I quit for a variety of reasons, and I tried other MMORPGs, but I didn’t find anything that came close to my experience with Everquest. Over the last year, I’ve toyed with playing it again. [Because I first played it over 10 years ago, I guess this might qualify as retro gaming.] As it turned out, some of my original guild and a couple of my fellow D&D game pals were thinking along the same lines. So, about 5 weeks ago, we met, talked about the classes we’d like to play, and set some ground rules to play it casually [1-2 times a week].
Coming back to the game, I found that much had changed [which didn't include the dreadful interface]. I bought into the original vision of Everquest, that forced grouping allowed them to create a difficult game with extreme risk and reward. It was one of the handful of games where I feared dying, that I put myself at risk even trying to go from one zone to another. Yet, when we took those risks, we found great reward in accomplishing what we did.
Yet, returning to the game, I found much that made me think that the Everquest I loved was gone. In sum, I thought the game had itself turned into a World of Warcraft clone, where levels came easily and fast and where everyone could solo. But then I discovered how much deeper the game is than I thought all these years.
easy like sunday morning
At level 10, my paladin had equipment that exceeded anything my old warrior had when he was in his mid and late 20s.
Money came easily. Again, by level 10, my paladin had 7000 plat. [Actually, I made most of that money in about 6 hours. I looted the crates scattered throughout the tutorial to build up to 40plat and used that speculate in the bazaar.] My level 57 warrior had 10,000 plat to his name.
Experience comes fast, whether it’s in the tutorial zone or in the ‘hot zones’ for high levels. Before our guild disbanded the first time, we thought it was good night if we got 1/2 to 3/4 of a level. Now, it’s not uncommon for our starting and high-level characters to level once or twice in an evening.
Players can now rent mercenaries, which they use to solo or to enhance their group. The mercs seem to be overpowered. For example, when our high-level characters had a couple of mercs, including a cleric, they rarely worried about mana levels and hit points for the mercs.
So, I began to think that this return wasn’t going to be as fun as I hoped. But two things changed my opinion.
First, last week, our very balanced group of 5 went out in search of some tough creatures. When possible, we ignored creatures that conned white or lower. We moved along, clearing out a building of its redundantly named undead creatures. Then we went out further, and I thought that we had found a good pull spot. So, we settled in, pulling yellow and red con creatures. The monk and I settled into a groove of chain pulling.
At this point, I realized how we had somewhat tired of the game . . . endlessly pulling and fighting like clockwork. It was too smooth, too monotonous. Someone suggested that we cross a bridge near us and make our way to some caves.
As we crossed, we drew the attention of a tough mob. Once on the other side of the bridge, we parked and fought it, only to find that another creature attacked. And then another. At one point, we had the original creature and 4 adds, which our enchanter was trying to mesmerize. To make it worse, our cleric had a critical phone call that he had to take. Our group was not wiped, but one character died as the rest of us ran for relative safety.
Even without the phone call, we probably wouldn’t have succeeded. In fact, it might have been worse. The key, tough, is that how the game changed dramatically just by moving a few yards in the game.
Second, over the weekend, a couple of the group played their level 60 characters along with two mercs. I won’t go into detail about their weekend-long adventures, but they did things, visited places, and fought creatures that we had never taken on with our characters before. In short, it opened a new aspect of the game.
When we first played the game, we rarely took on named NPCs, especially as we levelled up. The named ones were often too tough for our group, so we tended to fight by finding a safe pull spot and chain pulling what we could. Sometimes, we went into dungeons, but we rarely took on so many red cons. We found back then, that blue and white creatures were often enough of a challenge.
In both of these experiences, though, the key is that while parts of the game were easier, it was still a game of risk. Even with the mercs, the players found many, many close calls, even running for the zone in a couple of instances. The game still had its risks.
What I realized is the original game could be significantly tougher and, thus, riskier if they forced gamers to play in groups and [later, in multi-group raids], allowing them to create significantly tougher monsters than games before had. Yet, 10 years of improved equipment, a vibrant game economy, and various changes to the gamers allowed them to face even tougher challenges. The game now makes the player more powerful, but the player, especially those long in the tooth like my group, has to change, to go beyond the comfortable. Go now and try to clear the Plane of Justice. Those unexpected and exciting back-and-forth fights are what made the game, and they are still there. You can solo to an extent in the game, but you still need mercs, which you have to pay for and which are limited to one per person.
I think the game has some of the old issues as well as some new ones, but I have to credit the developers for building a more resilient, deeper game than I originally thought. And my friends, being who they are, continue to provide good fun themselves.
As a note, we were amazed to see that the changes include the destruction of a city by giants–the very interesting city of Firiona Vie, with its catapult defenses, is no more.