EverQuest II Updated Impressions - E3 2004
We revisit the upcoming sequel to Sony Online Entertainment's popular online game at E3 2004.
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We took an updated look at EverQuest II at E3 2004. The upcoming sequel to Sony Online Entertainment's popular massively multiplayer role-playing game will still take place in the fantasy world of Norrath, but the new game will take place centuries after the events in the first game, after a series of disasters has devastated the land and caused the powerful gods of the world to disappear.
We began our tour with the city of Qeynos, which will be the home of all "good-aligned" characters and races, like elves, dwarves, and humans. Qeynos, like other towns in EverQuest II, will consist of 17 distinct "zones," four of which will be the main city areas. South Qeynos will be one of these four areas, and it will also be the site of all "good" characters' player houses. Every player will receive a player house in EverQuest II, and these houses will be "instanced" areas (meaning that they'll be areas cordoned off from the main world that will appear only for your character--though you'll be able to invite your friends in). South Qeynos will also be the home of the Qeynos school of sorcery, where ambient characters study magic spells under the guidance of a wandering magic professor. The characters will be controlled by a free-form artificial intelligence that will let them wander throughout the area but will prompt them to interact with one another when they happen to wander into the same area (in this case, each time the professor wandered past the magician's academy, the practicing class stopped what it was doing and happily greeted the professor). The effect is to make the game's zones seem much more alive than those of the original EverQuest. In addition, EverQuest II's characters will have daily schedules that may change at night, and they can change clothes and walk different routes at different times in the day.
We then moved from the relatively safe confines of Qeynos into orc territory--specifically, to the mouth of a dungeon guarded by orcs. In EverQuest II, orcs are huge, hulking brutes with green skin, crude armor, and fangs that protrude upward and outward through their lower jaws. Like in the original game, you'll still be able to "pull" monsters toward your group by attacking one of a group of them (at least in the case of certain orcs at a certain E3 demonstration), though according to lead content creator Chris Cao, monsters will have varying artificial intelligence that will change the outcome of every fight, even if you're fighting the same type of monsters. For instance, if you attack a group of monsters and target their healer, they may retaliate by attacking your party's healer.
We then moved to a dungeon located in a dangerous netherworld, the home of the shadowed men (a type of extremely hostile, extremely invisible monster that plagued the Commonlands in the original EverQuest), and watched a well-equipped party do battle with a group of towering demons of roughly humanoid proportions (with bulging muscles, bright red skin, and curled, ramlike horns on their heads). Like in the original EverQuest, in EverQuest II, different character classes will have various abilities that can be used in combat; warriors can still deal additional damage by occasionally kicking an enemy, while monks will again have a suite of different martial arts-based attacks.
Our final destination on our tour was the ruins of the temple of Cazic-Thule (the god of fear). This area appeared in the original EverQuest, but looked far different in the sequel. While the area was still full of ruined stonework, it was lined with dense jungle foliage and patrolled by sightless lizardmen (the minions of Cazic-Thule), as well as amygdalan knights (a hulking, planar creature indigenous to the plane of fear) and a young dragon that swooped down from the sky in real time and attacked a party of adventurers. EverQuest II will let you form a hunting party of up to six players, and while you can then form a larger group of connected parties called a "raid" (which can consist of up to four groups of six for a total of 24 players), the majority of the game's action is being tailored to fit either six-character groups or individual players on solo adventurers.
EverQuest II continues to look technically and visually impressive as it progresses through its development cycle. As announced previously, Sony Online Entertainment has plans to conduct a beta test by drafting new players via signups. The game is scheduled for release later this year.