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EverQuest II: The Shadow Odyssey (PC) artwork

EverQuest II: The Shadow Odyssey (PC) review

"EverQuest II has fought hard to redeem itself from the hollow shell it once was, and it’s made this possible by dumping uncountable options right into the lap of the player. Returning players will find an extension of worth and new players have found a great tie to jump in. "

EverQuest II is the MMO world’s late bloomer, and its predecessor is almost fully to blame for this. Upon initial release, it was bland, limited and claustrophobic -- everything the original wasn’t, but wrapped up in prettier graphics. This made a slow, arduous trek for Sony to turn their landmark MMO around, which, to their credit, they achieved through add-ons and extensions that ground out graphically-updated but very limited original landscapes to spectacular versions of the near-boundless realms the first version boasted, and they did away with the crippling simplicity of your character build and the suppressing lack of races. The selection of races swelled (now up to a staggering nineteen), their classes multiplied like bacteria (the good kind the television says promote a healthy stomach) and the online world bloomed in both size and population.

Shadow Odyssey is the newest expansion, so the obligatory list of new features needs to be delivered with the subtlety of a well-aimed half-brick. Your achievement cap has been nudged up to 200, there’s twenty new zones to explore and eighteen new dungeons to delve into, some completely original and others containing the welcome trait of reinventing stages of yore. A legendary group wanders around with powerful armour and weaponry, willing to trade should you take the time to track them down as well as a smattering of new side missions and a new epic quest that sees you retrace the steps of a group of warriors who once saved Norrath from the invading Shadowmen who’ve decided that expansion #7 is the perfect time to attempt occupation once more.

There are new bear mounts, the ability to rack up fantasy air-miles and even a few new Deities thrown in for good measure. My favourite new addition is the Dungeon Delving, something that makes old, conquered dungeons relevant again by restocking them with shiny new content. Of course, for those of you coming in new to EverQuest II at this stage, all this is gibberish, so we’ll start from scratch.

Build your character from the bare bones and, several days later when you’ve tinkered with the huge skill branches, race and alignment settings, and you’ll find yourself in a small settlement that may as well be called Tutorialville. You spend a while doing simplistic quests while the game gently walks you through everything from hardcore slugfests to trading in manageable chunks. There’s the usual fantasy garb to be found, ones that can offer stat boosts, armour buffs and a fly pimpin’ look, yo. You’re never taxed, never asked to fall into a headlong sprint before you can crawl and never find yourself up against opposition several power stages above your meagre level. By the time you’re ready to leave Tutorialville, you’ve absorbed all you need to know then get horrendously lost in the mammoth world EverQuest II gleefully shoves you out into. It would be sink or swim had the game not previously and lovingly produced water-wings and strapped them to your puny arms. You find yourself in a town linked in to the race you chose, and you’ll spend an eternity wandering around trying to find your way through market stalls, shops and inns.

Then, after a few hours of soaking in your first major town, you’ll be one of the guys -- you‘ll probably even understand at least half of the second paragraph by now. Join a team and go gut some dungeons or take onboard some of the solo quests to improve your character’s worth first. The options are nigh limitless, the adventures unending and infinite and the world always open to further exploration.

Players new and old can take up the charge to reclaim a cursed sword rumoured to be at the heart of a curious village co-inhabited by both vampires and werewolves, eventually finding themselves in the possessed, macabre, dilapidated fort, Befallen, where history’s tragedies are replayed in front of the eyes of a new crown of demonic villains that call the crumbling castle home. Brave through the arctic winds of Everfrost and meet its unique inhabitants, or even put them to the sword. Or axe. Or gushing stream of mana-filled magma. At least they’d be warm for a change.

EverQuest II has fought hard to redeem itself from the hollow shell it once was, and it’s made this possible by dumping uncountable options right into the lap of the player. Returning players will find an extension of worth and new players have found a great tie to jump in.

EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (January 14, 2009)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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