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Old 10-16-04, 07:44 PM   #1
Mithan
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Default EverQuest 2 First Impressions + 45 screenshots

I’ve been eagerly watching EQ2 since it was first announced, which is a surprise for some of my friends because they know how much I hated the original EverQuest, due to its camping and forced grouping. Most people figured EQ2 would just be more of the same, so if you hated the first one, why bother? Well, I am glad I stuck to my initial impression of the game.

I have been playing EQ2 for about a month now and I have raised a Human Crusader up to level 14, which isn’t that high, but I like to think I have explored every single nook and cranny of the zones that have been open to me and most importantly, I have learned how the game’s system works.

The conclusion I have reached after a month? Simple.
EQ2 Rocks (so far).

No, it isn’t all “good” and there definitely is some bad with this game so far, but overall, the game is very good and I think a lot of people will end up liking it, but I will go into that a little more later. For now, I want to cover a few basic “parts” of the game.

Character Creation:
The Character Creation system is very well done in that you can do pretty much whatever you want with your characters looks. People who played SWG will feel at home with this system, though it isn’t quite as detailed. One thing people may not like is that EQ2 doesn’t have you adjusting any stats when you start. All you do is “build” your characters physical features and move on to the game. Still, for those of you watching World of Warcraft and not knowing which is for you, I can say that the EQ2 system is more detailed.

Starting Out:
SOE seems to have realized that people have short attention spans these days and a lot of people don’t want to spend hours and hours reading manuals. They want to jump right in with a short tutorial and move on. EQ2 does this very well by starting you on a Boat. On the boat, you get to use every major system in EQ2, including the quest journal, combat, inventory, talking with people, etc. What happens is that the Captain of the Boat sends you on a short little “quest” on the boat, and the boat acts as your tutorial and gets you aquatinted with the game early. It works pretty well and everybody I spoke with liked it so far.

After you finish the Boat Tutorial, you start out on what is basically a newbie island called the Isle of Refuge, that has various quests for you to do, and gets you further aquatinted with the game.

The Isle of Refuge is actually a lot of fun and very well done. There is a small town in the middle (just a collection of huts with some NPC’s) and then outside of town, there are various quests, where you can reach a level of between 5-8 fairly easily, before you leave and go off to Qeynos of Freeport. The isle itself has about 15 or 20 quests for you to do, ranging in difficulty and type. Melee Classes will collect a full suit of armor before they leave, amongst other things.

Overall, I think that between the Boat Training area and the Isle of Refuge, Sony has done an excellent job of “training” people in how their game works. By the time you leave the Isle, you will actually be fairly caught up what you should be doing, which is nice. Far to many games dump you in an area and say “go play”. Gee thanks.

Your First City:
Depending on the alignment you choose (Good for Qeynos or Evil for Freeport) you end up taking a boat (actually you teleport) from the Isle to a small town outside Qeynos.

Qeynos (and I imagine Freeport as well) is surrounded by a few small villages, and these villages are populated by NPC’s that sell you stuff, give you quests, etc. You actually need to do a quest before you can enter the main cities themselves.

Anyways, upon landing at the small village you select, you can wander around and start doing quests, buying or selling equipment, checking out the inn, or just exploring the surrounding areas.

The towns themselves are all connected by zones meaning you can walk through various zones to get to where you want to go OR you can use the Boat Bell, which basically teleports you directly to the town you want to go too. It’s pretty nifty and saves you from having to waste too much time zoning.

Architecture / Level Design
One thing you guys will notice about the games architecture is that it is extremely well done. Cities look very, very good and are logical in how they are built. Dungeons are also very well built and take advantage of the games graphics engine. The environments are also done fairly well, but one thing that bothered me was that the world didn’t seem very “tall”. What I mean by that is that other than Antonica, Mountains seemed to all be about 40 feet high and that was all. It’s just something that bugged me…

Overall, you will all be fairly impressed by the level design. Some of it is average, some of it is extremely well done but none of it is poorly done, from what I have seen so far.

Graphics
EQ2 has some of the best graphics of any game, period. Now, some of you are going to say “but the characters look like plastic models”. Well, no they don’t. When your character is moving and the shadows, cloth simulation and everything else is working, characters do NOT look like Mattel action figures, in fact, they look great.

The spell effects, combat effects, character models, trees, buildings, grass, water, waterfalls and everything else in this game will simply blow your mind away. It all looks fantastic. I have included a few screenshots as well, but they are not taken at the highest quality settings. I think I took most of them at one notch below Maximum.
The graphics do come at a cost though. If you’re playing with Maxed out graphics, you need one hell of a system. If you don’t have a 3.2gig+ rated CPU and at least a GeForce 6800 GT, forget cranking the graphics up. My system is a AMD 3400, 1 gig ram and a GeForce 6800 GT and I was playing the game with good frame rates at 1280x1024 resolution and “Highest Graphics”, which is one notch below Maximum.

