As I sit down and take mouse and keyboard in hand to play Everquest 2 for the first time, I begin to look around and play like I?ve done this 100 times before. Even the SOE staff member assigned to help me through my first trip through this new Norrath comments, ?You look like you?ve done this before?; it just all felt very natural. Despite the fact that it looks and sounds almost nothing like the original, there was something here that made it feel like the world of the original Everquest. I knew I was back in Norrath, but this was not the Norrath I remembered.
Things started off with character creation. I want to make one thing pretty clear; those lifeless plastic looking models you may have seen in past screenshots are nowhere to be seen. These guys looked great and had animations that matched the quality of the models. I was one of the more vocal critics of the plastic, shiny player models I had seen in the past, and I was almost disappointed that they actually turned out so well, but only a little. I selected a male troll, and suddenly I was staring at something that looked like a giant gremlin. The options and variety available when creating your character?s look are simply staggering. In the case of trolls, I could say not only how big I wanted my character?s ears but how high or low they hung on his head. Soon I was finished creating my character and clicked on the button that said ?Enter World?. My guide then quipped ?Well soon we?ll either be in the tutorial or at the desktop.? Ah well, some things may never change.
Thankfully we didn?t go to the desktop, and I soon found myself on the bow of a ship. As I looked over the edge, my eyes widened as I saw the water forming hills and valleys around me. This was the most vibrant display of ocean activity in an MMORPG I had ever seen. Even more breathtaking than that, however, were the extremely complex shadows cast on the ship by the network of masts, which actually bob up and down across the face of the ship as the ship sailed up and down through the flowing ocean.
The game itself is designed to be very easy to get into, with various things to help you find some action quickly. For example, sometimes a little path will be made by a wisp that will lead you to your next location. I was also informed that the two starting cities of Freeport and Qeynos will be extremely large, and that one could actually level for quite awhile without ever leaving the city. Your character will also now sheath their weapons when they aren?t in use. So you will no longer walk around with your weapons in hand 24 hours a day. While the tradeskill system was not available for actual hands-on play, I was informed it?s going to very different from the stale point and click method of the past, and may actually be done in a specialized form of combat. Yeah, I?ll beat that piece of steel till it makes my shield, rawr!
NPC interaction was another aspect that was quite different from the original Everquest. First of all, not only do the NPCs speak their dialogue with real voices, as well as text, but apparently they will always speak. There?re no lines of NPC dialogue that are not spoken. When you consider the fact that this is an MMORPG, that?s a pretty major deal. SOE claims to have over 135 hours of spoken dialogue in the game, or as they like to put it, ?longer than 60 full length movies?.
Additionally, gone are the days of deciphering what exact phrase the NPC wants to hear. This is replaced with a simple interface that allows you to click what you want to say. How complex these options may become remains a relative mystery. It also looks like you will no longer have to hand in all quest items manually to the NPC. They can recognize that the item or items they require are in your inventory and take them accordingly. The boat portion of the tutorial ends with a dragon-like creature attacking the ship and freeing a caged goblin which you must promptly dispatch. The remainder of the tutorial takes place on an island called the Isle of Refuge.
While that pretty much concludes the hands-on portion of my experience, there are two more really cool things I saw that I want to tell you about. It seems that during some of the bigger and more complicated encounters, mob commanders may actually shout out orders to their underlings in their native tongues, and if you know that particular language you may be able to get a heads up on what they?re going to do next. It seems the kind of people who actually spend time doing things like learning Klingon may actually have a purpose in society after all.
The last thing I want to mention is a cool dragon encounter they showed with a dragon named Venekor, in the Lost Temple of Cazic-Thule. Venekor quickly brought the six adventurers to their knees, and then decided not to finish them off, telling them, in a very amused voice, that he?d give them one more chance. He then proceeded to quickly finish them off with a massive breath attack. Whether this haughty reprieve he gave to the adventurers was simply a scripted taunt or something mobs might actually do, either way it was really cool. That pretty much summed up what I saw of Everquest 2. While only time will tell if the game itself stands the test of time, even if you don?t ultimately find the game fun for the long term, it?s shaping up to be an extremely fun ride, whether it?s for several years or just a few weeks.