Everquest Online Adventures PlayStation 2
by Sony Computer Entertainment America
Developed by SOE Inc
Released: Out Now
Price: £39.99 (30 days free then $9.99 per month)
With Sony being responsible for creating one of the most addictive online experiences on the PC and now having an online service for their hugely successful console, it was only a matter of time before we would see the two combine. Everquest has been a massive success on the PC and has many thousands of players who just can't get enough of it. Of course Sony now hopes that Everquest will be just as popular on the PlayStation 2 and with the amount of PlayStation 2 owners out there it certainly has a very good chance of being just as popular.
Your first actions after filling in your personal details to register, will be to create your character. You'll have a choice of 10 races including Barbarian, Elf, Dwarf, Halfling, Human and Troll. You'll also be given the chance to make adjustments to your characters face, facial hair, hair and hair colour. Once you've decided upon a race and whether to have a male or female character you have to choose a class. There are 14 classes in all including Bard, Cleric, Rogue and Wizard but your choice of class will be restricted by your choice of race. Your class and race will also determine your starting attributes although you'll be allowed to tweak those before finalising your character. In all you can create up to 8 characters so everyone in your household should be able to play (which can make the monthly subscription much more palatable).
After you've created your character you'll be placed in the game world (where exactly depends on the race of your character). The game offers a quick control tutorial and if it's your first time it's worth doing as it's only quick and teaches you the basics really quickly. You'll be given a few easy quests to do which will advance your character a few levels and get you used to more advanced functions such as buying and equipping items. You can do these as you see fit though and you are frequently given the chance to take a rest from them and go exploring. However it's advisable to do the quests first as they don't take long to do and allow you to improve your character without too much fuss.
Because of the limitations of the PlayStation 2 compared to a decent specification PC, the game is not identical to the PC Everquest games. Most of the changes have been to make the game easier to get into. There is no need to rest for instance. It's still a leveling up and quest till you drop game but it all seems so much more user friendly. The control scheme is very good. Enemies can be targeted (R1) and combat is performed by simply pressing the 'X' button. Pressing 'O' will cast spells or use your special abilities. There is also an auto-run feature for when you want to traverse those wide open spaces which is a nice touch and gives your thumb a rest from pushing the left analogue stick. As you would expect the right analogue stick controls the camera.
Lag is always a concern with an online only game and SOE obviously took this into account when deciding how detailed to make the Everquest world. The graphics on the whole look OK but nothing spectacular. The big plus though is that there wasn't any lag at all when I've played the game, which is very impressive. The game also seems to lack the irritating load times that so many PlayStation 2 games are plagued by. Indeed it seems that the graphical trade-off that SOE made to keep everything running smoothly was a stroke of genius. It's far better to have a game that looks OK and runs smooth than a game that looks fantastic and is constantly laggy.
You may be surprised to learn that there is no speech in Everquest Online Adventures. Voice communication isn't supported either. All conversations are in text only and as such the game is absolutely fine for deaf gamers. You can recall your current quest at any time too. What we can't emphasise enough though is that you'll need a USB keyboard to enjoy the text chat. We didn't have one and having to use the virtual keyboard that appears onscreen was simply a painful experience. There are certain questions and responses that you can access to may things a little easier but it's no good without a real keyboard. It takes far too long to type messages using a virtual keyboard. It's surprising to see that Sony hasn't bundled the game with a USB keyboard as it certainly would have proved an attractive bundle.
Everquest has been an unbelievable success on the PC and whilst this is a cut-down, simplified version that's appeared on the PlayStation 2 it is just as enjoyable and less off-putting to gamers who are not used to online RPG's. We played the game on a standard 512k ADSL connection and didn't experience any lag at all which was very impressive. The game comes with a free 30 day subscription and you'll need a credit card to play beyond that time (although no card details are asked for when you initially sign up). The game takes 3,000KB (almost half of your memory card) so make sure you have sufficient space on your memory card. At the time of writing, the game will cost around $9.99 a month to play after your initial 30 day 'free' period which presently works out at £5.80 so you'll also have to bear this in mind. That said it's an enjoyable game and if you can form a party with some friends, it's quite unlike any other game on the PlayStation 2.
Game Rating: 8.0/10
Everquest Online Adventures has the potential to be a really enjoyable game and succeeds in being an inviting title to online RPG newbies. Forming a good party and acquiring a USB keyboard are a must though.
There is no speech in the game and all information is in text. There is no voice chat either so all conversations are via text.