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Everquest Online Adventures
Score: 86%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Sony Online Entertainment
Developer: Verant
Media: DVD/1
Players: Massively Multi-player

Graphics & Sound:
The graphics in Everquest Online Adventures may not be the best graphics to ever grace the PlayStation 2, but they look pretty good all the same. The visual effects employed during the casting of spells are especially nice. You can choose from two views, a third person 'follow cam' and a first person view. Each view has its uses; the first- person view is good for checking things out closely and taking careful steps, third-person view is better for everything else.

The sound effects in EQOA are excellent, creating a realistic and immersive soundscape. The music is nice, but scarce. There is music for the intro and for menu screens, and battle music (optional) when you are in battle. During most of your simple 'roaming around', there are just the ambient sounds of your environment. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as it tends to reinforce the realism of the game. If you've ever been out in nature, say in the woods or at a creek or such, you'll notice a strange lack of booming theme scores... funny that.

As this is a MMORPG, your gameplay will center around the development of your character. Before your character's adventures can begin to unfold, however, you'll have to create him or her. You get to choose from 10 races: Barbarian, Dark Elf, Dwarf, Elf, Erudite, Gnome, Halfling, Humans (Eastern and Western) and Troll. You can play as any of 14 different classes, each with their own requirements, advantages and disadvantages: Bard, Cleric, Druid, Enchanter, Magician, Monk, Necromancer, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue, Shadowknight, Shaman, Warrior and Wizard. Mind you, each race has its own set of classes that they can choose from. As for personalization, when you're creating your character, you get to choose from four different faces, four different hairstyles, four different hair lengths (bald, short, medium and long) and eight different hair colors, depending on race. Then, name your character (with a yet unused name) and choose a server to play on and 'voila!' you're ready to start adventuring!

As a new adventurer, you will begin your story (and your game) right where you need to be. Talking to the NPC characters in your vicinity and taking note of who they are will help you out quite a bit as you proceed. You will be assigned a (very) mundane task as your first quest. Don't worry, the quests will get a bit more intricate as the game goes on. The idea here is to get you used to how the game plays. (NOTE: If your first quest DOESN'T seem ridiculously easy, take a second look at it - you might be reading it wrong or you may have overlooked someone important in your area. The first quest is always ridiculously easy.)

Your early adventures will be simple quests indeed, interspersed with a bit of 'varmint' hunting - seems pest control is a much needed and lucrative enterprise in Norrath. Not only will you be building up your fighting skills and your experience, but you can loot the corpses of your fallen enemies and sell things such as bat wings, eyes of newt, etc. to merchants in town for a quick buck or two. Be forewarned - the further you venture from the relative safety of civilization, the more dangerous your enemies are likely to be. When in over your head, it's always best to have friends; there's safety in numbers, you know.

In addition to the run-of-the-mill slaying of mythical beasts and seeking rare treasures, there's now the extremely exciting ability to do day-to-day things such as fishing and jewelry making, with new trade skills in Everquest Online Adventures - introduced as an update to the game, you can now learn non-violent types of behavior and can advance through levels. This allows you to develop characters that aren't so 'one dimensional' and make them interesting - as well as give you something to do other than run around killing things.

The difficulty of Everquest Online Adventures, as with any MMORPG, depends a great deal on the patience of the player. Rushing off into dangerous areas before you're properly equipped will get you killed, while completing the simpler missions and 'leveling-up' before rushing head-long into a band of orcs will extend your life quite a bit. The real difficulty in Everquest Online Adventures lies in locating people of interest and finding your way around the world. It might be useful to consult the map in the book and draw a few maps of your own. Take note of the location of the non-playing characters as you run around. (They're the ones with a first and last name)...you never know when you might need to find someone you've seen before. If you pace yourself and just sort of explore the area and take your time, you'll find that EQOA can be reasonably easy to play. Additionally, joining a group and learning to work well with them will help your longevity quite a bit. That thing about 'safety in numbers' seems to carry over into MMORPGs.

One thing that will help to 'take it slow' is the trade skills that were introduced into EQOA. You can now learn to make jewelry or weapons, or learn to fish - the perfect things to pass some time while you're waiting to meet with some friends to embark on that next big quest - or to just make some money to buy better gear.

Game Mechanics:
This probably goes without saying, but your results with Everquest Online Adventures can vary quite a bit depending on your connection to the Internet. I tried it with a LAN connection at work and on a (very bad) dial-up connection as well, and the gameplay was much more enjoyable with the better connection. The dial-up would occasionally experience 'connection problems' that were sometimes corrected, and other times stopped my game.

The fact that the targeting system is used regardless of whether you wish to talk to a friend or attack an enemy can be confusing at times (even more so for casual spectators) and the menu systems are anything but intuitive. One thing that EQOA has shown, however, is that it is possible to have an online world in an MMORPG game on a console, and allow for the necessary updates to the game, saving the changes on a memory card. I was amazed to see that this was even possible without the use of a hard drive. The fact that the trade skills were recently introduced via the updates shows how much can be done without the need for a hard drive.

One strange aspect of EQOA is that your saved game must be played on the same PS2 unit it was created on. This means that if you want to take EQOA to a friend's house to show off your character, you'll have to bring your PS2 along with you. I found this out when I tried to play the game on my PS2 and got a message saying, 'The Everquest Online Adventures saved game data was created on another PlayStation2 and cannot be used on this console. Please use the original console, or delete the Everquest Online Adventures saved game data and try again.' (I have two PS2s and had tried to boot the game in the wrong one.) I can only assume this is a measure intended to keep gamers from selling characters or duplicating characters, but I would assume that this would cause problems for anyone with high level characters that have to replace their PS2 for whatever reason, be it theft, hardware failure, etc.

All-in-all, Everquest Online Adventures is a nice console rendition of Everquest; enjoyable, despite a few quirks.

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

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