WoW, EQ2 Shootout

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Ok here it is: my unabashed straight up comparison of World of Warcraft and EverQuest 2 and how they stack up with each other. While I try and maintain an impartial view while playing games for review, I know that I can not help but insert some personal preference into the reviews. So I want to let you know up front what those preferences are:

#1 = A fun gaming experience. I do not play to chat with friends and guild mates but to explore the lands AS PROVIDED by the developers.

#2 = Plenty of solo content. No I am not antisocial but do like to do what I want when I want especially in my leisure time pursuits.

#3 = Simple straight forward crafting system. Not so I can become the most uber-crafter on the server but so that I can supply my characters with what they need to be effective in the game world.

#4 = Multiple characters. I very rarely delete any characters (mainly because I have yet to find a class / race combo that I truly hated to play in any MMORPG to date) and love the ability to play different characters to fit different moods when I sit down to play.

So with that out of the way lets look at these two fine games. Yep, despite what I may say below I feel that both are very good games and worthy for any gamer to give a try.

Visually: Easy one first. Both games will just blow you away visually. You could literally spend hours just wandering around each game world gawking at what the developers have put in them in the way of graphics. EverQuest 2 is a series of interconnected zones much like their original. World of Warcraft is, for the most part, one seamless world. You just wander for ever and do not get zones loading. There are several dungeons and special areas in World of Warcraft, that require you to zone into them, but the base game world can be traversed without the need to pause and load a new zone. There are ‘areas’ of the game and when you go from one to the other you will see your chat channels change but no pauses for zoning and no zoning to outdistance a nasty, mean monster intent on eating you for lunch!

User Interface (UI): Both are fairly easy to use once you get used to them, but EverQuest gets plusses here as they have a very nice introduction (that can be skipped for subsequent new characters you start up) that ease you into the game world and your player interaction with it. Worlds of Warcraft just has an introductory video for each race and then you are dumped in front of a quest starter and told to interact with him or her. I so hate having to actually read a game manual, but that is necessary to get acquainted with the control of World of Warcraft.

Once past this, however, both interfaces are surprisingly similar. Easy to use, too few slots in the viewable action bar (though there are multiple action bars available in each game), customizable chat windows etc.

Inventory space: As in any game of this type there is far too little inventory space for the amount of really cool stuff you find and do not want to sell before finding out what it is used for. EverQuest 2 starts you with 6 inventory slots. Each can handle a bag with additional storage slots but these have to be looted, bought or attained via crafting. Bags come in 6, 8, 10 and 12 slot varieties and the better ones also have a percent reduction in weight of items carried in them. There is a very early and easy quest to get your first 4 slot bag.

World of Warcraft starts with 5 bag slots with one of them having a 16 slot bag in it, classes that start with ranged weapons also have a 6 slot ammo pouch or 6 slot quiver that adds 10% to ranged attack speed and autoloads the ammo. Unlike EverQuest 2, the inventory slots can only be used to contain bags, which in turn can hold multiple items. Like EverQuest you have to get bags from loot, NPC merchants or via crafting.

Banks are available in each game as well. In EverQuest 2 banks are in each of the starting hamlets as well as Qeynos and Freeport. World of Warcraft banks are located in the capitol city for each of the starting areas. EverQuest 2 banks provide 8 additional slots for either items or bags and 4 slots for bags or items that are shared by character on the same account same server and same faction, ie; good (Qeynos) or evil (Freeport). World of Warcraft banks have 24 slots that can hold items or empty bags. They also contain 6 bag slots that need to be purchased for 10 silver each. These slots can hold bags with items in them. My guys have not yet felt rich enough to purchase one of these to date. World of Warcraft also has a mail system for characters in the same faction, Horde or Alliance and on the same server. You can send messages and / or items to any character on your server in your faction at the cost of 30 copper per letter (postage I guess).

One last word on money. In both games the base coin is copper, followed by silver followed by Gold and EverQuest has one additional of Platinum. 100 copper equals 1 silver, 100 silver equals 1 gold etc. The difference here, and again the edge goes to World of Warcraft, money has weight in EverQuest 2 and to change 10,000 copper (if you could even carry that much) into 100 gold you have to go to the bank. In World of Warcraft your coinage changes automatically as you get it so you never have more than 99 copper or 99 silver.

