I’m not going to sugar coat here: EverQuest 2 is my favorite MMORPG of all time, but it’s always had problems as far as performance goes. It was, maybe, my third MMO and somehow back then I didn’t notice the framerate issues. Actually, back before Sentinel’s Fate, when I was running on a measly dual core AMD processor, it wasn’t too terribly bad, but as the years waned on and hardware changed, I started to notice something very wrong: the game ran terribly unless I had it set to the lowest possible graphics options. This was a mystery I would find myself trying to solve for many years, and it wouldn’t be until recently that I finally put my finger on the problem, but I’m going to get to that later.

EverQuest 2 - A Fallen Empire

EQ2 built on the already established lore of EQ, though it kind of took it sideways and shook it up like an etch-a-sketch before it set it on fire and shot it behind the woodshed. That aside, it’s actually a pretty great game, all things considered. I remember my first days in the game – I meant to roll a good character but I mistakenly ended up on the evil side, which can happen because the character creation and starting city selection is a bit confusing. If you choose a neutral character, like a human, and then start in say…Gorowyn or Neriak, you’ll immediately be assigned the evil alignment, whereas if you choose Qeynos or Everfrost then you’re a good character. Starting out, you might not be able to figure that out because it gives you little to no indication.

During my first few years in the game it was a bustling empire of joy and happiness. There were always people in and around Freeport, whether they were hanging out at the docks or standing in one of the crafting areas. Those crafting areas were really popular. Most importantly, it was very easy to find a group. Most of the dungeons weren’t instanced like in World of Warcraft; all you had to do was stand in an entrance for a few minutes and someone would come along and pick you up.

Over the years, probably around the time Velious came about, the game began to taper off and eventually the once bustling streets of Freeport and Qeynose began to wane. The NPCs stood in their shops without a purpose, staring aimlessly into the streets and the Commonlands fell silent for the first time. So here’s the question: what exactly caused EQ2 to die down? Sure it’s up and running right now, and new expansions are being released yearly, but it’s a shadow of its former self, and it leaves many to wonder why. Before we get into everything EQ2 did wrong, let’s talk about what it did right and what really sets it apart from nearly every other MMORPG on the market.

What EverQuest 2 Did Right

Becoming You

While the character creation wizard left a lot to be desired, EverQuest 2 really took it beyond that and allowed you to build a character that you could come to love. Through Alternate Advancements and other progression tools introduce in later expansions, you could easily customize your character and become a true individual. Sure, there were suggested builds, but honestly you could truly become yourself in EverQuest 2. I would also like to call attention to the ‘appearance’ tab that allows you to equip any armor or outfit you wish without affecting the stats of the gear you actually have equipped. I use this so that my character can take on the appearance of a bard (low level clothing and lute weapon) while having a sword and armor equipped. Honestly, it’s the best way to be fashionable and I get more compliments on my outfit than anything else in the game.

EQ2 Bard

A Place to Call Home

MMORPGs have been notoriously bad at providing player housing. Let’s take Flyff, for example. It introduced player housing and it allowed you to equip furniture, but there really wasn’t that much to it, to be perfectly honest. There was just a small room, and even though you could make it look however you wanted, it wasn’t THAT great. Guild Wars 2 has a home instance but it’s not really a house (though it’s a great place to keep your candy corn stash). EverQuest 2 really took the player housing to a whole new level with different sized houses, and even house pets. Seriously, it’s amazing.

Later on it went to the next level by offering prestige houses. Such houses are massive. For example, you could obtain one that was basically a floating island the size of 1/3 of The Commonlands. Originally, these prestige houses were only available to people who had attended specific events, such as SOE Live. I just want to say that the prestige houses have gotten even more ridiculous since then. Seriously, I have one that came with the latest expansion and they could probably repurpose it into a dungeon if they ever ran out of ideas. Basically, the player housing is awesome.

Everquest 2 - Why Would you Ever Want to Leave?

A Space for your Guild

If you thought the player housing was something special, EverQuest 2 also does guild halls really well. To put it quite bluntly, players spend a good portion of their time hanging around their halls crafting or even using it as a travel hub. Because you can buy druid rings for your guild hall, along with all of the other travel nodes, you can use a call to guild hall, pick a point to travel to, and basically pop out wherever you want in the world. If you don’t want to walk everywhere, a guild hall and the travel amenities can make travel much smoother.

