priest, Mage and Scout which you can branch out into as you progress in levels. For example, Fighters can become Warriors, Brawlers or Crusaders and further Warriors can be Guardians or Berserker depending if they are of good or evil inclination. A similar path is open to the other base classes as well. Level 10 is where you need to start making choices on you class. Oh yes, I almost forgot, there are no race / class restrictions so an Iksar Druid or Half Elf Shaman are possible! Kind of hard to picture an Ogre or Troll Rogue but that is possible too!

There is no player VS player (PvP) in EverQuest 2.

After completing your activities on the Isle of Refuge and mastering the interface, controls and getting familiar with the quest system, you are ready to take your character to either Qeynos (for good folk) or Freeport (for the not so good folk) to continue your exploration of what is left of Norrath.

Wandering around the countryside is a marvel all by its self. In fact there are many interesting and wondrous things to discover for those so inclined. Like the rock in a corner of the Isle of Refuge which you ‘use’ and the engraving on it changes to say that your character has been here!

Travel in and around the starting cities of Qeynos and Freeport are aided greatly by the ship routes. In this world bells on the docks represent them. There is usually one for travel within the city and another for travel outside the city.

Questing seems to be the focus of a character’s early development. In both my characters, a Dwarf Fighter and Iksar Shaman, they attained level 11 almost strictly through questing. Crafting, or in the world of Norrath becoming an Artisan, is a side light available for each character. You can get started with crafting on the Isle of Refuge and can pick up the books with the higher level artisan recipes either off corpses or from merchants or other players. There is a whole series of interruptions to your crafting that have to be addressed properly so there will be no unattended crafters in this world.

Probably one of the most interesting aspects of what I saw was the ‘instancing’ of zones. It seems from my experience that all zones are instanced. By this I mean there are several copies of each zone on each server with different players in them. I noticed that logging into the Isle of Refuge one night it would be Isle of refuge 3 and another it could be Isle of Refuge 7 as its name.

It is also noticeable when zoning into outside zones. I quite often got to choose from several different zones with the same name and different numbers after the name. At one point I zoned out of one and into another with a different number and a whole different group of characters were playing in the second one. This little feature should prove quite useful on opening night, when normally the ‘newbie zones’ are totally over run with players all vying for the same limited number of critters.

All in all I was very much impressed with this game. While different from the original EverQuest, it maintains enough similarity to be familiar yet, is new enough to be totally different from your experiences in the original EverQuest. I gave it a rating of 4.5 instead of a perfect 5 as I view a rating of 5 as ‘best in class’ and there are currently two other games that I fell are just as much fun as EverQuest 2 and I will be playing all three a lot.

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