Reviewed: April 3, 2003
Released: February 11, 2003
Lets face it, if you've never heard of Everquest then you've been living under a rock. But for the rock dwellers among us, Everquest is an online only game called MMORPG, or Massively Multiplayer Role Playing Game. It's Massively Multiplayer because it allows thousands of people to interact in a virtual fantasy world all at the same time. It's an RPG because you play in the virtual community as an alter ego, called a character, or also sometimes "toon." The object of the game is to build up your character that you play in the game and gain both experience and a reputation.
Everquest Online Adventures is the console version of its big brother on the PC, Everquest. EQOA is streamlined with the console gamer in mind, and also to fit the functionality of a console controller. The game world is set in the same world of Everquest for the PC but it's set in the past, and things are quite a bit different. One thing that is greatly different is that there is only a single continent to explore, called Tunaria, which is strikingly similar to the continent Antonica from Everquest. But don't worry, there's plenty of things to see and do in EQOA to keep you busy for countless hours.
SOE did a fine job of translating the complex EQ interface into something manageable with a dual shock controller for EQOA. Still, you can also opt to buy a USB Keyboard and I can not stress enough how important that will be for your ultimate enjoyment in the game. While the game does have some rudimentary menus that are customisable for basic communication without the keyboard, to actually be a social player and to make lasting friendships in the game world is going to require that you can communicate, and the best way to do that in EQOA is with a USB Keyboard.
You won't need the keyboard to do the basic gameplay though. Most of the game involves hack-n-slashing your way through countless critters, called "mobs" by the MMORPG community. Why kill things? Well you kill to gain experience, which you can use to gain levels. You also kill to gain items, which you can use to either make new items or trade for items which will improve your character. Unfortunately there really does not seem to be any truly passive roles in EQOA, and the bulk of the gameplay revolves around the idea of killing things, either solo or much preferably, in groups.
The combat system is easy to learn but hard to master. When you first start the game you'll find combat very simple and straightforward. Just press the R1 button to target an enemy and then press X to attack. Enemies are highlighted in a color when you target them and this color determines their relative level compared to you. Greens are too easy to be worth fighting (you gain no experience), then light blues are easy to kill but not worth much, dark blues are good challenging fights for soloing, whites are an even match, while yellows and reds are generally best avoided unless you are with a group.
I've been using that word "group" a lot. Grouping is the key to enjoying EQOA. Make friends as quickly as you can and maybe even join a guild or a regular group of players. You will need friends to help you as you gain higher levels in the game, and friends also provide the real joys in the game. The combat system when grouped really starts to show its complexity and charm. Different classes provide different kinds of tactics that are possible and putting together a well-balanced group is the best way to have fun with the combat system.
There are 14 different classes and 9 races and each combination plays out quite differently. Plus you have a number of ways you can spend your advancement points on you statistics, which can add even more variety to the types of characters available to play. Some characters are more versatile and geared for solo play while others are optimized for grouping. It's a good idea to play for your first 10 or so hours of gameplay using a variety of starting classes and races to get a good feel for the types of characters that there are and how they play before you jump right into a single class to play. Of course, since you can have multiple characters you can always switch to different characters when you're in different moods.
EQOA has a lot of nice quests you can complete which help tell the back-story of the game. Plus you can also communicate with the many NPC characters in the game and learn more about the world of Norrath. Of course, you can also learn from other players, and it's fun to sit and chat with them about the game. Getting into the role of your character is one of the biggest joys of the game. One big part of the game is the Faction system, which basically dictates your character's reputation in the game world. What you do in the game will affect your faction, meaning it will make some NPC characters like you more and some hate you more. Balancing your factions out so that you can go nearly anywhere is a big challenge to the gameplay.
EQOA is quite a bit different from the look of the PC game Everquest. This game is more geared for the third person point of view although you can play it in first person mode. It also has graphics that seem a bit more cartoonish than the EQ graphics do. The graphics compare favorably to other games in this genre (MMORPG) but perhaps do not fare as well when compared to other games on the Playstation 2 system. However, the style of artwork is very well done, and the graphics do not detract from the gameplay.
One really nice thing is that as you gain new equipment your character's appearance will change in the game. This goes for everyone else too, of course, so each toon in the game does feel unique. There is also a good variety and good animations on the various monsters and NPC characters that you can encounter in the game.
Some of the landscapes are beautiful to behold, such as the treehouse city of the elves, Tethelin, or the quaint rural hills of Rivervale, home of the halflings. Exploring the game world is one of the biggest draws to the game.
The sound effects in EQOA are merely adequate, and eventually you will get tired of them. They do fit the gameplay and each sound has a meaning, which you can listen for audible clues that help you in the game. Some of the sound effects, such as the sounds made from different spells are nice to hear. What seems to be missing is a realistic ambient sound as you travel around.
The orchestral music is very good and will vary depending on where you are, or what you're doing. There is no voice acting in the game, which is a shame because that could really have added a lot to the flavor of the NPC characters in the game world.
EQOA is not a game that you can actually finish. You can play it endlessly. If you get tired or max out the level on one character, there are more combinations of races and classes that you could ever complete. Generally it will take hundreds and hundreds of hours just to get one character to the highest level. For this reason, EQOA is one of the best values in online gaming. Sure, it costs a monthly fee, but if you're really into the game and playing it often that's a lot cheaper than buying a new game every month.
The community for EQOA is new but already starting to thrive. There are websites now, which can help you if you need maps or information about the game. There are also many players in the game now who will help new players learn the ropes. The game is friendly and the people in the game are also friendly. Overall the community is the biggest reason you should want to play the game.
Overall EQOA is a nice combat-oriented RPG that lets you group with other players and have fun with the complexities that group tactics provides as well as a forum for finding new friends with similar interests. The gameplay lacks the variety of some of the more complex MMORPGs on the PC, but it is streamlined to fit the console market and controller. The game is much better with the optional keyboard because it makes it much more fun with you're grouping to be able to communicate.
If you've never experienced an MMORPG then EQOA is a very good place to get started in it. EQOA offers a great value for your gaming dollar. The graphics and sound may not overwhelm you but they do have an artistic charm that you can appreciate. The variety of the fantasy world of Norrath should be enough to keep you coming back for more. If you're an MMORPG veteran then EQOA might not be for you, unless you're looking for a simpler game that is more relaxing that you can just sit back on the couch and enjoy. Ultimately, EQOA is for you whatever you're willing to put into it.