Sony Online Entertainment's extremely popular and influential online role-playing game, EverQuest, strongly influenced this year's EverQuest Online Adventures, which debuted on the PlayStation 2 early this year. Though the original PC version of EverQuest launched way back in 1999, SOE has continued to expand that game through occasional free content downloads, as well as through a series of retail expansion packs, which added new areas to the game's vast world of Norrath, in addition to new character races, new abilities, and more. The recently released EverQuest Online Adventures: Frontiers brings this expansion-pack model to consoles. It's a stand-alone expanded, enhanced version of the original EQOA, and it's an opportunity for those who didn't try the game already to give it a shot. However, most of the new content in Frontiers is really only suited to the game's hardcore players, since it raises the ceiling on how powerful they can make their characters and gives them new high-level areas to explore. New players will immediately find in Frontiers a new race and character class, as well as some slightly improved visuals, but this expansion is still best-suited to those already addicted to EQOA.
Frontiers is a stand-alone expansion pack that's offered mostly for the benefit of dedicated EverQuest Online Adventures fans.
Frontiers, like its predecessor, requires a network adapter, as there's no offline mode whatsoever, and, realistically, you'll also need a USB-compatible keyboard to communicate with other players. The game controls fine using a gamepad, and some chat shortcuts are available but certainly aren't enough to coordinate or communicate with a group of players. Moreover, unless you're willing to pay a monthly fee and are willing to invest many, many hours into learning the lay of the land, by looking for other players in the relatively sparsely populated world of the game and leveling up your character through countless, repetitive--though fast-paced--battles, then neither EQOA nor the Frontiers expansion pack is for you.
Without changing any of the fundamentals of EQOA, the expansion pack adds an appreciable amount of new content, in the form of a new character race, the ogre; a new character class, the alchemist; a higher level cap for high-level characters, who can now advance from level 50 up to 60; a new class mastery system, which allows high-level characters to differentiate themselves with special bonuses, unique skills, and abilities; and lots of new places to explore, between the newly added continent of Odus and the dangerous Plane of Sky. There are also lots of new items, monsters, spells, and other content to be found in Frontiers. Again, though, unless you've already (or until you've) invested dozens of hours into the game, you're unlikely to get to see or appreciate most of these additions.
Whether the time investment is worth it is questionable. Sure, there are no other such games currently available for the PlayStation 2, but in reality, Frontiers is competing in the long-since-oversaturated massively multiplayer RPG market on the PC. In fact, it's not so surprising that many hardcore EQOA players happen to be refugees of the original EverQuest, who looked to this new game for a chance to quickly excel within a world relatively unfettered by extremely experienced players. EQOA does attempt to tailor itself to a console-game-playing audience, and in so doing, it has some real advantages over other online RPGs. Namely, it features much faster action than EverQuest, and there's less downtime between battles. But, beyond the relative comparison, it's still a much more time-consuming, much more repetitive game than even the average console RPG. And, since EQOA--even with the graphical enhancements featured in Frontiers--really isn't much to look at, all that time spent staring at the lackluster graphics and typing at other player characters, won't necessarily translate into a good experience. It's too bad that EQOA doesn't support USB headsets for verbal communication between players.