Saturday, November 28, 2009

Reasons Why EQ2 Is Better Than WoW (Or Any Other MMO on the Market Right Now)

In honor of EverQuest II's fifth year anniversary, Professor Syp asks us to blog reasons why we feel EverQuest II is better than WoW. I made a post similar to this before, but I suppose there's no harm in doing it again. As the Sypster demands, I will refine my list down to five core features that I think define the EverQuest II experience; these are the features that World of Warcraft, Lord of the Rings Online, and other MMO games on the market simply can't match.

Five Reasons Why EverQuest II > World of Warcraft

1. Mentoring and Level Scaling -

The leveling system in MMORPGs is great for providing a sense of progress, but it has its drawbacks. Two of the most significant problems are:
- Levels separate players who otherwise would want to play together.
- Levels block you from a lot of the content in the game.

EverQuest II addresses both of these issues by making leveling more flexible than in other games.

In EverQuest II it doesn't matter what level two players are -- they CAN play together. Using the Mentoring system, high level players in EverQuest II can lower their level so they can play with newer players who might not have a character that is as developed. To play with real life friends can be a chore in World of Warcraft since as a higher level character, you will completely trivialize their quests, and you get no reward. With the Mentoring feature, the higher level character still DOES get a reward, in the form of bonus Alternate Advancement XP. If the higher level character isn't at the level cap, they also still gain a small amount of normal XP as well.

In addition, if you are looking for something to do, EverQuest II provides two ways to ensure that a lot of the content is accessible to you. Many dungeons scale to the level of the party. And if there is content that does not scale in level, you can always temporarily de-level yourself to take on that content as a less powerful form of yourself using the Chronomagic feature.

2. More Interactable World

EverQuest II has several quests that involve:
- walls you can climb
- walls you can destroy
- explosive barrels you can move around
- crates you can move and stack on top of one another to get past a barrier
- items in your inventory that you can place at physical locations in the world [such as a flag that, when placed, allows guild members to teleport to that location]
- items you need to placed at certain locations in a dungeon to trigger events

The majority of quests don't involve this level of interactivity, and I tend to take them for granted, but every time I try to play another MMO, such as World of Warcarft or Lord of the Rings Online, I notice that the quests just aren't quite as involved. The world seems more decorative. The extent of interaction with the world that I experienced in World of Warcraft was simply clicking on items at a certain location to trigger quest updates [EverQuest II, of course, has that too].

3. Crafting

EverQuest II has a much more interesting crafting system than almost any other fantasy MMORPG. Vanguard: Saga of Heroes might have a superior system [I didn't craft in that game, but from what I read, it was more involved.] In World of Warcraft, however, it is simply a matter of gathering ingredients, and clicking on a button to make your items. After that, tradeskilling resembles Progress Quest.

In EverQuest II, you have to use abilities in a mini-game, to build your items. It could be better [I would prefer more variety to the mini-games, like in Warhammer Online or Free Realms], but it is much better than World of Warcraft's take on crafting.

Another nice feature about crafting: it's a separate advancement track from adventuring. This used to be the case in World of Warcraft as well, at least in beta, but for some reason they changed that and put in skill caps based on your character's level. I think that was a poor decision. Some people just want to craft: EverQuest II gives them the ability to do so. It even offers quests and missions, even crafting "raids" that tradeskillers can go on even if their character stays perpetually at level 1 in adventurer levels.

4. Adjustable Leveling

EverQuest II has a feature called Alternate Advancement XP (AA XP). AA XP are the EverQuest II equivalent to Talent Points. They let you unlock abilities in various trees that increase the abilities of your character. However, in World of Warcraft and Age of Conan and most other games, these abilities are tied to your character's level.

In EverQuest II, you have a slider so you can determine how much of the XP you earn from combat goes to normal XP or AA XP. Also, you earn bonus AA XP from completing quests and the first time you kill named monsters or discover a new area. These means you can choose to race to the level cap (and be weak for that level), or take the slow, more casual route and make yourself the strongest possible character for any level.

In addition to this, you can also shut off XP gain from combat, tradeskilling, or completing quests completely. If you are a completist and want to finish all the quests in an area before outleveling it, you can do so. (You could also just use the Chronomagic feature to delevel yourself, but still, the choice is there.) If you want to lock a character at a certain level forever, you can do so.

5. Appearance Armor

In World of Warcraft, every character looks like a clown with ugly, mismatched armor. And huge spiked shoulder pads usually. Unless they have a complete set and then they might look a little decent, but they'll look like every other character of the same class at that same point in the raid progression.

In EverQuest II, you have a separate tab in your inventory you can use to put in items that override the appearance of the armor you are wearing. This means your hero can truly look like a hero and not a clown with spiked shoulder pads.

Many of the rewards in the game are purely cosmetic in nature - and it's still fun to try to collect them. A game need not be a neverending treadmill of increasing statistics to be fun, and EverQuest II proves that. (Though, of course, it still offers the treadmill of increasing statistics, for those that want that, as well.)


EverQuest II has something for everyone. Raid types can concentrate on getting the most powerful items. More casual players have content that rewards appearance armor so they can just doll up their characters so they LOOK cool. The amount of variety in the content is staggering. There is plenty to do for both crazy hardcore raiders as well as more casual players like myself.

It's not perfect: clearly, the designers of the game went to great lengths to give it more of everything: more quests, more classes, more races, more zones, more everything. And in some cases, this becomes more of an annoyance: in particular, I don't like how I have nine hotbars filled to the brim with abilities and baubles and what not that I always use. Luckily, the designers ARE aware of that: the next expansion pack doesn't introduce new abilities that go on your hotbar; instead, they add new abilities that are triggered as combos.

However, for the most part, the sheer amount - and more importantly, variety - of content that is available to you, regardless of the class and level of character you play, is what keeps me coming back to EverQuest II.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Direct Downloader's Fate

I'm pretty excited about the new Sentinel's Fate expansion pack that's due in February of next year. Based on the trailer, it looks great. The artists in EQ2 are doing a great job in creating spell effects, armor, and monsters, that rival even some of the newer games on the market. The game's look has improved dramatically in the last few years; it's a far cry from the much maligned sea of gray and brown textures that the game had when it launched.

One thing that bothers me are the increasing number of extra items that you can only get by purchasing a game in a certain format. This isn't a criticism of EverQuest II in particular; Age of Conan and World of Warcarft all have bonuses or collector's editions or special in-game items you can only get through one channel or another.

However, once upon a time the difference were little figurines or fluff in-game items like a pet dragon that couldn't leave your home (and that was controversial enough at the time!) Nowadays we seem to be suffering from perkflation, as the extra perks that come with the retail pack has expanded to include things like the best mounts in the game and 7-day headstarts before anyone else can play.

Now, I do understand that offering retail perks is important to help get the game onto shelves, which helps attract new players. Apparently some people actually leave their homes to shop. But there's a line somewhere there that shouldn't be crossed, and I get the feeling, like so many other things in the recent past (particularly Legends of Norrath loot cards), we're getting precariously close to crossing it. If we haven't already. I don't know. It's only seven days and then the perk is useless, so it's not a huge deal. Except that if I don't buy it I may end up having to solo those seven days because the rest of the server are in the new zones. But still...

Where do you draw the line?