When EverQuest was first released for the PC in 1999, few could have anticipated that the game would be as influential as it has been. Though by no means the first massively multiplayer online role-playing game, EverQuest featured a much bigger world and much better graphics than any such game before it, plus a huge variety of selectable character races and classes, and these elements drew in players by the thousands. They then became addicted to EverQuest's unique style of gameplay, which essentially boils down to venturing out and hunting monsters in groups, earning experience points, and finding loot. The stronger their characters would get, the greater the challenges players could then take on. EverQuest has been a resounding success, so it's little wonder that Sony has sought to bring this popular franchise to the PlayStation 2 in the form of EverQuest Online Adventures, an original game that's like a distilled version of EverQuest for the PC. EverQuest Online Adventures doesn't look nearly as good today as its predecessor did in '99, and it can be time-consuming to a fault, just like many other games of this sort. But it does offer the same sort of addictive gameplay that's kept people playing EverQuest for years.
EverQuest Online Adventures is not for everyone. Other games are available for the PlayStation 2 that support online play, but EverQuest Online Adventures has no offline mode whatsoever, meaning you need an Internet connection (a high-speed connection, ideally) and the PS2 Network Adapter in order to play it. The game retails for a full $49, requires at least 3MB of space on your memory card, and costs about $10 a month after the initial 30-day free trial. Of course, a big part of the appeal is that there's enough to EverQuest Online Adventures to keep you playing for more than a month, whereas you could finish most other PS2 games in much less than that. Besides just experimenting with various combinations of the nine different character races and 13 different classes, you can commit yourself to building up your characters into extremely powerful, self-sufficient adventurers capable of roaming the vast, dangerous continent of Tunaria without fear. At any rate, EverQuest Online Adventures is a very time-consuming game, one that is not at all conducive to quick gameplay sessions, but instead one that effectively rewards you for hunkering down and playing for hours on end. Even the process of simply getting into the game--the point from when you power on your PS2 to the point when you actually see your character in Tunaria--takes a number of minutes, as you're forced to sit through multiple loading screens, a mandatory end-user license agreement that needs to be accepted each time you play the game, memory card checks, server checks, news messages, and more. As much as Sony might not want to admit it, this is definitely not casual gaming.
The first time you play, you'll also have to set up your account (a relatively simple process, like any online transaction these days), choose a server to play on, and create your first character. Not every race can be every class--for instance, trolls can only be warriors, shadow knights, and shamans. Besides choosing your race and class combination, you also choose your character's gender, customize its appearance (only a small number of faces and hair styles are available for each one), and add a few bonus points to its core attributes, like strength and intelligence. Then you name your character and you're set. One of the inherent problems in the original EverQuest, and a problem that was carried over to EverQuest Online Adventures, is that this very first decision of yours--what sort of character to be--will largely govern your entire gameplay experience thereafter.
That's because there's not much you can do to really personalize your character once you've created him or her. Gaining experience levels awards you with bonus points that you can use to bolster your stats, but there's generally a best way to develop each type of character, and the sorts of special abilities and equipment you can use are determined by your level and your race-class combination. For what it's worth, the classes are all somewhat self-sufficient and have a good number of different special abilities or spells available to them. You'll probably find yourself envying some of the other classes' abilities--such as the druid's speed-enhancing spells or maybe the necromancer's skeletal pets--but that's how the game encourages you to team up with other players.
Grouping with other players has always been a focus of the original EverQuest, as none of its character classes are completely self-reliant. Warriors need healers to heal their wounds, casters need melee classes to soak up damage for them, and so on. EverQuest Online Adventures also rewards players for teaming up (in groups of up to four), though most classes can also gain experience slowly and steadily by fighting weaker monsters solo. Actually meeting strangers and teaming up with them won't necessarily be easy, however. It's possible to see a list of all player characters in the vicinity, and to broadcast your wishes to join a hunting party, but new players will likely have a tough time finding traveling companions. Nonetheless, much like in the original EverQuest, establishing a social network is really the key to success in EverQuest Online Adventures. Unsurprisingly, the players who are already far ahead in the game--that is, their characters are of the highest level--are the ones who beta tested it before its release, and already knew who their friends were on the day the game shipped.
EverQuest Online Adventures may be a console game, but you could probably tell it was based on a PC game even if you'd never seen the original EverQuest. The designers did as good a job as can be expected of mapping tons of different functions to the Dual Shock 2 pad, including numerous chat macros. But to get the most out of the game, you'll need to plug in a USB keyboard so you can freely communicate with other players around you. If you're hoping to actually role-play as a fantasy character, you might want to think twice--most players speak out of character, so you'll probably come off looking crazy if you use a lot of "thees" and "thous" in your speech. Either way, good communication, both for finding groups and for quickly relaying messages during battle, is essential in the game, and the chat macros just don't cut it. Sure, you can just go around on your own, largely ignoring the social element of the game, but then you'll find EverQuest Online Adventures to be a very, very lonely place. There's a lot of running from point A to point B and a lot of repetitive combat that's not nearly as interesting solo as it is in groups.
