Everquest Online Adventures is a prequel to Everquest for the PC, taking place 500 centuries before the original Everquest, during a time when Norrath was still a solid continent and a boat wasn't required to get from one place to another. In EQoA, Norrath is known as Tunaria, and, as mentioned before, is a solid piece of earth. While the game booted up, I wondered what had changed and what new features had been added to add a fresh spin to the game. Since Everquest for the PC is the most popular MMORPG to this day, I couldn’t wait to get into this game and give it a go.
After the completion of my registration, it’s off to the server list. Since I am playing this before the official launch date, I wasn’t expecting many servers to be available to me, and my suspicions were confirmed when only one server came up. I selected it, logged on, and was met with the character selection screen. In EQoA, many of your favorite characters have come back while others have been omitted. There are a total of 10 playable races that you can choose from: Barbarians, Dark Elves, Erudites, Gnomes, Halflings, Humans (East and West) Trolls, and Elvess. Among the omitted were the Wood Elves, Half Elves, and the Ogres. I didn’t count the VashSir or Iksar because those were not in the original EQ for the PC but came later in the expansion packs.
The class system of EQoA is almost exactly the same as the PC except for the lack of the Monk class. The class list is as follows: Bard, Cleric, Druid, Enchanter, Mage, Necromancer, Paladin, Rangers, Shadow Knight, Shaman, Warrior and Wizard. As with all RPGs, you have a set number of ability points at the beginning to pump up your character's class attributes. The recommended abilities flash white so you know where to put the points, but wait ... there's more! A new feature that was not in EQ PC is the fact that as you adventure through Tunaria and acquire experience, you earn more ability points to continue to pump up your attributes. This was an excellent addition and a welcomed feature.
Speaking of experience, the idea behind it has been changed as well. Now instead of losing experience when you die, you acquire experience debt, which means after you re-spawn, a small part of the experience that you acquire will be put toward your debt until you have "paid" it off. While the concepts are similar, you don't have to worry about being knocked down a few levels or losing experience that you have gained thus far. However, don’t let this feature make you overly confident; the experience debt is cumulative, and multiple deaths can carry a very large price tag. Additionally, you can also see how many experience points each enemy will give you when slain, which helps out a lot when hunting so you know which dark blue will best benefit you.
Ah yes, the conning system. The con system in EQoA is done by your target reticle. When you target something, it will show you the color it cons. The colors are green, light blue, dark blue, white, yellow, and red. The colors speak for themselves when you size up the fight you are about to have with your target. As previously mentioned, this is where the amount of experience you earn comes in handy because some dark blues give more experience than others, and vice versa for the other colors. Now you might be saying “How do I know what the target thinks of me?” As luck would have it, when you target any NPC friend or foe, a little face icon appears below the Name and Health meter of the NPC, and the faces couldn’t be simpler. A smiley face means friendly, a normal face equals indifference, and an angry face equals dislike. Sony took it back to the basics, which is simple yet effective. Gone are the days of the scowling -- and ambiguous! -- looks of the NPCs.
Money in EQoA has been centralized into one currency, called "tunar," or at least that’s what my finances are at my level. One must recall the days of spending hours in Greater Faydark, waiting for just the right price for a piece of armor or item. Some of those items cost major money, and the different grades of currency came in handy at the time. What will something that costs 10,000 platinum in EQ cost in EQoA, 50 million tunar? (Thanks Ron)
Game play and controls are one in EverQuest. Having complete control of your character during game play is essential. I was uncertain about this aspect of the game and was curious as to how they would move it from the keyboard to a controller. Many EverQuestians have become accustomed to the hot key system. The ability to execute custom commands that are not located on your general options screen is crucial for PC play. Not so in EQoA, where everything is menu driven. A simple push of a button brings up a set of menus that lead to other sets of menus, which you navigate with the directional pad. Each direction gives you a different menu with different options that will lead you to another menu with more specific options for the option you selected before, until you eventually reach and execute your specific command. At first I was dumbfounded by this because of the sheer number of things you could do and the amount of menus I had to search through in order to perform them. It sounds confusing, but once you learn where everything is located and which direction leads to which option, you will be flying through those menus at lightning speed.
Another potential problem I saw with porting the game to a console was the ability to talk to the other players on the server, and is, frankly, one of the key focal points in any online RPG. Do not fear because Sony has this area covered! The R3 button brings up a virtual keyboard for you to type out your messages. This was annoying to me because to have any kind of a discussion would take loads of time to type, but if you have a USB-ready keyboard, just plug it into your PS2, and off you go. For the folks that do not have USB keyboards, there are a host of pre-made macros at your disposal to aid in your communication.
