Everquest II and World of Warcraft came out around the same time. EQ2 was released in October 2004. WoW was released in November 2004. And yet EQ2 has never garnered the numbers that WoW has. I didn’t play EQ2 on release (I was playing WoW like everyone else). In fact, I didn’t start playing EQ2 until early 2010. But I’d heard a lot of fan ravings about the game, and as I’m prone to do, I decided to check out the game.
First, let me get the bad out of the way. EQ2′s graphics are not terrific. Unlike WoW, which holds up better with its cartoony style, EQ2′s art is showing its age.
OK, now that I have that out of the way, let me tell you what EQ2 does better than WoW. (I should note that everything I’m talking about is as a subscriber. I have no idea what the F2P limitations are for the game).
Housing: Five years later, WoW has yet to implement housing. EQ2, on the other hand, has one of the best housing systems in any MMO. Tens of thousands of objects, with the ability to place hundreds of them in a house using almost any layout you wish. The carpenter tradeskill class exists to craft housing objects. Holiday events almost always give housing object rewards, and many quests do the same. You can have more houses than you’ll likely ever need.
Quests: Admittedly, most of the quests follow the standard formulas of kill, collect, or deliver. But you can interact with the quest givers with back-and-forth dialog, rather than an NPC who simply gives you the quest in a box and an option to accept or reject. Your quest log can have, I believe, 75 quests at once.
Dungeons: I haven’t run many dungeons, since they tend to require groups, but I have run a couple. But one thing I noticed is that you find more quests once you’re inside than you grabbed outside. You don’t grab 10 quests and then run in with a group and complete them. You grab 3 and then run in and find 10 more. You know how you start a dungeon with as many empty bags as possible? You should also empty your quest journal as much as you can, too. Other games, including WoW, do this, but not to the same degree. I’ve run many more dungeons in WoW than I’ve run in EQ2, but I think I might have come across more quests within a single EQ2 dungeon than I ever did in every WoW dungeon combined.
Collectibles: EQ2 has objects scattered around the world for you to find. When you have an entire set, a special collector NPC will give you a quest reward (like a piece of jewelry or a housing object or even a new collectible). You can make good money selling your extra collectibles to other players. I have no idea how many collectible sets exist, but I’ve completed several dozen and have several dozen more in an incomplete state.
Exploration: I mentioned earlier that many dungeon quests are available within the dungeon. Dungeons aren’t alone. Objects inside buildings or out in the world will often highlight. When you click on them, they provide yet another quest. These could be anything from a sack of grain inside a mill that has a note tucked inside it to a book on a shelf (and you might be able to take the book and store it in your house when you’re done) to a section of destroyed wall. The game truly rewards you for taking the time to look around. I have yet to play an MMO that gives you as many quests outside the standard quest givers.
Bag space: I have yet to see an MMO that offers the amount of bag space as EQ2. I have six personal bag slots, each of which can hold a bag of whatever size I choose; my personal bank has 12 slots, plus another 8 shared slots to share gear amongst all the characters of the same faction. Each of those can store a bag, too. The largest bags I’ve seen have been 48-slot, though I don’t know if those are really the largest. You also have space in a housing vault, which can hold bags to store stuff, and the market’s available slots. It’s a pack rat’s dream.
Market: I don’t know who came up with the idea that auction houses were the way to go with MMOs, but I’m glad EQ2 got away from that. Instead of an AH, they use a market. You can buy partial quantities from a single seller instead of being forced to compute the per unit price of one seller over another. Also, each of your six slots can hold their own bags, so you can sell dozens of items at once. Plus, there’s no time limit on sales, and you don’t even have to activate an item once you put it on the market, so you can throw everything you plan to sell into your market bags and then come back later and set their prices.
Legends of Norrath: Even before EQ2 went F2P, subscribers received five free packs of LoN cards each month for maintaining an active subscription. Five packs of cards, at $3.00 a pack purchased normally. LoN is a very fun, very strategic collectible card game that is plenty great in its own right. (IIRC, new EQ2 players also receive a starter set to learn how to play the game). You don’t have to play EQ2 to play LoN, though you can play the card game from within EQ2. LoN packs will also sometimes have Everquest/Everquest 2 items that can be redeemed in-game. These might be housing objects, potions that provide XP buffs, or even mounts or house deeds. (My main has a really nice house that I got from a LoN pack).
This last feature I want to mention is one that isn’t even out yet. The winter 2011 expansion plans to introduce a Design Your Own Dungeon feature. And even cooler than just creating dungeons for other players to run (as cool as that is), the objects you will use to design them have to be found in the game. It’s housing with mobs. I think it’ll be very popular.
If I don’t stop here, this could easily turn into a 5,000-word article. I haven’t even touched on the unique races, the dozens of classes, the open world PvP (on PvP servers), the sheer size of the world, the lore, the gorgeous spell effects, guilds, and more. Needless to say, it’s a truly superior MMO well worth the $15/month. I play a lot of MMOs. Dozens of them. I won’t pretend I’m not likely to move on to another game in a few weeks, simply because that’s what I do (and also, Skyrim comes out in three weeks). But when I started EQ2 in March 2010, I told my friends it might well have been the best theme park MMO I’ve ever played. Getting back into it has only reconfirmed that belief. EQ2 should be the one talking about its 10 million subscribers. WoW, for all its polish and humor, simply isn’t in the same league.