When EverQuest was first released for the PC in 1999, few could have anticipated that the game would be as influential as it has been. Though by no means the first massively multiplayer online role-playing game, EverQuest featured a much bigger world and much better graphics than any such game before it, plus a huge variety of selectable character races and classes, and these elements drew in players by the thousands. They then became addicted to EverQuest's unique style of gameplay, which essentially boils down to venturing out and hunting monsters in groups, earning experience points, and finding loot. The stronger their characters would get, the greater the challenges players could then take on. EverQuest has been a resounding success, so it's little wonder that Sony has sought to bring this popular franchise to the PlayStation 2 in the form of EverQuest Online Adventures, an original game that's like a distilled version of EverQuest for the PC. EverQuest Online Adventures doesn't look nearly as good today as its predecessor did in '99, and it can be time-consuming to a fault, just like many other games of this sort. But it does offer the same sort of addictive gameplay that's kept people playing EverQuest for years.
EverQuest Online Adventures lets you create your own fantasy character from a combination of nine races and 13 classes.
EverQuest Online Adventures is not for everyone. Other games are available for the PlayStation 2 that support online play, but EverQuest Online Adventures has no offline mode whatsoever, meaning you need an Internet connection (a high-speed connection, ideally) and the PS2 Network Adapter in order to play it. The game retails for a full $49, requires at least 3MB of space on your memory card, and costs about $10 a month after the initial 30-day free trial. Of course, a big part of the appeal is that there's enough to EverQuest Online Adventures to keep you playing for more than a month, whereas you could finish most other PS2 games in much less than that. Besides just experimenting with various combinations of the nine different character races and 13 different classes, you can commit yourself to building up your characters into extremely powerful, self-sufficient adventurers capable of roaming the vast, dangerous continent of Tunaria without fear. At any rate, EverQuest Online Adventures is a very time-consuming game, one that is not at all conducive to quick gameplay sessions, but instead one that effectively rewards you for hunkering down and playing for hours on end. Even the process of simply getting into the game--the point from when you power on your PS2 to the point when you actually see your character in Tunaria--takes a number of minutes, as you're forced to sit through multiple loading screens, a mandatory end-user license agreement that needs to be accepted each time you play the game, memory card checks, server checks, news messages, and more. As much as Sony might not want to admit it, this is definitely not casual gaming.
The first time you play, you'll also have to set up your account (a relatively simple process, like any online transaction these days), choose a server to play on, and create your first character. Not every race can be every class--for instance, trolls can only be warriors, shadow knights, and shamans. Besides choosing your race and class combination, you also choose your character's gender, customize its appearance (only a small number of faces and hair styles are available for each one), and add a few bonus points to its core attributes, like strength and intelligence. Then you name your character and you're set. One of the inherent problems in the original EverQuest, and a problem that was carried over to EverQuest Online Adventures, is that this very first decision of yours--what sort of character to be--will largely govern your entire gameplay experience thereafter.
That's because there's not much you can do to really personalize your character once you've created him or her. Gaining experience levels awards you with bonus points that you can use to bolster your stats, but there's generally a best way to develop each type of character, and the sorts of special abilities and equipment you can use are determined by your level and your race-class combination. For what it's worth, the classes are all somewhat self-sufficient and have a good number of different special abilities or spells available to them. You'll probably find yourself envying some of the other classes' abilities--such as the druid's speed-enhancing spells or maybe the necromancer's skeletal pets--but that's how the game encourages you to team up with other players.
There's some questing to be done, but the gameplay revolves much more heavily around just venturing out and killing stuff.
Grouping with other players has always been a focus of the original EverQuest, as none of its character classes are completely self-reliant. Warriors need healers to heal their wounds, casters need melee classes to soak up damage for them, and so on. EverQuest Online Adventures also rewards players for teaming up (in groups of up to four), though most classes can also gain experience slowly and steadily by fighting weaker monsters solo. Actually meeting strangers and teaming up with them won't necessarily be easy, however. It's possible to see a list of all player characters in the vicinity, and to broadcast your wishes to join a hunting party, but new players will likely have a tough time finding traveling companions. Nonetheless, much like in the original EverQuest, establishing a social network is really the key to success in EverQuest Online Adventures. Unsurprisingly, the players who are already far ahead in the game--that is, their characters are of the highest level--are the ones who beta tested it before its release, and already knew who their friends were on the day the game shipped.
EverQuest Online Adventures may be a console game, but you could probably tell it was based on a PC game even if you'd never seen the original EverQuest. The designers did as good a job as can be expected of mapping tons of different functions to the Dual Shock 2 pad, including numerous chat macros. But to get the most out of the game, you'll need to plug in a USB keyboard so you can freely communicate with other players around you. If you're hoping to actually role-play as a fantasy character, you might want to think twice--most players speak out of character, so you'll probably come off looking crazy if you use a lot of "thees" and "thous" in your speech. Either way, good communication, both for finding groups and for quickly relaying messages during battle, is essential in the game, and the chat macros just don't cut it. Sure, you can just go around on your own, largely ignoring the social element of the game, but then you'll find EverQuest Online Adventures to be a very, very lonely place. There's a lot of running from point A to point B and a lot of repetitive combat that's not nearly as interesting solo as it is in groups.
This game doesn't lend itself to quick sessions. You'll need to set aside a few hours to make any progress in EverQuest Online Adventures.