Rise and Shiny: Revisiting EverQuest at level 65

EverQuest screenshot
EverQuest is one of those titles that just won't go away. I mean that in the best possible way, of course. After 15 years and 19 (yes, 19!) expansions, it's possible that I could be writing about this game a decade from now. And why not? I just spent a month covering MUDs, some of them 20 years old, so why couldn't a game with such a rich history and loyal playerbase as EverQuest's stick around, well, forever?

I started playing around 2000 or 2001. I didn't catch on to it as much as my wife and soon was back in Ultima Online and later titles like City of Heroes. I have always kept up with EverQuest while still feeling a bit left behind because I didn't stay with it from the beginning. I am so jealous of a player who has actively played any game for 15 years. The character he or she has built has a wonderful story to tell!

Well, I decided this week was time to finally try to get back into EverQuest. What I found wasn't really surprising because I had kept up with the game's developments and played here and there, but the community and the gameplay definitely caught me off guard.

EverQuest screenshot
The first thing I had to do was go through my inventory. That's inventories, I should say, because I have two accounts and many characters. I have kept up mainly with two characters, a level 37 Paladin and a lower-level troll. I enjoyed the heck out of all of the characters and especially going through the newbie tutorials (I'd recommend a returning player to do just that), but the level 65 Shaman I had needed to come alive once more.

There is so much loot in EverQuest, as would be expected in a 15-year-old title. It's sort of fun to look at some of the pieces of loot in my backpack that are basically 10- or 12-years-old. Sure, these items are not real, but the digital memory that keeps them in-game has been kept alive for all that time. I dug through many of these items and honestly could not remember where I was when I found them, so I began to sell anything that I no longer needed. I kept sentimental things or items that were simply cool (like boots that give a speed boost), but overall my first project was to just make room and to understand where I was gear-wise.

Of course, new EverQuest players have it so much easier than we did back in the day, which is one of the reasons I think that EverQuest is still around. You no longer have to drag your corpse, items don't stay on your corpse when you die, and you get free pieces of pretty decent armor just for returning and hitting /claim. In fact that was the second thing I did. I pulled up the veteran rewards list and grabbed what I could. It's unfortunate to see so many modern adaptions in EverQuest only to find many items and abilities in the original so poorly explained, but a quick Google search let me know what I should and should not worry about using.

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Next I had to figure out where I should go in order to gain some experience, group with some people, and explore. If you look for a hot-zone NPC, he will tell you where you should go at your level in order to gain extra experience. Getting there was not as simple as I remember it, but then I mostly remember how hard classic EverQuest was to get around in. If there is one thing people put rose-colored-glasses on to explain to modern gamers, it's the "realistic" travel times that came with a game like old EverQuest. Those long travel times are still there, just greatly reduced, but let's be honest: We didn't love those long travel times unless we were with a group whose members chatted along the way. We did enjoy that feeling of eventually arriving at our destination after a long "journey." It literally took me a few hours to figure out where to go and to get there, but I felt great once I did.

I eventually made friends with a Froglok; we grouped together for a while. I didn't care if I was pulling in maximum experience or gaining tons of loot because I was having a blast. I was surprised. I mean, yes, I rarely group due to my need for game-hopping, so that makes grouping a special activity, but I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the combat. Back in the day, the sluggish combat was one of the reasons I did not enjoy EverQuest as much and moved on to other titles. Now, however, I find myself loving how a spell takes some time to cast and how one creature can take a while to kill. Granted, I was fighting creatures that should provide a challenge to me and my froggy buddy, but it was nice to pull a giant snake or wolf and swat it a bit.

EverQuest screenshotI later went on to kill giants that were a bit lower level than my character and had a good time with the extra breathing room. I was able to experiment with spells a bit more, something that a returning player will need to do. I had forgotten how many spells there were and how much variety there was in my spellbook, so I spent a good portion of a day learning new ones and adding them to my spell-gem hotbar. I had some help from my friend Stargrace who explained to me how to organize those spells into different lists. Why didn't those lists instantly load? Why did I have to sit down and wait for a memorization? Why couldn't I just drag them all to a hotbar for maximum, easy access?

I don't know, honestly. After all, many players would like to claim that EverQuest's "easy mode" add-ons have made the game soft or accessible for those who can't handle old-school gaming, but there's still plenty of old-school, oddball design choices in the game like the spell book itself. The game already provides instant travel and other "easy mode" options, so why not just perfect or streamline the ones that are in the game now?

"It's sort of like putting your hand behind your back during a LARPer fight to represent being injured. It seems silly, but it can really give someone the impression that he has been injured."

I'm not sure, but the existence of these time-killing designs might aggravate but also help with that feeling of realism or achievement. It's sort of like putting your hand behind your back during a LARPer fight to represent being injured. It seems silly, but it can really give someone the impression that he has been injured. Those roadblocks in EverQuest could easily be smoothed over, but they gave me a feeling of grand adventure for the most part. Some of them are just wacky -- like how some maps are not included in the game and must be downloaded -- but overall returning to EverQuest is an exercise in re-education, patience, and fun.

By the time I got my bearings, the week was up. Luckily, I have all the time in the world to continue to play (and I will). Anyone who is interested can literally download and play the game for free. I loved some of the comments I got while streaming the game live. There are still a lot of people who have never even downloaded EverQuest, and it still has the ability to impress.

Next week I will be looking at Ragnarok Online 2. What will I find? I have no idea, but you can join me when I stream it live on Monday the 10th of June at 5:00 p.m. EDT, right here on our streaming channel!

Each week on Rise and Shiny, Beau chooses a different free-to-play, indie, or browser-based game and jumps in head-first. It might be amazing or it might be a dud, but either way, he'll deliver his new-player impressions to you. Drop him an email, comment, or tweet!
This article was originally published on Massively.