The combat is considerably more dynamic than in the PC version of EverQuest, but it's still a pseudo-turn-based slugfest, just like in that game. Fighting solo, you basically trade hits with the enemy until one of you dies, occasionally throwing in your special attacks to dish out more damage. Then you use recovery items or spells to regain your hit points in between fights and repeat as necessary. Dying means losing some of the money you had on hand and accruing some "experience debt," effectively making you gain experience more slowly for a while, though you can't ever lose a level like you can in EverQuest for the PC. Tunaria is crawling with enemies, so it's not difficult to find a fight. This, along with the relative absence of downtime in between battles turns hunting sessions in EverQuest Online Adventures into sometimes-numbing exercises in repetition. Again, though, the proceedings can be made much more interesting if you happen to be playing with other people. At any rate, the combat is quickly paced and pretty responsive, requiring you to know just how much distance you can put between you and your opponent and still launch successful attacks. EverQuest Online Adventures uses its PC predecessor's system of enemy aggression, where foes will smartly go after the weaker yet potentially most dangerous members of your group (your casters and healers), so the melee classes must work to taunt the enemies away from these vulnerable targets. At best, this makes some of the higher-level engagements quite strategic.
The original EverQuest has often been criticized for revolving entirely around the process of hunting and leveling up, but in truth there is more to it than that. Players can craft their own armor and jewelry, cook various foods, brew various beverages, and more. Some of these trade skills are quite lucrative, and players who excel at them often become popular for the services they offer. Plus, these nonviolent activities make good contexts for socializing in the game. Also, players can engage in player vs. player combat under certain conditions, such as in particular arenas or on dedicated player vs. player servers. This is the ultimate challenge, allowing players to prove whose character is best once and for all. Unfortunately, none of these peripheral elements are in EverQuest Online Adventures, so this game does indeed revolve entirely around killing monsters. You can take on some quests given by non-player characters, but these too tend to involve killing something or other.
It's a good thing, then, that EverQuest Online Adventures' combat system is solid, since that's really all there is to the game. The world of Tunaria is huge, and it's already populated by thousands of real players, but the game seems somewhat shallow when you realize that all you ever have to look forward to is the promise of being able to kill stronger monsters. There's no real plot and no real goal except to catch up to those who've leveled up faster than you, by spending more time playing the game than you have. This contributes a great deal to the sense that, despite the fact that thousands of players can be fighting foes in Tunaria simultaneously, pretty much all the player characters you'll meet will be pretty generic. Your 15th-level dark elf necromancer is same as every other 15th-level dark elf necromancer. Even if you really like the game, you'll probably catch yourself wondering whether all the hours you're pouring into it are really worth it.
One of the big reasons people have gotten into EverQuest for the PC since its release is there has been so much to see. The game's world features all the fantasy mainstays, from dwarves to dragons, but before you can encounter them all, you need to gain a lot of levels. However, the idea of exploring uncharted territory is inherently less appealing in EverQuest Online Adventures because the game simply doesn't look good. The character models border on being downright ugly, and though you can see far into the horizon in most environments, the environments themselves are plain and sparsely detailed. At least the spell effects look decent and the frame rate stays relatively smooth, though it does bog down in certain situations, and the game's different third-person camera options all have their quirks. The sound in EverQuest Online Adventures is minimal. There's almost no music except for two different ominous-sounding, repetitious combat themes. The sound effects are good--spells sizzle, weapons fwoosh--but you'll probably start to ignore those after a while, too. As such, you'll probably want to have a stereo with a CD changer in the same room where you play EverQuest Online Adventures.
EverQuest Online Adventures isn't the same game as its PC counterpart, and the designers clearly tried to streamline and in some ways simplify the experience of the original so it would be better suited for the broader audience of the PlayStation 2. Yet, ironically, the game is most easily recommended to those already accustomed to this style of gaming. Those who've played MMORPGs in the past may appreciate the relative simplicity and relative fast pace of EverQuest Online Adventures, but those who have never played a game like this before may just find it boring, confusing, and overly repetitive. Make no mistake, the game can definitely become addictive in much the same way as its PC counterpart, and playing with the variety of different races and classes can certainly keep you busy for a while. But EverQuest Online Adventures will reward you only if you're willing to invest a lot of time and effort into it, and only if you play it with others.