Movement is accomplished by the analog sticks; the left analog stick or L3 controls forward movement, strafing, turning left and right and auto run, depending on which view you are in. The right analog stick or R3 controls the camera movement, zoom, free look, and turning left or right, again, depending on which view you are in. There is a first person view and a third person view. You can switch to these views by pressing the select button.
Attacking, spell casting, targeting and interaction are controlled by the shape buttons and the top L and R buttons. X is the button for attack and selecting, Circle is for your spell casting and space bar for typing, square is for interaction with merchants, and other NPCs, and triangle is used for canceling menus and targets. L1 is for targeting yourself, Pet, and group members, L2 is to bring the up the commands menu, and L3 is for auto run. R1 is for target NPCs and other players not in your group, R2 is to bring up the chat window so you can scroll through it with the directional pad, and R3 is to bring up the virtual keyboard. All of your controls are at your fingertips, and I must add that it feels good have things centralized.
The game play in EQoA follows the tried and true formula set forth by EQ PC. EQoA encourages you to hunt more (mainly because the amount of experience you gain from killing an enemy is now displayed), which in theory should keep camping down to a minimum and keep you from the endless wandering looking for a place that will give you good experience as seen in EQ PC. Traveling in EQoA is assisted by horses; there are stables all across Tunaria, and you can hitch a ride from one place to another to cut down on your traveling time. Another improvement seen in the game play is the cities, which are massive and give you plenty of room to walk around. I remember my aggravation in heading to Nerriak in EQ PC and having to deal with the maze of narrow corridors and bunched-together buildings. Another aspect I love is no more corpse running; once you die, you and your possessions make the trip back to your bind point. I hated corpse running so much in EQ PC, mainly because I let my body rot and lost my stuff. I was angry to no end.
As far as graphics go in EQoA, I must applaud Sony. Not only have they improved the world but the visuals as well. In EQ for the PC, the original look of the land was quite drab. Most of it was flat and suffered from the repeating texture problem, but that was to be expected since it was released so long ago, and those were the best graphics back then. When Kunark and Scars of Velious were released, the world received a makeover. Old zones were retextured, and only new land visuals were present in the added land that the expansion pack brought. Things really didn’t look good till Luclin. Well, Sony has used the visuals compared to Luclin right from the start in EQoA so you have a beautiful-looking world, complete with lush forests, rolling hills, treacherous rocky terrain and large mountain ranges.
Character models and textures are excellent in EQoA. Every character is smooth and has fluid movement. This also holds true for all NPCs as well. The textures are crisp and sharp, and the repeating texture problem seems to be absent. If it's there, I haven’t noticed it. Spell effects, weapons and armor are no slouch either. Swords shine, armor glistens, and spells create fantastic explosions and visuals, and the world exists in real-time, with weather and lightning, day turning to night, clouds rolling by, and night bringing nothing but darkness and evil creatures. To make a long story short, the graphics portion is excellent, and given the fact that this is a MMORPG and there will be lag, they still managed to give you top-notch graphics.
Another aspect of the game Sony has improved immensely on is the audio, which rocks in EQoA. Birds chirp, wind blows, crickets annoy, rivers run, and when it rains, you hear rolling thunders. Coming off of the PC version, there were audio problems from day one, and update patches plagued EQ PC and often cause more problems than they fixed. This is not the case here, as the audio barely falters and everything makes some sort of sound immersing you into the world of EQ.
To wrap it up, EQoA is a huge improvement over the PC version. The graphics and sound are awesome, and controls and game play have been tweaked a bit to help you better enjoy the game. I do wonder if they will continue to add extra material as seen in the PC. Don’t get me wrong because I don’t like patching anymore than you do, and they often break things that once worked (translocation anyone?), but the ability of EverQuest to be forever updated is an excellent option to have. Finally, Sony has done a great job of bringing this popular PC title to the console and everybody is back to level one. Take that, Triton! I am looking forward to the official launch so I can play with other people and further my adventuring. With EQ now on the console, Sony looks to dominate the youth of today in yet another aspect of the gaming world, and I think they have. To end on a personal note, I would like to thank the dev team for the kick-ass gesture of signing my copy. THANKS A LOT, MATES! It was awesome and I had the warm cozy feeling all over!
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