Many of you will no doubt have taken one look at the Ultima Online screenshots and come straight to this part of the head-to-head. That's understandable. EuerQuest is a beautiful game, as you have probably noticed already. But graphics aren't everything. Depth of gameplay isn't one of CD's strong points, but if you insist on buying it purely on its looks and find it's a little shallow for your tastes, no problem, come back here and refer to the Ultima Online review and you'll find that all your prayers have been answered. Onwards, then...
There isn't a hell of a lot to creating a character in EverQuest. Choose your class (warrior, palladin, wizard etc) and race (human, wood ell, barbarian and so on), allocate a few points to things like strength and intelligence, choose your starting location and off you go. If only extraordinarily frustrating part to the character creation process in EverQuest, and that's simply deciding on a name - each one has to be submitted to the EQ servers for 'approval'. If the name is already in use, you're out of luck. Which is fair enough, as there's no point having two people on the same server with the same moniker, but can reject your name on the grounds that it's not suitable for a role-playing environment. Which is staggering. I spent about 30 minutes having one name after another rejected because it wasn't considered 'appropriate' by the powers that be. However, there is an option to have the computer think up a suitably shite RPG name for you in order to save you all this trouble. Do you really want to be called Aaarknikhon - or worse? No? Well, they're all like that, I'm afraid, or even more horrendous. If you want a name you can even vaguely identify with, be prepared to spend an age throwing suggestions at the server until it finally decides it likes one of them. EverQuest, then, has the most incredibly stupid character creation system in the history of RPGs. Not a good start. But it gets better from here - much better, in fact.
EverQuestis a much easier game to get your head round than UO, simply because it's very linear. Your character advances in levels, and the general idea when you start is to run around twatting really easy monsters close to your starting location. If you get into trouble you can always run to the guards, who will kill whatever's giving you grief. For everything you kill, you get a set number of experience points; accrue enough experience points and you advance to the next level. Unlike UO, where you spend all your time talking to people as soon as you get into the game, you'll spend your first day or two in EO bashing things in order to gain experience points and 'level up'. There are other characters around to chat to, but everyone is usually too busy trying to get to their next level to be bothered talking to anyone else. The exceptions to this rule are people who like to 'group'. It's possible to team up with other players and share the experience points with them when you kill things. It's a safety in numbers approach, and while grouping is a sure way to wait forever for your next level, it goes a long, long way to relieving the tedium of wandering around on your own endlessly killing things in the hope of levelling up.
However, this incredibly boring state of affairs disappears when you get to level 5. By this stage you'll have reasonable equipment and armour, and will be more likely to find more people to group with. But most importantly, you'll be ready to enter one of the game's more communal areas. This is where you'll find a lot of other players, and this is exactly when the game suddenly transforms from being tediously monotonous into something a lot more interesting. It's also at this point you'll start to notice that certain strategies are key to survival in combat. From here on in, things get tough.
Death Or Dishonour
Combat in EQ is far more realistic than in UO for obvious reasons: the graphics are superb, you're in a true 3D environment, and all the action is in first-person so you get to see what you're fighting face-to-face. However, from here on, every time you die you lose experience points instead of gaining them, which means if you keep dying it takes you longer to get to the next level. This is not the end of the world, particularly in early levels. If you lose experience, you can get it back fairly quickly by killing, although combat generally doesn't have the same edge as it does in UO because you don't stand to lose anything if you die. There is a lot of tension in the battles, and it can be genuinely scary at higher levels when you know that if you die again you'll lose your current level, but it's just not the same without any real personal risk involved. The upside of the combat system is that grouping really comes into its own at higher levels. Join other players and take on things that would be impossible to take on alone. However, at the end of the day you don't need as much skill to be successful in combat in EQ.
Unlike UO, where knowing which spells to cast at the right time and when to switch to a weapon are crucial to success, and quick thinking is the key to survival, combat in EverQuest is fairly run-of-the-mill. Got a sword? Twat whatever's on your case. Got some spells? Cast away until you run out of mana. That's not to say that combat in EQ is boring, just that it's no different to what you'd expect if you've ever played a single-player RPG. However, the presentation goes a long way to making up for this. In particular, the visual and aural effects that accompany spell-casting are a joy to behold. And the graphics in EQ are so good that battles are as much fun to watch as they are to take part in. Combat is not nail-bitingly tense, but it's very impressive nonetheless.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Well, that's actually my biggest problem with EverQuest It's very obvious where you go from here: you'll be going to fight more and more monsters in order to level up and eventually go to new locations with more difficult monsters. When you get to these new locations, you will then start all over again. Fight, level, fight, level, and so on until eventually you've seen all the locations in the game, and your only choice if you want to experience something new is to start all over again with a new character and travel to all the places you've already seen. Having said that, it will take you a very long time to get around to seeing all the locations and dungeons that EverQuest has to offer, and the game's beautiful environment graphics mean that finding a new location is cause for much excitement. But generally, EverQuest is a very shallow gameplay experience when compared to something like Ultima Online, which has incredible depth and surprises you constantly the more you play it. Don't be put off by this closing comment. EOwill be perfect for those of you who a) don't want an enormous phone bill or b) simply don't have the time to devote to building up a strong character (Ultima Online is quite a hefty commitment). So there you have it. These are the facts. The choice, as always, is yours.
Travelling in EverQuest is part of the game's appeal
Getting around in UO is fairly easy for most people, as the Gate and Recall spells take you to almost anywhere you want to go. This is not the case in EQ, thank God. The world of Norrath (the game world in EQ) is fascinating and beautiful, and it would be a real shame to miss it all by zipping from one location to the next. Boat rides are available to take you across large bodies of water, otherwise you're on foot as you go from one place to the next. Some of the locations outside cities are very dangerous, especially for inexperienced players (HighHold Pass springs to mind), and for this reason it's wise to travel with higher level players if you're travelling long distances. The last thing you want is to die halfway through a long journey and then spend an age going back to retrieve your corpse.
Processor: PC compatible,
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Game Features:Single game mode
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