For those of you who don’t have a killer system, the good news is that I tried the beta on my brothers system (P4 2.53, 1 gig ram and a 9700 Pro) and he runs it at Medium Settings and gets a very good frame rate out of the game and the graphics still look excellent.

User Interface:
People who played Horizons will love the EQ2 UI and those of you who played SWG will find it familiar. EQ2 has one of the best UI’s ever made in a game. Every option can be configured. Ever window can be moved or resized. Everything can be enabled or disabled. In short, the UI is exactly what you want from a game, it is transparent, crisp, doesn’t get in the way, and you can set it up any way YOU want to set it up. This is good and EQ2 excels with this aspect of the game.

Other aspects of the UI are well done. The Options Menu lets you configure every single graphics option known to man, which allows you to tweak the game to your video card or personal preferences. Hate Shadows? Turn them off. Don’t like Heat Shimmers? Turn tem off. Don’t want the froth from waves and water falls to show up? Turn it off. Etc.

Inventory windows are handled well, and so are the quest journals and other windows in the game, though I found that the Quest Journal needs some tweaking, specifically in allowing the “quest” area at the top part of the journal to be resized.

In what is a bit of an ironic twist, the “Skill Book” window is almost the same as World of Warcraft’s skill book. I guess if it works, use it.

Zoning:
Let’s get this over with now. I hate zoning. The games I have played the most didn’t have zoning. Zoning sucks. However, to be fair, there are some advantages with it, mainly they can control how the world “flows” a little better sometimes, they can also instance easier, it can have benefits for server load, etc. Still, the load screen does suck.

The good news is, like all Zoning games, you get used to it and SOE has made the Zoneing time fairly short. It takes me about 10-15 seconds to zone into a level. The fact I have a SATA Raptor for a hard drive may make a difference though…
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Old 10-16-04, 07:45 PM   #2
Mithan
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Default Re: EverQuest 2 First Impressions + 45 screenshots

Quests:
Quests in EQ2 so far are very plentiful and take care of the leveling for you in most respects. If you do quests, you generally level up at a decent pace doing them. Most of the quests are gotten by speaking to NPC’s, but some are triggered by finding rare dropped scrolls of monsters or by clicking on items out in the environment (books, boxes, bedrolls, etc). For the most parts, quests are fairly generic and wont surprise anybody. Most are Fex-Ex, bounty, extermination or observe type quests. There are supposed to be some Epic Type quests, but I have not done anything that compares to some of the better quests that are found in Asheron’s Call 1 or 2, or WoW’s Instanced Quests or whatever. I would assume that Sony will have these “bigger” types of quests and I just haven’t done any yet. At level 14, I had probably done about 60-70 quests…

One issue I do have with Quests is that it can sometimes be hard to find who to talk to. I wish they had a WoW or AC2 like “exclamation mark” system where something appears over a NPC’s head. Of course, you are going to run into those purists who think that those marks break from the realism. However, let’s face it, this is a game and sometimes you need small breaks like this to avoid tedium. Wasting my time running around a city just because I can’t remember where in Qeynos Bob the Idiot is hiding isn’t much fun either.

The second issue I have with quests is that they don’t seem too varied… I want to see more “epic” quests. There may be reasons why there are none yet, so I can’t really say “they don’t exist”. Maybe I didn’t find them, maybe they are only planned for after release, etc…

Game play:
So far, I am enjoying the game play. In a lot of respects, I am finding EQ2 and WoW to be fairly similar. (/e runs from the mobs…). Combat is a lot alike and so are many of the quests. EQ2 is definitely more hardcore than WoW though, which I will discuss a little later. Overall, game play is fairly involved and keeps you fairly interested in the game, which is what a game should do. You can group or solo, explore or quest, sit and tinker with trade skills or go doing something else.

Soloing and Grouping:
EQ2 is a Group Game and SOE doesn’t try and hide the fact. However, they said that Soloing will be “viable” and I hope they keep their word on that one because I for one, do not intend to play EQ2 if everything I do is going to require me to spend hours camping spiders with some group… So far I have managed to basically solo my way to level 14 though, with only a few group trips for a few specific quests, and that balance has been fine. I hope that this is how it stays all the way to level 50.

For the inevitable comparison, WoW is better for die-hard soloers though. Its easier and faster to solo in WoW and that will appeal to a great many people in the MMORPG Community, it also makes WoW a more casual friendly game, so if you only have 10-15 hours a week, WoW may be the game for you, but you really need to play them both to find that out for yourself.

The good news is that EQ2 doesn’t even come close to touching on EQ1’s “forced group” mentality that so many of us despised. Its more “group heavy” than WoW is, but I think that it is well within tolerable limits for those of us that hate having to group all the time.

Still, Sony needs to work on this one more I think. Soloing needs to stay viable.

