It seems like every time I mention EverQuest I or II, I inadvertently start a firestorm of blogging controversy. :)
Even before I read Bhagpuss’s post, I was thinking I should probably expand my thoughts on EverQuest II*. It’s one of the games I periodically try to get back into, and one that I wish I was caught up with. I can’t precisely explain why I wish that anymore, though; I suppose it always felt like one of the most “complete” fantasy MMORPG experiences, representative perhaps of the pinnacle of what the genre is capable of. Or perhaps it’s more of an archival representation of what the genre used to be, a trip to a very interesting museum, in a way.
But every time I try to play EverQuest II, I quickly remember why nobody makes a game like it anymore. It just doesn’t fit into my particular gaming lifestyle anymore. Said lifestyle being summarized in 2020 thusly: I often play games in 30-minute blocks of time, so I expect to be able to enjoy a measurable amount of progress in thirty minutes of gaming time, and/or feel that those thirty minutes were intrinsicly enjoyable even if there’s no progress. EQ2 is more of a “spend all day and night with it every single day” sort of a game.
My basic problem with EQ2 is that I usually can’t find where the fun part of the game is, and surprisingly enough, the game itself doesn’t help me find it. Which is a really strange thing for a game to do, especially after some 15 years of development. If you start from the very beginning at level 1, you can follow some breadcrumbs for a while, but it’s kind of a grind of old-school questing and I petered out around level 20 last time, and I petered out around level 45 the time before that.
Often I can overlook gameplay problems if I’m told even a mildly interesting story (see: Guild Wars 2), but I have yet to see any kind of story hook in the ten-odd years I’ve been trying to play EQ2. It’s a uniquely story-less MMORPG. There’s no overarching story, there’s no zone-wide stories, there’s no story anywhere ever. All I’ve ever seen are random people scattered across the world asking you to kill ten rats and/or fetch things. At least up through level 45.
Something else that can distract me from unfulfilling gameplay is interesting graphical scenery, and, well, you can probably guess where this is going: EverQuest II doesn’t have that. It gets somewhat better the higher you level, and the more recent the content, but again, it’s rather difficult to level, and my three attempts to skip ahead so far haven’t worked out very well. And I won’t even mention the font situation. Even Lord of the Rings Online, possibly the undisputed reigning champion of poor MMO UIs, now has a font size setting.
When they do give you a level boost up to level 95 or 100, where I have three free characters now, you’d think they would start you out with at least one breadcrumb or story hook to nudge you in the right direction. But as far as I could tell, no kings or queens send you mail saying you’re urgently needed to fight off the Super Evil Bad Guys in the Land of Level 100 Stuff. The game doesn’t even put zone level ranges in parenthesis on the big map, which is the absolute bare minimum that they might have done to point a player in the right direction, without leaning completely on players to make wikis for them.
Side note: EQ2 is not the only MMO that has these “nothing inside the game tells you how to enjoy the game” problems, by the way. It just happens to be the most frustrating one for me.
Anyway, as I ponder my video strategy for 2020, I thought this might make a fun subject. I happened to record some videos in 2016 and 2017 of my first sessions with level 95 and 100 characters. They are pretty funny as I mainly just stand around saying “how do I even get off this flying horse?” for 30 minutes. Perhaps I’ll see if the experience has changed any in 2020 with my level 100 Ogre Coercer who has been heroically standing next to a big gate and some cows for the last few years.
- However I’m also trying to write shorter posts, so I can, you know, finish and publish some occasionally.