They weren’t kidding when they called it EverQuest.
Iwas never much of an EverQuest player. Teenage me made the jump from Ultima Online to Asheron’s Call and then to Dark Age of Camelot, seemingly possessed by whatever gaming hipster streak also made me want a Dreamcast rather than a PlayStation. I remember EverQuest fondly even so: a giant of those strange, formative years of MMOs before World of Warcraft came along and dominated the genre.
EverQuest will be 20 years old next year, and it’s getting its 25th expansion. It has survived the death of almost all of its Sony Online Entertainment stablemates, including Star Wars Galaxies and Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. EverQuest Next
promised much but never came to be, and – hell – even SOE itself is no more, rebranded a few years ago as Daybreak. And yet EverQuest persists. It’s a game you can download and play right now.
Should you, though? I can think of two reasons why you might, and they’re both nostalgia. In the first case you’re looking at nostalgia for the kind of systems-heavy, granular, almost simulationist MMO that they just don’t make any more. EverQuest
formed the template for World of Warcraft but it’s more like its tabletop
contemporaries – that original cover art even has the feel of a D&D handbook. Its interface is ancient and there’s loads to learn, uninspiringly served through a bolted-on dungeon that serves as an extensive tutorial. Even so, there’s something appealing to me about EverQuest’s loftier ideas, like having to individually say hello to every NPC you meet. Post- WoW additions like a quest tracker feel like an outsider’s imposition – a blow against the original’s enthusiasm for pure roleplaying.
It is also possible that you’re nostalgic for this kind of world. EverQuest is a massive fantasy world unto itself, spanning multiple continents across several planes. It’s genuinely exciting to consider, and a little frightening to think that it’s all locked away in this aging game. It feels massive, too, in part thanks to an enthusiasm – particular to early ’00s MMOs – for rendering valleys and hillsides as vast monotextured bergs that emerge in yawning fashion from an aggressively truncated horizon. It feels impossible to fully return to EverQuest now, but there’s something to be said for taking a wander through these landscapes. I made a level one bard that looked a bit like David Bowie, escaped the tutorial into the wilderness, took off across a moor and was stung to death by level 20-something bees. It was great.
It feels impossible to fully return to EverQuest
EverQuest is free-to-play nowadays, and one of the earliest things you’re asked to kick in for is a level 85 character with a velociraptor to ride around on. The reason you’d do so is, ostensibly, in order to get access to the new stuff. I’m tempted, but not for that reason: at this point, I don’t really mind paying in order to take a tour of the old stuff.
The tin says ‘dragon people’, but I’m just seeing David Bowies.