Lag:
Lag has been good to bad so far. The instanced zones are generally good and you get a nice crisp feel in combat. Some of the larger zones though, like Antonica (which is a HUGE zone) can be brutal. Of course, there are usually about 200 people playing in that zone.

Instancing:
Most combat areas in the game are instanced, with up to 5 “instances” being generated if needed. Before you zone into an area, you select which instance to play in (if they have room or if they are required) then you play in it. The only issue with this is that you need to coordinate with friends as to what instance you will both meet up in. Overall, I have found that instances work fine and that most of the whining on the boards is without merit.

Balance:
Hard to say at this point. I have been playing a Crusader and so far I find it alright, but I feel melee is a little weak in general and judging from the Beta forums, a lot of people agree with me. I hope that this improves because I enjoy playing melee characters, but I don’t want to be a simple EQ1 like meat shield.

ADDITON! Classes:
Im not a fan of "class" based games and prefer Skill based games like AC or AO where you can customize your character the way you want to play him. This is something I dislike about both WoW and EQ2. When in a group, I found that all melee classes were an exact replica of myself, something that im not overly fond of. Maybe this opens up at the higher levels...


ADDITION! Combat:
I found combat to be decent overall and even fun at times, however one nagging problem has bugged me for a while now. Your pretty much pre-determined as to whether you will win or lose by the con color of the monster, and the same strategy works with all monsters. There really isn't much to the strategy involved... You bash the monster until either you die or it dies. I found I liked WoW Warrior combat a little more in this reguards, because I could use healing kits and such in combat to make a bit of a strategic difference.

Overall:
Overall, I really like the game so far. There are a few issues that bug me (questing, grouping/soloing and the seemingly weak melee characters). Lag in some areas isn’t what I would consider “good” either but that will improve with time as the beta progresses.

Either way, I think Sony is releasing a winner with EQ2 and I feel that it will stand toe to toe with another favorite of mine, World of Warcraft and do well with it, providing that the rest of the game stays as good as the levels I have played.

In the end, I think the big winners here is the MMORPG Community. It looks like we have two awesome games being released in the next couple months that are going to appeal to many people. That’s good news.

As for myself, I full intend on playing BOTH EQ2 and World of Warcraft, for they are both excellent games.

Anyways, I will post more later and expand on a few issues that I touched lightly on or ignored altogether.

Update:
Somebody asked which game I like more...
I think I like WoW a little more, due to the stronger soloing aspect of the game. I just hate grinds and forced grouping.



[hr]
Here are 45 screenshots I took of EQ2.

http://www.mithan.com/eq2/

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Old 10-16-04, 08:37 PM   #3
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Default Re: EverQuest 2 First Impressions + 45 screenshots

Great write up Mithan, thanks for that.
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Old 10-17-04, 06:54 AM   #4
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Default Re: EverQuest 2 First Impressions + 45 screenshots

graphics look very bland to me, not as much background detail as WOW for sure
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Old 10-19-04, 10:34 AM   #5
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Default Re: EverQuest 2 First Impressions + 45 screenshots

Great review thanks for the info.
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Old 10-19-04, 10:58 AM   #6
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Default Re: EverQuest 2 First Impressions + 45 screenshots

dam, your review is like the game: long and boring.
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Old 10-19-04, 05:09 PM   #7
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Default Re: EverQuest 2 First Impressions + 45 screenshots

Were you in beta, majortom? What did you make of it, specifically what you didn't like?
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Old 10-19-04, 06:15 PM   #8
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Default Re: EverQuest 2 First Impressions + 45 screenshots

Very thorough and well done review. I have been looking forward to WoW for a long time and it's interesting to see what it's competition is going to be like. The forced grouping is the main reason I left FF11 and will probably be the ultimate reason I stay away from EQ2. The screenshots don't look that great to me, for some reason. I love the water, but that's really about it.
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Old 10-19-04, 11:49 PM   #9
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Default Re: EverQuest 2 First Impressions + 45 screenshots

EQ2 doesn't force you to Group at all. Any class can solo, its just not as productive as Grouping and it shouldn't be. MMORPG's are about communities, soloing should be an alterative if your short on time and cant commit to a group, not the way you always play the game. In EQ2 you can solo to the max level, it just will be tougher and take awhile longer then grouping as it should.
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Old 10-20-04, 07:21 AM   #10
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Default Re: EverQuest 2 First Impressions + 45 screenshots

Nice impressions Mithan. Very fair and accurate. I also have played both betas and I am leaning towards WoW for the same reason = much better soloing for all classes. I also like the more fast paced combat in WoW and the PVP side will be great as well.
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Old 10-21-04, 08:47 PM   #11
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Default Re: EverQuest 2 First Impressions + 45 screenshots

woot, i just got into eq2 beta! sorry for ot post :O
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Old 10-22-04, 01:28 AM   #12
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