Getting around: Aside from walking from place to place, my personal favorite way to do it so as not to miss any terrain features or cool buildings that are there to be seen, both games have aerial transport. In EverQuest 2 you climb one of the many gryphon towers in the game and can get transported to another in the same zone at no cost. In World of Warcraft there are various types of aerial transport that require you to have found both ends of the transport line before you can use the transport to get from one to another. And this is at a cost in silver and copper. EverQuest 2 also has a comprehensive sea transport system that is accessed by the bells at the various docks in the lands. Right click the bell and the available destinations for transport come up and you pick the one you want. To aid in getting around and knowing what terrain features are close to you, World of Warcraft utilizes a ‘radar’ screen to depict the area around your character as they move around. This has become the norm for these types of games yet EverQuest 2 remains one of the sole holdouts and has no radar screen.

In game map: To aid with getting around in game, both games have in game maps available to the characters. Both utilize the function where the maps become visible as you explore the area. So when you first enter an area it is all blank, or generic ground, that becomes a depiction of the land as you explore it. In World of Warcraft, there are maps of every area as it is all one big seamless world, while there are many zones in EverQuest 2 that have no map available at all.

Getting directions: One last aid to getting around are the guards in towns and cities. In EverQuest 2 you can speak with some guards and ask direction to an NPC (nonplayer character) usually a trainer or quest character. Down side is you need to know the name of the NPC and the guard will only point in the proper direction if the NPC is physically near them otherwise they just shrug. In World of Warcraft, again you can ask directions from most guards and can pick from bank, inn, class trainer, profession trainer and several other categories. The guard will tell you where what you want is located and then a flag in the in game map and in your radar screen when you get close and a gold directional arrow at the edge of your radar screen telling you the general direction to go.

Questing: Both games are just chocked full of quests waiting to be completed. In EverQuest 2 you find them by talking to every NPC you come across and some give quests and some do not. Some are appropriate for your level and some are not and they are color coded to assist identify the ones you can tackle right away. Quests in EverQuest 2 are for the most part not repeatable.

World of Warcraft handles quests completely differently. NPCs may have exclamation points over their heads indicating there is a quest available from them. Yellow ones indicate they are appropriate for your level while grey ones indicate you should come back in a level or two and see if they are your level or not yet. An NPC with a yellow question mark over their heads indicates an NPC you need to talk to in order to advance one of your current quests. Again grey question marks indicate an NPC you are currently on a quest for but have not yet fulfilled what they need to advance your quest. Both games have a quest panel that keeps track of your quest activities.

EverQuest 2 has the next step of the currently active quest displayed in the upper right corner for you to see as you adventure. World of Warcraft, like EverQuest 2, has a color coding scheme for indicating the difficulty of the quest. Yellow ones can be tackled immediately while brown ones are better left for a level or two when they too will turn yellow. In addition some quests are marked as ‘elite’ which is a warning that the monster(s) you need to kill will perform significantly better than most monsters of similar level so it is advised that you take a few friends along with you.

Warcraft uses their quests to initially guide you through your early levels. You start in a village with many quests available and once you finish them you will have quests that direct you to the next town or village in your starting area for further quests and character advancement. Eventually these will lead your character to the capitol city for their race where the full gamut of banks, trainers etc etc are located. With yet more quests for you to tackle. Aside from the initial tutorial quest in EverQuest 2 and the class quests at levels nine and 19, you are pretty much left with finding your own quest starters then finding out if you can handle them alone or need a group for them. Warcraft definitely gets the plus for their quest system, in my mind.

