EverQuest 2

I'm a little surprise to see the NDA lifted on EverQuest 2, but it has been.

I'm surprised to see it lifted, because the game isn't really done yet, and it's fairly obvious from playing it.  It's not so far from being done that it's not playable - I find most of it very polished - but there are areas that are obviously incomplete, and all the reviews I've seen posted so far are making a point of saying “This game isn't done because...”. 

If EQ2 shipped today, with the servers in the state that the beta servers are in, there would be chaos; but I expect that when the game is finally released next month or so, they'll have servers up that can handle the load and they obviously won't be patching the game as often as they are with little or no warning.

I think that when you're reviewing a beta product, it's fair to talk about the things that are good about it, since they probably will not change before release, but dwelling on the negatives, especially negatives that are likely to be repaired, is unnecessary.  Yes, EQ2 currently goes down a lot.  Yes, some zones are laggy.  But you know, those are my biggest complaints about the game, and they're pretty minor, and relatively easy to fix.

EQ2 is an ambitious game.

It feels rich, deep.  One of the things that makes it this way is that every NPC (non-player character) talks with a unique voice.  They've had voice actors provide hundreds of hours of dialogue that really brings the world alive.  It can gets annoying at times to hear the same text again the next time you visit a particular NPC, but I find it easy to ignore that and appreciate the character it adds to the new characters I meet.

The graphics look great.  Real shadows, beautifully rendered sky and water, and great armour / cloth textures require mucho horsepower to render but the results are amazing.  On the other hand, my measly 1.4ghz CPU can't keep up, so I have to run with much of the detail turned down.  This will probably be better for release, but not by much.  On the other hand, 5 years from now I have a feeling EQ2 won't seem so far behind the curve as EQ1 does today, 5 years after it's release.

The quest system gives you something to do when you're playing.  Not everyone needs this, and you can ignore it except for some of the required quests, but for folks who need to be told “go kill 5 bog slugs and I'll give you a reward” there are now plenty of folks willing to give you tasks, and reward you for doing them.  A Journal feature keeps track of all the quests you've been assigned, and quests automatically advance when you complete a step, so it's not uncommon to be doing something - hailing an NPC you've never met for example - and find out that that was a required step in a quest you got long ago and forgot you had.  Cool.

EQ2 requires much less social interaction than EQ1 did.  The game is designed so that you can play a solo character all through your adventuring career.  It's commonly accepted that the required social interaction is one of the things that made EQ so popular, so we'll have to see what this does for the acceptance of EQ2.

Basically EQ2 is more EQ.  All the same elements are there - tradeskills, levelling, fighting, quests - but in a completely fresh, new interface with a few new ideas thrown in.  I think it's a great sequel, and I'm looking forward to the game going live so I can invest some time levelling up some real characters.