When guild halls launched in EverQuest 2 there were three tiers (with the third tier being for raiders rather than casual guilds). The upkeep can be incredibly high, though it’s not that much if you’re spending eight to ten hours a day dungeon diving and making plat like crazy. There are also halls where you can accidentally die by falling off the highest point. Some people like it, and others spend a good portion of their free time looking for extra bunk beds to lower the rent requirement.

Quests for Everyone

In EverQuest 2, it’s very difficult to run out of things to do. This is one of the few games where there are so many quests available that you can literally skip out of your starting area and run into another race’s territory to pick up their starting quests as long as they’re the same alignment as you. I can’t even count the types of quests there are: standard quests, epic quests, heritage quests, you name it. You literally never run out of things to do.

Diversity in Character Creation

Character creation in EverQuest 2 is not as complex as it used to be but you can still choose from quite a few different classes. In fact, it has a selection that I haven’t seen rivaled, other than in Allods Online. If you don't like your character’s alignment after a while, you can actually change it and defect to the opposite side so long as you're willing to spend some time in exile, unable to access housing or any of the more advanced amenities. The great thing is that many players actually embraced the concept of Exile and ran into it intentionally so that they could form guilds outside the confines of the cities. You could literally become an outlaw in EverQuest 2 and be hated equally by both sides. If that’s not playing your own way, then I really don’t know what is.

Inclusive Expansions

For many years World of Warcraft, EverQuest 2’s direct competition, released expansions that had to be purchased separately in addition to the base game, but EverQuest 2 went the extra mile. Whenever a new expansion was released, you could buy it and automatically gain access to all previous expansions with no questions or extra fees. This was definitely something they did right because it literally saved people hundreds of dollars, especially if you were a returning player. Eventually, World of Warcraft adopted a similar model

EverQuest 2 is Dying

The Guide Program

The guide program is a carry over from the original EverQuest, and it was a system that allowed certain, chosen players to be bestowed with GM powers and help other players. For example, as a guide you would be responsible for helping people with technical issues, at least as long as you could solve them. You also had the ability to teleport players out of areas if they were to become stuck. Of course, this was only part of a guide's responsibility. Primarily, guides were given the ability to host events, such as player quests where you would act as the NPC and reward players when they completed certain objectives.

In addition to that, your guide character had some amazing abilities, like super speed, invisibility, and the ability to travel all over Norrath with a few text commands. In order to become a guide you needed to pass a roleplay test and your account needed to be in good standing with SOE. All players who took part in the guide program were required to schedule an hour long event each week (though you could go for longer if you wanted) and once the event was complete, you would be asked to fill out a Daily Shift Report to show that you had actually done the job and that you had completed the requirements of the quest.

Typically, you had to make contact with at least one person for the quest to count, so those who were on less populated servers found it to be somewhat annoying. This did lead to some problems, as a few guides became power hungry and began teleporting players into volcanoes from time to time, but for the most part it was a perfectly good collaboration between SOE and the players. Also bear in mind that the guides were required to follow a very strict set of rules and they were always very closely monitored by a senior guide, or an elder guide, depending on the situation. I don't know the state of the guide program as of right now, but I do know it was having some issues staying afloat around the time I left. Still, it was a pretty sweet gig, and all guides had their primary accounts paid for -- yes, guides got to play the game for free.

What EverQuest 2 Did Wrong

EverQuest 2 is pretty damn good, there’s no way around it, but there are still quite a few things it did wrong and that is precisely why I see it as a dead game walking. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy it, but its days are numbered and Daybreak doesn’t seem to care.

Performance Issues

Every game has performance issues but EverQuest 2 has some whoppers. On every system I’ve ever played it on, I’ve had massive framerate issues. I mostly tracked it to the fact that I’ve always used AMD systems; those who use Intel processors say the thing runs like a dream. Our editor subscribes to the belief that Daybreak should have proceeded with the release of EverQuest Next, perhaps bringing all of the good qualities of EverQuest 2 into EQ Next and making them even better. Theoretically this would solve the AMD issue, but if you want to believe that Daybreak has been putting AMD processors in mind when designing its future games, then someone please explain the abysmal performance of Landmark? It may very well be a situation that is never resolved, and there are quite a few inside sources who say that it would be nearly impossible to correct the problem as it’s an integral part of the game’s code.

