Free to Play MMO Perspective: EverQuest II Extended (PC)
Recently I wondered to myself, “What is so great about MMORPG’s?”, “Why are people so into them?”. They have been around for quite some time now, and yet I had never tried one. Maybe it was the old stigma, “They’re for nerds.”, but something had always told me that they just weren’t the kind of game I would want. Since I couldn’t really justify my prejudice(I am a nerd after all), and I can’t rightly hate something in complete ignorance, I decided to give them a chance.
I didn’t want to commit another bill to my often far stretched budget, so I went looking for Free-to-Play options. Many games require you to purchase the software and then the game is subscription free. I had already tried Guild Wars, and did not find it as feature rich as I would have wanted. That’s when Everquest II:Extendedcaught my eye. The game is free to download, and getting set up is as simple as creating an account and a character. Now, there are good and bad things to this “free” game, but I will only be looking at this from a noob viewpoint. I don’t intend to go into major details of the community or UI, since I am said Noob.
Exerquest II: Extended, from what I have read, is an alternative payment plan intended to get more people to try the game. Playing for free limits almost every aspect of the game, from Class or Species, to usable equipment and a level cap. The content is identical to the original, but you won’t be subjected to a monthly fee. I both love and hate this. On the one hand, I have a free service with many hours of great content and re-playability with no commitment, yet on the other hand I have severe limitations as the cost.
I have seen this payment plan being criticized and praised. Playing Extended ends up costing more than a normal subscription, but the commitment is reduced so there is less pressure to pay. Being as I am an inexperienced player, and I am usually as strapped for time as I am for cash, I will see this as more of a blessing. I am, after all, playing to see if I could actually get into an MMORPG.
Starting out I instantly had praise to offer. The first thing that pleased me, was the number of enemies. Right away there are plenty of things to kill and earn some quick beginning level ups. And right next to town, NICE. Some games forget this step, I feel it is most important to let people have an easy level up area, to train on how to play the game. FFVI does this with a full restore bucket in the house of the elders, right inside Narshe. Each new area you venture to has an easy to access “safe area” to rest and heal, while offering you many different strengths of enemies to level up on.
Another thing I really like is that enemies give you EXP, in Guild Wars I am already at a point where killing things doesn’t do a damned thing for me, but they don’t ever just leave you alone. Everquest II has a threat level system where lower level enemies are less likely to try and attack you, this prevents you from being engaged by mosquitoes. Guild Wars made you focus on doing missions to earn your levels, but forced you to fight creatures regardless of level or benefit. (Can you hear me applaud sarcastically??)
While I am on the subject of battles, I did have a minor gripe. Battles are rather repetitive, and I find myself using the same combo of clicks on every encounter. I suppose I do this in every RPG, but in games like Oblivion or Two Worlds(yeah I play it, wannafightaboutit? O.o), I felt like I had more options in just how to go about killing something. In this, I find myself trampling enemies but I am often bored while on my missions. I suppose once I am higher in experience I will have more abilities, but I often build a patchwork person, so I am not sure how this early click pattern will affect my skill development choices.
In it’s presentation, the game is impressive. The audio is immersive and is well formed to the environment. The voice casting is excellent, even featuring Christopher Lee! You might know him better as Count Dooku(Star Wars fans) or Saruman(LOTR fans). In many RPG’s voice acting has been done by the common list of standard people. These people do most of our anime, and translation films, this is why you hear the same voices all the time. I love that EQII goes outside the box, and has some varied talent on their list. It doesn’t hurt that this added talent is in two of my favorite “Nerd Movie” series.
The graphics are quite nice as well. The differences are noticeable between the two MMO’s I have played. In Guild Wars, the budget is limited, and the graphical quality suffers. Higher resolution texture maps take up more server space, more coding is needed, more time to script, etc. etc. etc. more money… Everquest II has only recently been offered free, so this entire world was well invested in up to this point. This extra love really shines. Textures are well blended, the environment is well conceived, and considering how these games are designed to run on as many types of computer as possible, I would say this is beyond what I would expect. I also liked how the icons are all well represented. Each tile has an easy to read image, as well as a ‘drag over info box’. The tiles are well defined, yet never distract from the main play view. A lot of attention to color choices and imagery make the little boxes certain never to be a sore thumb.
One thing that has bothered me about many PC RPG’s that I have played, is the third person controls. I just don’t like the ‘Click to Move’ camera controls. The entire point and click style makes the games mundane and I get bored with combat. I am not sure how to describe my ideal camera/character control, but the current standard seems awkward. Maybe it is set up to be a simple PU&P(Pick up and Play), I can get that the game is designed to fit as many people as possible. Maybe for people like myself, the developers could allow a full control customization, so that I can completely tailor it to suit my play style. I am all for micro-managing my control scheme.
I am really getting into the game. I don’t care much for grinding, but the game doesn’t make me feel like my time is wasted. I don’t seem to be investing mass amounts of time just to get a single level up, and that can make all the difference. This is one MMO I might actually pay for a year’s membership. From what I read, if you play the free Extended edition and like it enough to start paying for an MMO, it is better to pay for the original game. EXII:E is a great way to get a feel for Everquest, or MMO’s in general, but with all the limitations “Extended” seems more like an “Extended Demo”.
Several fan/player based articles I read were centered specifically on how they felt this new payment plan was intended to milk more money from new players. I can see why they would come to that conclusion, as the two games are the same, but the new payment plans are intended to offer the same content to players who would normally not be interested in playing the game. The alleviation of payment pressure just might be what brings in new people. And with any online game, more people means more fun.
If you are like me, and aren’t sure if an MMO is a game style you want to play, EQII:E is exactly the right place to start. The game lets you in on almost all the content right away, and if you decided to start playing regularly it offers you a chance to upgrade your existing account as you need. Many things can be purchased individually, and there is no commitment pressure.
It’s free, and it’s fun, what more do you need?
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