ajs writes: "EverQuest isn't a book or a movie, but a work of fiction that's kept a 400,000 member audience enthralled for months is worth a closer look. The most recent update to EverQuest, Shadows of Luclin, is out and of course much of the subscriber base is flocking to be the first to kill the big bad ... whatevers that lurk in the long-lost moon of Norrath. My review touches more on the release than the software, since I think that's what's truely interesting about this industry right now. But to sum up: if you play EverQuest, wait a few days or weeks and then give this a spin ... it's a ride." Read on for the rest of his account.
For starters, everyone reading this should understand that persistant gaming of various forms is here to stay. EverQuest will likely be around for at least a few more years, and its successors will probably take over the gaming industry for several reasons: first, they offer a different and more lucrative revenue model; second, they offer some intriguing secondary revenue possibilities; oh, and third, there are the players who actually seem to enjoy adding more social elements to their gaming ;-)
EverQuest has been a rocky road since day one because the people developing it have never truly understood their market (this can be evidenced by how many customer service policies have been reversed over time). Now, on the eve of their most hyped release, they have done the unthinkable: They released a product which has substantial crash-to-desktop bugs and made the update process so painful as to be impossible for many players. Now, with Quake you'd say "that's awful, but they'll fix the bugs and players of the old version will be fine for now". With EverQuest, everyone gets patched at the same time, and no one can play until it's done and works.
To give some examples: every player is now required to run Microsoft's DirectX8; Minimum memory and processor specs have gone up, and if you dare to run the new expansion you will have to have at least 256MB of RAM just for the core functionality (they provide a way to back out most of the new UI stuff for those who have 128MB of RAM, but I'm told its almost unplayable); 512MB of RAM is suggested!
Ok, so what was the first day like? Well, the servers were down for most of the day, when they were supposed to just be down for a night. Then, when they came up, it seems that Sony did not provide enough network bandwidth for the patching storm that ensued, so no one could patch (and thus, no one could play) until a crittical mass of players gave up and went to bed.
Worse, the patching program was intolerant of the network failures and would leave droppings that would prevent subsequent attempts to patch. I required 2 reboots, 5 file deletions and 2.5 hours to finally patch and run.
"So, how is it?!" you ask? Well, it's a whole lot better than it was, but it's really still not there yet. The graphics are actually disorienting because of their quality and the new hardware T&L acceleration from DX8. Turning around makes you feel like you live in the land of smooth scroll. The facial feature selection for humans is very nice, but for the Iksar (the lizard race), it's rather sketchy, and not much different from before. Horses are cheaper than some had suggested (8,000 platinum minimun). New models for summoned pets and other character-related models like "wolf form" are very slick. The new zones seem to stress their size quite a lot (it's hard to accept that humans would build on such a scale).
I've yet to see the new race, as I assumed that everyone would be starting those characters and the server would be quite slow in those zones.
There are some problems, though, and I think Verant should have held off on the release until they were finished. First is the much anticipated Bazaar zone, where players will be able to become merchants (to some degree which is not yet clear) and sell their goods automatically. This functionallity is off, and still being worked on.
Second, there appear to be a number of bugs. Teleportation while in the new zones was supposed to take characters to a central zone ("The Nexus") from which they could then teleport to their destination. (Currently, that's not the way it works: 10-20 seconds after teleporting, everyone in our party except for the person who teleported crashed to the desktop with no warning!)
There are some problems with spells. Someone pointed out to me that low-level wizard spells do not animate at all, so its hard to tell that your wizard is actually doing anything in a fight.
Overall, I'm going to give this release a 4 on a scale of 1 to 10. It's pretty and in a month, it will likely be the best MMORPG on the market, but again -- it's just not there yet. This release hurt a lot of players who didn't even want to buy the expansion yet.
Some key resources for those who are trying out Luclin are:
- The zone connection map on eqatlas.com.
- Also, Allakhazam is adding items and quests as fast as possible to keep up.
- Expect lots of news on Everlore and the Everquest Realm on castersrealm.com.