Getting started: In EverQuest 2, unless you choose to skip the introduction, you start on a small ship having just been pulled out of the water by the crew. You are lead through a series of activities and quests designed to introduce you to the game world and the user interface. By the time you leave the ship you have gained a level a weapon and an armor piece and have been introduced to what is happening in Norrath. Then you are deposited on the Isle of Refuge, where another series of quests, somewhat different for each class, completes your introduction to the game world. After completing the tasks on the Isle of Refuge you talk to the recruiter for your faction (good or evil) and get placed into one of the Hamlets around either Qeynos, for good characters or Freeport for evil ones. There is a citizenship quest in that hamlet to further get you on your way in the game and introduce you to character housing. You can not enter the initial city of Qeynos or Freeport without finishing this citizenship quest.

In World of Warcraft you have an introductory movie centered on your starting area and telling a bit of the history leading up to the current situation, then are deposited in front of a quest giver that starts you on the way. EverQuest gets plusses here for their tutorial but loose points for only two starting cities for all characters. Warcraft has one for each race, except for Trolls and Orcs that start in the same area.

Game play: Both games get high marks for game play. Both games are extremely fun to play. Ease of combat, fun factor of combat, combat skills and characters buffs, available armor, available weapons etc. My original review of the EverQuest 2 Beta gave that game a rating of 4.5 GiN gems primarily based on its game play, as I did not have all that much time to get into a lot of the other aspects of the game before it hit release. Subsequent interaction with the game, which is discussed below, has modified that overall rating. While soloing in EverQuest 2 is possible, it is clear that the intent of the design was to be a group oriented game. You just need to look at the overall percentage of group monsters and solo monsters to see this. You can find solo material, but you really have to look for it at this time. I am sure that more solo content will be added over time but the basic design of the game seems to be group oriented.

World of Warcraft seems to be a better mix of solo and group content leaning heavily in the direction of solo play, which for me is a huge plus. You are able to solo many quests but there are still places you do not want to venture into without a stalwart group of friends along with you. But the big difference here and big plus to World of Warcraft is that solo play seems to be an integral part of the design concept and will only be enhanced as time goes on.

There also seems to be more ‘fluff’ in World of Warcraft, pulling from their Warcraft series of stand alone RTS games. I almost busted a gut when my Tauren Shaman clicked on the Orc Gryphon Master to ride back to his home capitol city of Thunder Bluff and the Orc said "Zugg, Zugg". Then I started a Troll character and one of the early Troll (and Orc as it turned out) quests was to find lazy Orcs and get them back to work. At various places around the area you came upon a stack of wood with a sleeping Orc next to it. The Zzzzz’s coming out of their character was funny enough. Then you click on them to target them and they say something – straight out of the Warcraft RTS when you clicked on those figures and they spoke back. So I walk up to the first one and get "what do you want?" I then activate the cudgel I had been given to ‘wake them up’ (smack them over that head – as the only way to get an Orc’s attention) and get an "I can do that!" as they scamper back to the tree and start chopping again. Hilarious. That was one quest I did not mind doing a second time when I started my Orc character.

Both games have plenty of flavor, EverQuest drawn from their first game and World of Warcraft from their Warcraft franchise, but Warcraft just does a much better job of integrating that flavor into the quests and NPCs you meet as you travel the lands.

Lastly there are consumables, such as arrows and bullets (yes there are guns in World of Warcraft). In Warcraft the starter ammo costs 10 copper for 200 arrows or bullets. EverQuest 2 charges 5 copper for 99 arrows (no guns that I have found yet in EverQuest 2). Food also. In Ever Quest 2 you need to consume food and water or loose effectiveness over time. In World of Warcraft food is used to bring back health quicker while water is used to bring back mana quicker. Neither are required but having them lessens your down time between fights.

Crafting: Finally I get the big divider, in my opinion at least (remember my initial slant on why I game), crafting. For the first ten levels of crafting in EverQuest 2 (I never got beyond that while in Beta) all is well. While it is an overly complicated system it was workable and you could make everything you need to advance your artisan skills and your character. To make even the easiest item you need multiple crafted items. Take a bag for instance. You need leather scraps to make into leather strips. You need the leather strips to make larger hunks of leather. You also need raw metal to refine into bars to make, along with leather strips, into buckles and such.

Then you get to try and make the bag. Each step also requires solvents, at the lowest level this is just a vial of water purchased from a vendor in the crafting area, but once you have the base metal bar or leather strips you need specialized solvents made via chemistry, for the combinations.

