So, it's been 5 years since I played EQ2. After logging in, I find more changes than I can deal with. I've gone through 2 computers since playing EQ2 and have played a crap load of MMOs since. Here is my take on things from a returning EQ2 Vet. I’m not an expert and this certainly isn’t going to be a thorough review, think of it as a “Kaane Plays” video with my own opinions. I’ll be focusing on LOTRO, WoW and EQ2. I’ve played City of Heroes, Champions, Star Trek, DDO, Conan and many, many others but frankly, these three are at the top. EVE is really a different genre and not a good comparison. No SWTOR yet. I think it’s still very new and from what I have played more of a KOTOR with some multiplayer thrown in. It doesn’t feel like a MMO at all, personally. I only have a limited exposure so a good SWTOR review will have to be left to those avid players. I haven’t played Rift. Also, coming off a Skyrim High, sandbox exploration is rich in my mind. Anyway, I digress. On to EQ2!

Friends and Guilds
Before I left EQ2, I was in a high end semi raiding/social guild and we were doing a lot of high end content. I wouldn’t say we were the top guild, but we were in the top 10. Unfortunately, upon returning, I find the guild disbanded and no I remember online. From what I know of MMOs and guilds, it’s actually to be expected to see them gone by now. Guilds burn out fast and often. So, I don’t know anything about the end-game content and just grouping with my daughter (11) and my wife. I’ll focus on what I can.

New First Impressions
First, the FTP for EQ2 sucks. LOTRO is a lot better in this respect. With LOTRO, nothing is out of reach. You can grind out points to unlock anything and usually, stuff you’re killing anyway. With EQ2, it’s just not available. DDO has a nice model but there are simply some areas you can’t get to without buying them. If you are looking at it as a FTP game, don’t. It’s cool to try it, but not as a serious game. LOTRO is the game for you and dominates the FTP model with its setup and ability to gain points. SO…I just paid 16 bucks and renewed my subscription.

Logged in and lots of stuff to do. Still had my Monk but have with new starting zones and new races and classes and no clue what any power or AAs do, I restarted. Well, I took a low level Necro I had and ran her to the starting zone and mentored down with my daughter and started over. This was actually a good thing. Much of the new gear was enhancements to what I had. Not all, but a lot. Not to mention I got a mount when I finished the zone, which would have cost me large sums of money when I left. Not bad at all.

Housing is bigger. I actually like going back to my house. With the New Deities, I took my Necro over to worship Bertox and his diseases and got an alter I could put in my house. I evil’d it up and now have a place to donate goods for various useful powers and such.

Researching and Spells
When I left, the only way to get master powers were to find them or have someone make them. Which meant lots of money. Now, you can just research them which take real time. Usually hours. Reminds me of training skills in EVE. These continue to run even when you are offline. I also turned off my XP while I work on AA and learn things and Now I’m AA lvl 30 with 6 or so master spells. I’m still finding things I didn’t know about. I spend a few points (50.. you get 500 for a subscription) to instantly level up a few skills. Not too shabby.

Legends of Norrath
I’ve wasted so much money on stupid cards trying to get loot for Warcraft. I don’t even play the card game! When logging into EQ2 for while I learn that Legends of Norrath is a card game built directly into the game. I have 60 unopened booster packs that I get to claim. That equaled about 10 loot cards. Two mounts, various pictures and house items, a cosmetic shield and gear and two cloaks. I was hoping to get this plagish mount that would have been great for my Necro, but alas, the luck of the draw netted me a lizard and a Rhino. Still haven’t played LON yet but my daughter wants to give it a shot. So far, still not out any additional money. It was here than I then learned you can have a cosmetic mount as well. So you want to keep that evil nightmare but want the abilities of the Rhino? Set the nightmare in the cosmetic slot. Nice.

Vet Rewards and Claims
Holy crap there is so much stuff to claim as a veteran. Bags, house items, xp potions, house gear, there was even a flying mount in there. I stuck with a few bags and the SOW ring and placed what house items I could. In the end though, nothing game breaking but some nice to halves.

So, what does EQ2 have that others don’t? AS expected, age. It is an older game so that means there are LOTS of content. There is so much that it can be a bit overwhelming. Control wise, EQ2 is very robust. What EQ2 DOES have that others don’t is they have controls for just about everything under the sun including multiple key binding, macros, UI changes, custom UIs, maps, everything. An example, I was able to make a macro to do every gather, mine, harvest, chop wood, etc in one key and also map the key to target the nearest item for easy gathering. In fact, I say for setup and controls and UI, EQ2 really has the better options here. I will give LOTRO a big bonus though. I was able to easily setup a 360 controller and play LOTRO. EQ2 and WoW require outside programs and lots of custom work to get it going. But, if you going keyboard and mouse, EQ2 is top. Controller? LOTRO is definitely better. Running in a window and alt tabbing is extremely easy and smooth. EQ2 has the best options here I’ve seen in any other game for ease of use and configurability.

