There's a fine coating of dust on the furniture. The neighborhood has a bunch of new rules and as many new neighbors. All in all, though, the spires of Freeport and its refurbished waterfront are a welcome sight. EQII has always been the one MMO that I return to without fail; it's also the one that I've played the most, now that Star Wars Galaxies is gone.
This time around, I'm coming back not for an expansion or a new feature (although there are plenty of both in the world's deepest themepark) but rather for the need for a little MMO stability. And hey, I'd be lying if I said I'm not partly motivated by the promise of EQNext.
this column, the MMO world was a very different place. The western free-to-play explosion was in its infancy, for one thing. The rash of premature game closings we experienced in 2011 and 2012 were still over a year away, for another. Mega-budget (and mega-disappointing) MMO launches were still in the distant future, too, and I daresay I was a little less jaded about the genre in general way back in 2010.
So what's a sure-fire cure for my current case of MMO blahs? Friends. Family. And home.
Now, EQII isn't a perfect game by any means, but I'm coming around to the fact that it's my game, for better or worse. Judging by some of the comments I've seen on some of our recent EQII articles, I'm either idiotic or pitiable for admitting as much.
After all, it's got the worst graphics known to man, probably the worst animations in the history of animation (or is that The Secret World?), and SOE itself is either some sort of otherworldly fun-sucking demon or in league with the tyrannical evil overlord of your choice.
In all seriousness, though, some of the MMO blogosphere's more ignorant destinations see SOE and EverQuest II as objects of perpetual (and ill-informed) scorn. I'm assuming this is residual fallout from the NGE debacle and the imagined personal slights inherent in a dozen years of EverQuest expansions, tweaks, and gameplay changes.
Whatever the reason, there's a sizable anti-SOE contingent out there, which is both hilarious and sad given the fact that the company is one of a very few AAA outfits that continually caters to old-school tastes, and it's also the only western firm that is actively seeking to elevate the sandbox above its current niche status.
Yeah, I know, that's an outrageous statement to those of you who would have CCP's babies, and yeah, I know, EQII has Aion wings in its cash shop. That was a bit of shark-jumping moment for me too, but when you allow yourself to take the good with the bad and not zoom in on the incidental mistakes that accumulate (or dissipate) over eight years' time, you realize there's much more positive than negative in EQII.
I guess I could just say that EQII is my favorite MMO and be done with it. But there's more to it than that. EQII is a good MMO, full stop, and if you don't agree well, OK, but check in with the column every now and again and we'll try to change your mind. At the very least, you can't reasonably deny that it's got an absurd amount of content that shames what might generously be called its competition. It's also as close as a themepark will ever get to the right side of the game-vs.-world divide.
For me, EverQuest II is something of a beacon in a sea of flea market MMOs, feature deficiency, and forced closures. I'm not going to sit here and tell you that it will be around forever, but in my opinion, it's the closest thing this genre has to a sure bet. Look at its older sibling, for crying out loud. It's been live for 40,000 years now (OK, 13), and it's still getting expansions every year and soldiering right on. I suspect Norrath 2.0 will do the same, even with 3.0 looming large on the horizon (hey, if a game can survive launching the same month as World of Warcraft, don't bet against it).
So anyway, all of that is why I'm back, in a nutshell. EverQuest II is equal parts refuge and redoubt. Most importantly, though, both playing the game and writing about it lead to something that's been pretty lacking in my MMO travels of late: fun.
EverQuest II is so big that it takes two authors to make sense of it all! Join Jef Reahard and MJ Guthrie as they explore Norrathian nooks and crannies from the Overrealm to Timorous Deep. Running every Saturday, The Tattered Notebook is your resource for all things EQII and EQNext -- and catch MJ every 'EverQuest Two-sday' on Massively TV!