by Mike Shea on 5 March 2003
I've now been playing Everquest Online Adventures for about three weeks. I've been putting an average of an hour a day, usually when I get home from work. Some nights I skip it all together and some weekend mornings I put in two or three. The one big bias I have is that I am a 60 hour a week Everquest player. I've been playing for three years, and the experiences I have gained there have changed me significantly as a gamer. This is important to understand when reading this review. For many people, Everquest is too different a concept to really fall into. There is no end. There is no major plotline. The scope is small, but eternal.
Upon reaching the 15th level I was given a quest to help with the construction of the first wizard spires of the elves, something found all over Norrath in the PC version set 500 years later. This required me to travel north west, past the dwarven city of Moradim and to a small barbarian village. Travel took me perhaps an hour to cover this distance, with about four or five encounters along the way. The villager I needed to assist asked me to defeat a bear named Trapmaw. I had three encounters with the bear, the third taking almost 20 to 30 minutes to take place, but on the third encounter I killed the beast and returned one of his paws as proof of my success. This was only one quest of thousands within the game. When compared to the global scale of plotlines within a game like Final Fantasy X, it is quite small, but for EQ it was a lot of fun.
The more you get into your character's story, his background, and the world around you, the better the game is. I have even gone so far as to start my own EQOA fan fiction site. Although it does have its moments, Everquest Online Adventures isn't a graphically amazing game. It won't wow you with Dolby Digital sound or blind you with beauty you never thought possible from a machine. What it lacks in technical superiority it gains in scope. The game is limitless.
The control for EQOA is excellent. There will be a learning curve for beginners, but once you get your hands around the control, it is seamless. Giving orders or answering questions can be done without a keyboard. Customizing your pre-set macros for chat is easy to do. The radial menu for these macros is very intuitive and once you remember that your "pulling suchandsuch a mob" command is right - up - up, you can hit it very quickly without reading.
EQOA is more of a Zelda-like action game than a traditional RPG. You still have your vital stats, hitpoints, power meter, experience points and damage rolls, so there are plenty of stats to get wrapped into. Control is in real time. You hit the X button to swing at a mob, triangle to cast a spell or switch items, and move around in 3d space to position yourself. If you are quick of hand you can pull off a huge number of attacks very quickly by mixing ranged attacks, melee attacks, spells, and other skills. With a ranger at level 15 I was able to hit seven times in the first two rounds. That is without dual wield or quad attack, both of which come at level 20 and 30 respectively.
EQOA may hopefully reduce the amount of social drama that exists within EQ. Groups are limited to four and a lot of work went into grouping quickly and staying together. It is easy to find where your fellow group mates are by targeting them and soon their location will show up on the in-game compass. Groups form and break up quickly, faster than a typical EQ group. This took some time to get used to, but makes sense when you think about how console gaming is played.
Death is handled with a lot more care than it is in EQ. Instead of losing all of your stuff and losing experience, you return home with everything but some lost coin and acquire an experience debt. This debt will cut your experience gained by half until you have paid off the debt. This is a lot nicer than EQ where equipment loss is a real risk and groups stay huddled together exploring out only as far as they have to.
The world is huge. I have spent three weeks and have covered perhaps 1/4 of the map. There are a lot of places I have missed, though, so I still have much to find even within that one quarter. There are plenty of beasts to fight so any time you might get bored you can move off somewhere else. I got bored and ran into a castle taken over by undead nasties, but they killed me quite quickly.
The most difficult part of EQOA is starting out. The sheer cost of equipment to get online and playing can cost up to $200. I wrote all about the problems of connecting a console to the net, so I won't cover it here, but this is by far the biggest problem with an online game such as EQOA. Once on, the game is quite fun as long as you enjoy the new style of gaming it presents.
Lets look at a summary of the good points:Huge land to explore Fast console-like game play Excellent control and easy chat macros Lots of excellent quests Death is handled well, death doesn't prevent exploration First time on a console you can play with 2000 other players at the same time Frequent updates and expansions will keep the world alive and evolvingAnd now the bad points:
It can cost up to $250 to get started (network adapter, cable, keyboard, extender, router, game, monthly fee) Quests seem small compared to large scale plots of traditional console RPGs With people comes drama / little kids Not graphically impressive A lack of a single plotline and an ending leaves a lot of traditional gamers "lost" Requires a good imagination and getting into the story and background of your character Sometimes you have to wait for a mob to spawn, sometimes your waiting in line It's not a true 5 minute before dinner game, game sessions should be at least an hour Progression may seem painfully slow compared to traditional single player RPGsEverquest Online Adventures is a remarkable game. It is the first massive multiplayer game on any console. It is a landmark for home gaming technology and a glimpse at a bright future. It is a lot of fun and can spark a lot of your imagination if you don't mind the smaller scale stories. If you like exploration and you like the idea of a game that never ends, this is for you.
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