EQ has a nice cosmetic option now. What I mean is the ability to equip that awesome watermelon colored helmet but keep the low level but awesome looking dragon bone helmet. LOTRO has more cosmetic options but EQ has more cosmetic stuff. EQ2 also has a cosmetic mount option. WoW still doesn’t compare in this area and just falls short. If I want to run around in a chef’s hat and apron, wielding a frying pan and while tanking Trakanon, I want to be able to do it, dammit! You can do that, apparently.

Got to 21 Tailor. Tradeskilling is a bit more of a grind than other games. After running a Minecraft and Terraria server, those games really spoil you on crafting junk. But anyway, the minigame for tradeskills make it a bit interesting, but it gets old…quick. I spent enough of a day trade skilling to get pissed at it a few times. Which is good to a point in that I cared enough about it to be mad when I got a critical failure. I noticed that some of the AAs are geared at just tradeskilling and mount level requirements are for Tradeskill OR adventure. There are a number of quest just for tradeskillers along with rush quests and order you can complete for xp and skillups. In the end, I like LOTROs tradeskills the best. Some of the Highend bows I made for my hunter in LOTRO felt a lot more … like I’ve accomplished something. WoW tradeskilling is an afterthought and I maxed out several skills in that. So, I’d say LOTRO is my personal favorite, then EQ2, then WoW. EQ now has tinkering and Adornments which I’m only scratch the surface off. These are secondary unlike Warcraft where it’s a main tradeskill. From what I can see, high-end stuff looks rather useful.

Quests in LOTRO and WoW are a bit more enthusiastic and have a bit more rewarding experience, but EQ2 I feel had more danger. (Oh yeah, don’t test your AOE spells in town next to guards). Since I’ve been playing the crap out of Skyrim lately, my inclination to just explore and find something catered well to the environment of EQ2. There were a few areas where I didn’t have any reason to be there, but found my self exploring only to find a named mob to kill. (So far, every named mob I come across drops a chest, even if they are for a quest or not). There are a large number of areas that are at the same level so it is easy to bypass content if you choose. With so many XP bonuses (Vets even get a 20% bonus for each character at max level, or at least I do). I read about ChronoMentoring where you can force yourself down to a level if you choose and you don’t need anyone else. This way you can get the drops of zones you missed on your high level character. EQ2 and LOTRO have more content that you just want to wander and discover. WoW seems very linear, like you are guided to where you need to go and what you need to do. EQ2 has more areas than LOTRO but LOTRO has a bit more drama. This is a tough balance so I’m going to say each has its own merit. EQ2 is more vast with content almost everywhere, WoW is a little more controlled in progression but richer experience, LOTRO is the most rewarding visually. I’m going to say it’s a tie here as I can’t really put one over the other.

Other Observations
Interestingly enough, I started a Deathknight Rotonga with some of the LON gear I found (Rhino mount, dragon shield and arm bands) and ran him to New Halas starting area and will be starting there with wife and kid. I had little problem too, so while New Halas isn’t on the list for starting areas for the class, I had no problem getting there and everyone still be nice and friendly with the starting quest available. In LOTRO, you can’t redo another starting zone, but once you are through the intro quest, you can move to another area. In Warcraft, you can run to another area, but not if you are of opposing faction. I don’t think this is a major selling point but nice that it was an option. I wonder if I can even be a Deathknight for Mithaniel Marr? Now that is just craziness. Now I have to try.

Final Opinion
I’m surprised (and yet not) that EQ2 isn’t more popular. It definitely has its marks. Unfortunately, in a generation of instant gratification and flashiness, it’s showing its age. It still got it where it counts though. Population is definitely down and appears to be more mature based on first impressions. My daughter is not as impressed initially as she was with WoW. (again, she’s 11). As a business model, I’d definitely make another WoW clone than an EQ clone. That’s just were the money is. As a personal option though, EQ2 definitely has it where it’s at, along with nostalgia from my EQ days.

I hope you found this entertaining my monkly friends. EQ2 is still a viable MMO and sports a decent population and more content than you can shake a stick at.