EverQuest was initially released way back in the hopeful pre-millenium bug era of 1999, when the MMO genre was still gaining in popularity thanks to 1997’s Ultima Online. EverQuest was one of the first commercial forays into three dimensions and is still getting expansions to this day. In fact the 25th expansion, The Burning Lands, came out just a few months ago in December 2018.
Looking at EverQuest today it’s interesting how little MMO design has changed, it uses the now familiar trinity of classes: So-called tanks, classes who can soak up damage and keep monster focus (or Aggro), damage dealers that are typically a bit more squishy than the tanks but make up for it with higher damage output, and finally support classes that focus on healing or otherwise enhancing other aspects in a group situation.
Other things you take for granted are also here. Gaining spells and abilities from levelling up, guilds, dungeons and raids were all around in some form with a lot of the original design evolving from text-based MUDs (Multi-User Dungeons), especially one known as DikuMUD that the team played before development on EverQuest spun up.
Even today this evolution from prose heavy games is evident in how important character dialogue is, typing in chat and clicking keywords in NPC chatter in a manner not dissimilar to The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind is a major part of interacting with the world. This interaction isn’t just limited to chatting with characters either, the game does very little to hold your hand with little in the way of navigation markers or the like.
For the most part if you have to go somewhere you’ll have to read the quest for hints and look at your map or around the world to figure that out. There are no glowing quest markers on a compass to guide you although concessions have been made with a find feature that helps you get to specific NPCs. It’s commendable that the game hasn’t really caved to modernity, with no real retro-fitting of modern features into the game.
That does mean playing EverQuest in 2019 can be a polarising experience for those without those nostalgia goggles firmly in place. It is distinctly old-school in that you are expected to grind, a lot of quests adhere to the “Kill X of Y” trope as you’d probably expect from the era and combat, especially early on, is extremely basic and dull. It doesn’t have the most engaging tutorial either, which could definitely turn you off even if you are optimistic going in.
If the thought of playing something that doesn’t hold your hand and isn’t afraid to be difficult sounds exciting to you though, and you can get past the late 90s visuals and clunky interface, then there is a lot of game to keep you going here, with hundreds of zones and content to sink time into. It doesn’t hurt that in general the player base is a friendly, helpful bunch and are responsive to questions in chat from my experience.
The fact that the game is still financially viable for Daybreak as they keep producing expansions is a positive one and we can only hope that EverQuest is still around to celebrate another 20 years. As one of modern MMO’s grandparents, it’s nice to see the game still in good health, even if it’s not as perky as it once was.
EverQuest is available in free to play form (with optional subscription tier for extra perks) on Steam so you don’t really have anything to lose from trying it out.