Everquest and I have a history. It was my first, you know, MMO. The game came out around 13 years ago. I was young and inexperienced and Everquest was this new exciting thing. It swept me off my feet. I would play hour after hour, knowing in my heart that online gaming could never, ever get better than this.
How naïve I was.
I don’t remember exactly why I left Norrath, but I did and I never went back. That is until recently, since it’s now free to play. Nostalgia for the old days has been rather strong as of late. I’ve been thinking longingly of Kelethin and the Butcher Block Mountains. I wanted to revisit Freeport and I want my spells to fizzle and fail. Most of all, I wanted to go to Crushbone and start a ‘train to zone,’ (get every enemy in an area chasing me). When SOE decided to make this tween-aged game finally free, I knew what I had to do.
After signing up for a new account and downloading the game I was finally able to start making a character. I wanted to play a dwarf, just like the old days, but no, dwarves aren’t one of the four free to play races. You have to pay extra for that. I had to choose between gnomes, erodites, humans and barbarians. I chose a human. I wanted to play a Paladin, but no, that wasn’t one of the four free starting classes. I could only be a warrior, a wizard, a rogue or a cleric. I chose cleric. While I was interested in recreating my past, I wasn’t about to pay for it.
Before I finished character creation I was given one final choice, I got to pick a deity. This was something I forgot about, and I haven’t seen it in an MMORPG since EQ really. World of Warcraft doesn’t mention worship; nor did either of the Star Wars MMOs or City ofHeroes or any other game. This is something I think we’ve lost, a simple way to customize a character. Yes, it doesn’t change the way an avatar looks, but it does change how it feels. Do you follow an evil god, a god of commerce or compassion or are you unaligned? This simple choice does all the work of a more complicated morality system, like the one in SWTOR.
After I choose a god, I entered the tutorial area; a place called Gloomingdeep mines. The moment I set foot in this place I immediately regretted it. It just didn’t fit my memories of EQ. It was trying to be something else, trying to be WoW. There was something of a story here, why I was there and so on and so forth, but after playing newer games, the story fell short. I had to talk to NPCs and even do quests, which weren’t a part of the EQ I played. Everything felt forced. The quests barely had a story and the reason for completing one was never more compelling than getting experience at the end. I spent 8 levels fighting my way out of that dungeon; but once free I quickly learned that this was not the Norrath I once knew.
The tutorial was long and frankly not very helpful. The first thing I did when I got out of the Gloomingdeep mines was try to find my way to Kelethin and Crushbone; my old stomping grounds. To my dismay, it was on another continent. But I wasn’t about to let the tyranny of distance stop me, so I did what I used to do to get around in EQ, I tried to run there. And just like in the old days, I died in transit. A lot.
I was stuck far from what I was now considering my ancestral homeland. I knew I had to get there. I needed to play the game I once loved, but how? It turns out they’ve added something call the Plane of Knowledge since I left, which is part quick travel system, part city. It sort of felt like cheating, like I was playing a different game, but I was finally able to make it to Kelethin and Crushbone.
The wood elf city of Kelethin was exactly as I remember it, sitting high above the forest floor, suspended in the treetops. It was huge and confusing and falling from it would still kill you. Just like the old days. There was only one major difference. It was empty. I was the only player there. The story was the same in Crushbone. I was alone. I tried to do the things I used to do there, I killed some orcs, started a train to zone. But it was harder to do than I remember it. The Crushbone orcs used attack at the drop of a hat. They would chase as far as you could run, as far as the zone line, where you would load the next area, where NPCs couldn’t follow.
I never planned to play EQ again, at least not seriously. I was just trying to take a day trip to my past, so to speak. In the end, I enjoyed revisiting Norrath but I could never commit to Everquest again. Too much has changed and I’ve changed. The game is in many ways, purer than new MMOs. It feels more like a table top RPG, a player has more freedom but the game is far more complex. You have to level everything from your spell casting to eating and drinking. The system is more complicated than with WoW or SWTOR but that just means there are more possibilities.
In the end, Everquest feels like the old Advanced Dungeons and Dragons system while new MMOs feel more like Monopoly; games are more accessible now. Norrath has a lot to offer but you have to earn every second of fun you have, and for me, it just feels like too much work.
Actual cost: Free to play