"This is the noise that keeps me awake."
By now, everyone has heard of World of Warcraft. An MMO built upon capturing what was good about the best of the best MMO’s out there, taking out what was bad, and adding in and refining aspects where needed. The one main game that WoW wanted to emulate the successes of, but not the shortcomings, was Everquest. Arguably the most important MMO to have ever been released, Everquest tuned a genre that had just began its true growth with its release. Not only was Everquest a true benchmark and a genre defining behemoth, but it helped introduce team cooperation on a larger scale. It’s apparent that the footprints that Everquest have been important steps in the world of gaming.
This won’t be a full on review, so much as a retrospective on my time and experiences with Everquest, during my off and on play time between early 2000 right up to this very day.
The biggest problem with reviewing an MMORPG (massive multiplayer online role playing game) and part of the reason why I will not at this time, is having to understand each dynamic. There’s a a number of core play styles when it comes to an EQ player, as well as a ton of sub categories. You have raiders, groupers, casuals, hardcores, explorers, clique player, and so many more. There’s hardcore raiders, clique casual players, and other mixes. Understanding each style is something that cannot be done within a month, a year, or sometimes even a few years. It’s easier to experience the humbling beginnings of an MMORPG and review whether or not there’s enough interest to venture forth (Final Fantasy XIV for example). Here’s my brief take on the world of Everquest, from hardcore raiding, to casual grouping, to exploring, to many other styles I’ve played as throughout the majority of the last ten years (off and on), as well as the changes that came along the way.
Back in 2000, the game was simple. Stand alone Everquest with its zones, and an expansion called The Ruins of Kunark. There’s enough content there to last a long time in its self. You pick your class (Warrior, Monk, Paladin, Shadowknight, Ranger, Rogue, Shaman, Druid, Cleric, Wizard, Magician, Enchanter or Necromancer) as well as your race (Half Elf, Human, High Elf, Wood Elf, Dark Elf, Barbarian, Troll, Ogre, Erudite, Gnome, Halfling and the Kunark added Iksar race). Depending on your combination of character choices, you have a designated starting city laid out for you, or sometimes a choice. You also have stats you can raise with some attribute points, which back in the days, was a vital bonus if you applied them properly.
You start out with just about no armor and a rusty weapon, with nothing but rats, bats and other wimpy mobs to fight. It’s a rough going for a long while if you were brand new to the game and knew no one. Eventually, you level high enough to be able to venture out and away from the early zones. This is when the experience start to pick up for most players.
Depending on what continent you are on, and what race you chose, you had a few different options. Crushbone was one of the choices if you were on the Felwithe continent. A mix of outdoor twists and turns, sparsely laid out frees, and a castle in the middle of it, Crushbone introduced, or tried to introduce many gamers to the aspect of teaming up. Seek out others playing different, or even similar classes, and team up in your battle to level, and gain yourselves some armor or weapons. Other zones in the very early leveling stages that encouraged grouping up included Blackburrow, Befallen and Oasis, among other places.
Through these early grouping experiences, you help get a better grasp at what your class is, its capabilities, and what you should be doing while playing as that class. Throughout most of my time in Everquest, I had played a warrior. In most any single player or MMO game that features a tanking class, I bee-line directly for that particular class. I’ve played just about every other class at raiding levels throughout the years, but the Warrior has always been my calling. Many have played a few different classes, or got bored with theirs, but for the majority of it all, I stayed with one for nearly all of my time within Norrath. Last year I had started a Monk on a server with a special rule set, and played him for six months before ultimately quitting once more. Upon recent server transfer allowances, I moved my Monk to the same server as my Warrior, and have begun to once again spend some time playing this game, although it’s not as welcoming these days, with so few friends and acquaintances left playing.
That one hook has broken off. Almost completely.
I don’t think anyone could properly rate Everquest. There’s so many different variables when it comes to the game that it’s hard to rate it. There’s the solo game, the two/three boxing game, grouping game, small raiding game and large scale raiding game. Then you have to consider the hardcore players, who play 50+ hours a week, and the casual gamers, who play every so often. You’d have to have been immersed in every possible to understand it all as a whole. If you’ve played as a casual grouper for years and never experienced a high end raiding situation, you’re missing out on a major portion of the game. You could only rate what you played, and considering that I’ve done just about each of the variables, I don’t think I could rate the game still. Something like Final Fantasy XIV could be more easily reviewed, as the game slaps you in the face at every corner, pushing the player to forever put it aside with the likes of Champions Online, Star Trek Online and Vanguard. With Everquest, while the early game had its punishing side, the experience turned into a vibrant one once you got the hang of the plethora of additions, elements and after meeting a few new acquaintances.
I’ve barely touched the tip of the iceberg with my recollections of this massive multiplayer experience. The people I’ve met, the raids I’ve participated in, as well as led, the wild near death situations I’ve faced with my warrior, and so on. These are once in a lifetime gaming moments that, unless recorded, will forever live in the minds and hearts of those who’ve participated, though they make for some great lazy Sunday afternoon storytelling….
Just to name a few of the truly memorable gaming experiences had:
– Tanking Vulak`Aerr, the end boss of The Temple of Veeshan (from the Scars of Velious expansion) for nearly a half hour straight without dying….a week before devs changed the way he was accessed.
– Tanking another one of The Temple of Veeshan’s denizens, Dozekar The Cursed, with no pants on. To explain this one would lessen the impact, as well as the joke of it.
– Obtaining the Ring of Dain Frostweaver IV, which at the time, was one of the most difficult items to obtain, and remains my all-time favorite item gained in an MMORPG.
– Being a part of a then smallest raid (21) to fell Ventani the Warder in Sleeper’s Tomb.
My experience will never be close to your experience, or his experience, or her experience. That’s the most intriguing aspect of Everquest — the experience you shape and mold, is one that will never be replicated, never to be duplicated. For some, it was a silly little game that made no impact. For others, including myself, not only did it leave a lasting mark in my gaming life, but introduced me to people that I still keep in contact with, have spent time with outside the game, went to Mets baseball games with, and a few that are close friends of mine. Sometimes I’m thrown aback when I think about how I’ve known several individuals through some silly game for most of my adult life, and in some cases, their whole adult life. The game was a ton of fun, when we all worked together and spent the time learning the fights. But honestly, I didn’t play to have a server first, to finish my epic 2.0 or anything like that. I played the game to spend time with friends and have a good time doing whatever it was we decided to do.
That’s the magic about Everquest….everyone has a different reason as to why they played the game. I so happened to have picked the most enriching.
Perhaps one day soon I’ll divulge in some of my travels throughout Norrath a bit more than I have today; recall the stories that turned mere mortals in the real world into the fiery knights and saviors in the fantasy realm. Perhaps I should write a book on the subject matter….
….and with that, the 365//365 video game review project has come to an end….