EverQuest II Impressions

We got an updated look at Sony Online Entertainment's online role-playing sequel at E3.

We took a look at the latest version of EverQuest II, the upcoming sequel to one of the most popular online role-playing games of all time. EverQuest II will take place centuries after the events in the original game, and most of the original game's areas will have either been destroyed or will have completely disappeared, with a few exceptions, like the bustling cities of Freeport and Qeynos on the continent of Antonica. These two towns will have thrived in spite of the cataclysmic events that precede the sequel, though Freeport will become the home of some powerful, unscrupulous factions.

It was clear from the demonstration we saw that one of the most important facets of the upcoming sequel will be the new graphics engine that will power it. EverQuest II's graphics engine will render huge open areas, such as the docks surrounding the Seafarer's Roost tavern in East Freeport, though several of the game's city areas seemed a bit plain because of their relatively simple textures. However, the game will also feature plenty of wilderness and dungeon areas, such as the newly revamped Nektulos forest, the traditional home of the dark elves and the new home to rendered grass, bushes, trees, and other foliage, as well as a foaming waterfall and a large, angry treant. Sony Online will attempt to better integrate roaming monsters with their environments (rather than arbitrary-seeming habitations, such as skeletons in grasslands). In addition to the huge treant (which, when defeated, fell to the ground with an earth-shaking crash), we also watched a player character do battle with a quetzas, a winged serpent native to the forest of Nektulos.

We were also able to view the interior of one of the sequel's new dungeons, and as we progressed further, we watched as the ceilings rattled and spouted dust until we emerged into the central area of the dungeon, populated by none other than Lord Nafagen, a huge, fire-breathing dragon that appeared in the original EverQuest. Fortunately for die-hard EverQuest players, EverQuest II won't force you to wait in line for two months just to get a crack at exceedingly powerful monsters like this dragon; the sequel will have a new feature, "pocket zones," which will be generated for your characters as soon as you accept a related quest. As such, you and your guildmates will be able to accept the quest to raid the lair of Lord Nafagen (and other powerful creatures) whenever you wish.

The most impressive feature we observed in EverQuest II was its highly detailed character models. The game will give you many, many ways to customize the way your character looks, including different hairstyles, eye colors, chins, facial tattoos, and even scars. Considering the huge variety of highly detailed clothing and armor we saw, such as intricately detailed chain-mail armor and a frilly courtesan's gown, EverQuest II will hopefully afford you many more opportunities to make a unique-looking character. The visual distinction between characters will be further enhanced by the game's all-new character models, which will make players of different races look very, very different from each other; for instance, wood elves and dark elves will be considerably shorter than humans, while ogres will be huge, muscular creatures that will look truly imposing when wearing a suit of full plate armor. (As it happens, the best armor in the entire game will have to be crafted by a new character class, the tradesman.) EverQuest II will also feature a huge set of new character animations for "emote" gestures as well as for fighting. We witnessed a tavern brawl between a female human monk and a male ogre; the monk fought with skillful kicks and open-handed strikes, while the ogre adopted more of a boxer's fist-fighting style.

If nothing else, EverQuest II will look considerably better than its predecessor, but as Sony Online Entertainment publicly stated, the company will support both products and will even let player characters cross over between the two games. EverQuest II will be released at the end of this year.

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