Nostalgia is a powerful thing. It can bring back wonderful memories, it can be the catalyst for amazing stories of days gone by. It can temporarily bring a dying game back from the brink of extinction with a box full of false promises and a bunch of half-baked efforts on the part of a development team. It can do all of those things, and it is Everquest 2 that has benefitted from this form of nostalgia, in a way, as of late. You see, people have this burning desire to ‘go back’ when it comes to MMORPG’s and experience it as it was from the very beginning. I’ll admit I’m one of those people; I so want to enjoy Everquest 2 as it was from the start, and apparently so did a lot of other people, or the Time Locked Progression Servers wouldn’t have happened. Progression servers are nothing new of course; the first time Everquest did this was under the SOE banner with two progression servers, one of which was Fippy Darkpaw. No matter how much they restricted the server, however, it was never really ‘vanilla’, per se. The release of Ragefire saw some improvements, but there were more problems than anything else. That being the case, we were all left to wonder whether or not the EQ2 progression server would actually have a good launch. Well, as it turns out, it did.
I played the TLP during the beta, and I wasn’t that impressed. Mainly because all they had done was remove the appearance tab and lowered EXP gain. Of course that didn’t stop everyone from making it to level fifty within the first three days, but you know. As I entered the new TLP server, however, something was different. Very different. I created my troubadour, and moments later, I found myself on a boat, at sea, literally doing quests on the deck. That was definitely a different experience, considering you generally start out on land now days. Having come in during The Shadow Odyssey originally, I had never gotten he chance to experience the Isle of Refuge, as it was removed shortly after that particular pack. I was also surprised because the developers at Daybreak had constantly said there would be no Isle of Refuge, yet there it was. After the rather unexpected boat ride, I found myself on the Isle of Refuge being offered enough quests to get me to at least level 6. That’s right guys, level 6. Everquest 2 wasn’t an easy game when it first came out. In fact I remember how difficult it was to play during The Shadow Odyssey, and I was one of the people who cried fowl when they introduced those world travel globes.
The leveling was slow going, and eventually I made it to a point where I couldn’t go it alone. I actually had to group with someone to make progress, and the guild I found myself in informed me that most of the game would now be utterly impossible to solo because the changes in damage and EXP gain had brought back the class interdependency that old EQ2 thrived on. In other words, Daybreak has managed to put the ‘MMO’ back into ‘MMORPG’. Now that’s an impressive feat if I ever saw one.
There were some things I didn’t particularly like, though I don’t think they are necessarily the fault of Daybreak. First of all, when you start the game you can select the precise class you want. Now in the beginning, the game required you to choose from one of the big four and you would then have to earn the subclass you wanted. For example if you wanted to be a troubadour at some point you would have to start the game as a rogue and work your way up, selecting a subclass at level 10 and again at level 20. This system is absent in the TLE server, but this may be due to the fact that Daybreak didn’t have time, or simply didn’t want to write the code for a new class system. Just like they were unable to bring back the suburbs for Everquest, they were unable to bring back the class system for EQ2. You know what? They brought back the Isle of Refuge so we can all be happy with that. I mean dude, I can say I played through the Isle of Refuge. That’s just awesome. Another thing I’m a bit unhappy about is the map. When you bring it up, you can still see all the continents that were there for subsequent expansions such as Velious and Kunark. You can’t get to them yet, but seeing them kind of waters down the magic. Still, it isn’t a terrible try on behalf of Daybreak.
I almost wanted to say that the devs weren’t even trying, having seen the travel globe and the lack of a class system, but after speaking with some of the players in my guild, Log Horizon, I discovered that my momentary annoyance was unfounded. One of the players mentioned to me that he plays with his children, as part of a family of six, and he is absolutely enjoying the chance to show them what it was like back in the old days, before MMORPG’s became more about instant gratification than a deep, satisfying experience.
Another player mentioned to me that he hopes the TLE server, or ‘experiment’ as he put it, may be the gateway to sending a message to Daybreak and other MMO developers. Maybe they will finally see that we’re looking for a slow, satisfying experience rather than the oversaturated mercenary infested Disneyland romp that Everquest 2 has morphed into over the years. This is not to say that an MMO shouldn’t change. Of course it should, because if it doesn’t, it is doomed to fail. Look what happened to Asheron’s Call, one of the first 3D MMORPG’s. It is still around, but it has maybe twenty concurrent users at a time. So what is is that players want exactly? They want changes, they want upgrades, but they don’t want everything handed to them.
One ridiculous change I would cite from the live servers is the availability of prestige houses. There was a time when they were difficult to obtain, but now they’re practically given away. The result? The for-rent houses that might have made roleplay more fun now sit empty. Some people still pay rent on them, but for the most part, those houses are closed up, as are those that require status points. Of course the live servers are practically abandoned compared to the way they used to be. I recall an EQ2 where Freeport was always bustling and Qeynos always had someone to talk to or group with. Now, there are very few people to speak to, and most either hide out in instances or in their guild halls, which they likely pay for on their own due to the weekly bags of platinum that Daybreak is now willing to hand out for free. The TLE servers encourage community, grouping, and most importantly, fun. One member of Log Horizon mentioned that he had found a good pick-up group in Stormhold the day before and none of us could remember the last time that actually happened. Well, it did happen, and for right now, it seems that players are more than interested in playing. It could be a touch of nostalgia, or it could be new players looking for a fresh start, but the server I populated, and at least for right now, Everquest 2 is actually interesting again. Who would have thought?
There are things that I remember from my early days in Everquest 2 that I can’t get back. I can’t go back to when it was all new, wonderful, and exciting again. I can’t go back to the day when I thought that the entire game world consisted of Timorous Deep. No, those days really are long gone, and I will sorely miss them. In fact, as my introduction into the real world of MMO’s(Flyff just doesn’t count), Everquest 2 will always have a special place in my heart and in my memories. I will always remember walking the streets of Freeport looking for the next quest, and I’ll always remember questing across Tenebrous tangle trying to get that cloud mount.
There are so many great memories, and in a way, I’m afraid to go back and relive them simply because I know they won’t feel the same. I wish they could, but they simply won’t. But, I thank Daybreak sincerely for bringing back the golden age of the MMORPG for a new generation to experience for themselves, and I thank them for pouring their heart and soul into it. A new group of guides has been unleashed upon the new face of Norrath, and Holly Longdale herself pops onto the server once per day to take questions. It is clear that Daybreak has poured much of themselves into this server and they do actually care about the player community. It may not be exactly as it was back in the vanilla days, but it’s about as close as they could get it, and that’s what counts.