Now each combination has 4 outcomes dependent on luck and your skill with the highest one of Pristine, being the best. But each craft center, forge, chemistry table, loom etc has three sets of ‘problems’ that can come up during a crafting attempt that if not countered within a certain amount of time by a certain craft skill can damage you (kill you if too many of them happen and are not countered) but worse have negative effects on the quality of your finished item. Without all pristine components you do not even get a chance at making a pristine finished piece!

Weapons, Armor and bags are available from the crafting system but then so are skill upgrades. As you attain a new level with a character you automatically get the spells associated with that level – YAY no searching for spell vendors! Upgrades for these spells come from various sources. Low level upgrades come from NPC merchants and some can come from monster loot, but these are VERY rare drops indeed. Most will come from crafters. They can craft the scrolls and such that will get you the upgraded and more useful versions of the starting spells and skills. And for the first ten levels this is all well and good too.

Then you hit level 10 as an artisan and find you need to pick form one of three schools – Craftsmen, outfitter and scholar. While the Scholar makes all the skill and spell upgrades they need items from woodworking (quills and parchment) and blackSmithing in order to make the upgrades. So you are now DEPENDANT on another character to further you crafting. And players are DEPENDANT on being able to contact a Scholar with the proper contacts with other craftsmen and the skill level and the willingness to take time to craft for you in order to advance your character’s effectiveness. This gets worse at a craft skill of 20 when you further need to choose between three subclasses for each of the prime crafting classes discussed here. I really do not like HAVING to depend on another character that may or may not be in game when I need them or may or may not have sufficient skill or may or may not have sufficient time (remember crafting is a multi step process that takes plenty of time to complete) to make what I NEED to be more effective in the game world.

BIG minus for EverQuest, huge in fact as far as I am concerned! One last nail in this coffin of crafting in EverQuest 2 is the hard limit of 4 characters per account. You can not even make the 9 characters necessary to have one of each crafting profession to supply each other. Forced interdependence to this level (of having effectiveness of a character totally dependent on someone else’s character) is a step way off in the wrong direction for me!

Crafting in the World of Warcraft is a much simpler process. There are several ‘gathering’ professions: skinning (getting resources from the dead bodies of critters slain), mining (getting materials from veins that randomly pop up around the landscape) and herbalism (getting materials from plants that pop up around the landscape). Crafting material can also come from loot. In fact linen only comes from loot of humanoid (Kobold, goblin human etc) type adversaries. But mined materials can be found on miner critters for example.

There are also several crafting professions: Leatherworking, BlackSmithing, Engineering, Tailoring and alchemy. Any character can have any two of the crafting skills. Most, it seems take a crafting skill and an associated gathering skill, like blackSmithing and mining or skinning and tailoring. Crafting then consists of combining these basic ingredients in recipes, a couple of which come when you learn the skill and others you buy from a vendor or find on critters, to get the desired results. There are still multiple steps but far less tedious than the EverQuest 2 system. For instance to make that bag, you will need 6 pieces of linen (dropped from humanoid monsters) and 30 copper (to buy the 3 strands of coarse thread you will need. Combine the linen in pairs to make linen thread and then combine 3 linen thread with 3 coarse thread to make the 6 slot bag. No special equipment to be next to (well except for the forge for blackSmithing and engineering crafts).

And with a reported 50 characters slots (10 allowed on any one server) per account even I have enough character slots to make me happy for years to come and to be able to have a character able to make what my guys need as they need it.

It comes down to choice. You have many choices available to you in World of Warcraft – play one or many characters? – be dependent on guild mates and friends for what I need or be self sufficient? Craft and adventure, or just craft, or just adventure? Etc., etc and you have extremely limited choices available to you in EverQuest 2 not just in craft professions but also in number of different class / race combos you can play, and no matter what you pick your character will still be DEPENDENT on some other character to be as effective as they can be in combat. So while they are both great games in an over all comparison EverQuest 2 comes up with 4 GiN gems while I am forced to give World of Warcraft the max rating of 5 GiN gems as current best in class for MMORPGs!

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