Ramping down the Difficulty

Compared to EverQuest, EverQuest 2 wasn’t that difficult, but compared to MMORPGs today it was definitely up there. Following The Shadow Odyssey, it seemed that SOE (Now Daybreak) decided to start catering to the lowest common denominator by making the game more accessible to anyone that decided to pick up a copy of the latest expansion. There are SO many instances I could cite where they killed the difficulty, but let’s talk about that stupid globe on the docks. In the beginning there were two primary ways to travel. The first was by boat and the second was through the wizard spires that you could find around the world.

At the beginning of Sentinel’s Fate, however, globes were added to the docks that allowed travel around the world, which made boats pretty much useless. Following that, anyone could simply teleport anywhere at the drop of a hat. Let’s be honest, even World of Warcraft doesn’t have that and it does the best job of catering to the lowest common denominator. Eventually, even map travel became easier, as it was now literally something that you could buy with station cash if you wanted. The current map allows you to double click where you want to go and pay a fee if you want to be teleported there immediately. So much for a huge world to explore. This may have been a ploy to ensure that everyone had access to the game, but do you know what happened? The game is no longer a mystery and there is very little left to discover. The result? People have moved on to other games.

Daily Achievements Taken to the Extreme

Every MMORPG has daily achievements; you know this, we know this, everyone knows this. You know what the real problem is? EverQuest 2 took the thing to the extreme and made it so that premium members could earn platinum by completing daily quests. In a way, that’s probably not that much different than the ability to buy and sell tokens on WoW, but EverQuest 2 would offer 80 plat per bag, and on some servers it was actually enough to break the economy.

EverQuest 2 is Dying

Insane Cash Shop decisions

Daybreak/SOE introduced a more extensive cash shop when EQ2X was integrated into EQ2 and one of the best things they did was allow players to create aesthetic items for the game and sell them for real cash. I swear to god at some point Daybreak looked at it and said “We’re going to freaking one up that,” at which point they created a guild hall that cost players $400 in real money. Okay, I know, if players combined their accumulated station cash they could probably get it without a problem but all I can say is it felt a bit like a cash grab.

Ramping up the Difficulty

Okay, I mentioned earlier that EQ2 liked to ramp down the difficulty, and players sort of got used to it. Later on, in the latest expansion actually, they brought back prerequisites, meaning players who were new to the game would not be able to access that latest expansion and play with their friends unless they completed certain quest lines, including the Greenmist line that led into Terrors of Thalumbra. Admittedly, if you finished these on one character you wouldn’t have to do them on another, but the game needs to figure out who it's catering to.

A Place to Call Home

Now wait a minute, I just listed this as a positive, didn’t I? Yes, Norrath has many houses and guild halls, but do you know what that actually means? It means you may never actually see another player. I actually wrote an article about this awhile ago and pointed out that the best way to integrate guild halls into an MMO was to give the players a good reason to step out into the world. Dailies just aren’t enough to get the players to step out of their shell and start interacting again. On the other side of the coin, home decoration has never been better.

Horrible Cross Server Communication

Do you know how easy it is to communicate across servers in WoW? It turns out in EQ2 you can’t actually do that unless you type a complex command or make a macro for that command. You can also communicate across different SOE/Daybreak games, but it’s an extreme hassle and not one that many people bothered with.

No More Pizza

Finally, as a point of interest, I want to point out that the /pizza command no longer works. There was a time when players were actually able to type /pizza during raids and it would auto-order from the nearest Dominos. Don't believe me? Here's a link to a short news article. Seriously, that was a great feature when you really didn't want to get up and throw a Hot Pocket in the oven. I don't know when they removed it, but I recently typed in the command and all it did was bring up the web browser with a Google image search for Pizza. I'm personally offended that I actually have to get up to cook food while I'm taking down a raid boss.

Is EverQuest 2 Dead?

I would like to say that EverQuest 2 has a chance to pull itself out of the toxic hole that its managed to throw itself down, but right now the game needs to focus on bringing the player base back. The Commonlands feels like a deserted wasteland, and I could probably declare myself the supreme ruler of Freeport and no one would actually try to stop me. I remember so many times when I could wander into a dungeon and find someone to play with immediately, and I remember being invited to groups just walking through a town. There were so many adventures to go on, and the other players made it all worthwhile. If they want to fix this, there are a few things that they could do, like more server mergers, fixing the AMD issue, and perhaps listening to players. Whether or not EQ2 dies out in the next few years is a matter of speculation, and we’re all going to be waiting with baited breath to see what direction Norrath goes in. On the more positive side of the ordeal, the game can only get better from here on out.