EQ2: You Put a Spell on Me, Maybe
I have never really understood why so many people find the character models of EQ2 so displeasing. (The original launch models, not the SOGA models they added in later, which in my own opinion are truly awful in design.) Particularly with the evil races or non-humanoid races, I have always thought the models pretty brilliant. The kerra, iksar, ratonga, trolls, ogres and the frogloks are all amazing to look at and in some cases — like a froglok monk — animated quite well. Ever see a ratonga run by, at close range? Their tails and stride are really great. Same for sarnak with their big floppy feet and itty bitty hands, and their crouched hustle. Even fae/arasai are quite unique and offer a lot of customization options. The “monster” races in general get all kinds of goodies like textures for wings, fur, scales, colors, patterns, eyes, horns, etc. All very cool stuff.
I will grant that some races, like humans, high elves, and in particular wood elves, seem somewhat off. I have to say that wood elf males look particularly terrible, if I’m being honest. Human females look rather simple. High elves and dark elves are OK if designed right but can look freakishly strange around the eyes if the face isn’t just-so.
As for animations, I can see why some things, like sword swinging, casting, and other combat are cited as repetitive and boring. But really, they are repetitive and boring in every MMO, new or old. However, some EQ2 emotes are actually quite complex and done really well — you simply never see them unless you go through the emote list. Combat animations aren’t up to par with a modern game like GW2 or SWTOR, no, but then again, the game IS 8 years old. TTobey is actually very present on the forums and responsive to a lot of player queries, so I don’t think it’s a matter of not wanting to change some of them — it’s probably a matter of not having the time and having other priorities more important.
One thing I have always understood about EQ2 though is that it can look VASTLY different depending on what settings you play with — anything above Very High Quality looks fairly amazing, and anything below that looks pretty bland. This includes even limiting animation frames and the distance at which you see other effects to the point where players may not realize what the game CAN look like on higher settings, and so assume it always looks terrible like they have been used to … over the years I’ve taken many screenshots, none of which are edited, and I’ve posted them in various places, and every so often I get a comment “Wow, my game never looks that good, what did you do?” — and it’s only because I am running it on higher settings. 4 years ago it was almost impossible, but on a modern machine the game runs fine on high settings. There are also special effects, like distance blurring, flora, and atmospheric bloom that make a huge difference, and of course, using your video card to increase the anti-aliasing and equally important anisotropic filtering can make the game truly pop.
All that being said, EQ2 is the game I always come back to — although I never leave it for very long. The variety of races and classes is hugely appealing. The world is so massive that you can truly forge your own progression path through it, something I love to do — going to Nektulos instead of BBM, to Everfrost instead of Steamfont, playing different Kunark zones each play-through, going to the Moors instead of Odus, etc. — choosing which zones you might want to visit, or just traveling SOEs predefined path.
I do miss the old-school trappings. I do wish it was a little more difficult, required grouping a little more at lower level dungeons, and discouraged the mass-pulling / rushing through dungeons that it does, in general. I know all of that is at the end-game, and no one wants to run old content, but I think a lot of the game’s early dungeons are so little utilized and could be really great with some adjustments to challenge and mob populations. Stormhold is still awesome, but I mostly go there for nostalgia — it would be nice to go there to actually quest and crawl for hours with a group. Wishful thinking when there is new content to put out every year and every few months and resources are limited — but it might draw more players in if they did in fact pay more attention to the earlier areas of the game. Like Antonica and the Commonlands which are basically not used except by vets, and now no longer have any relation to the revamped cities except a few quests, since you can no longer start in the cities.
I’ve tried a lot of other games over the years, and always end up comparing them all to EQ2. There are lots of other fun, great games that fill my heart containers: Conan, Rift, The Secret World, even Warcraft and Star Wars, for different reasons. I’ve debated with myself whether it’s only because EQ2 was my first foray into gaming, and I’ve mentioned that fact from time to time when I pine for the days gone-by and wax nostalgic like an old man. Yes, much has changed. There is much I don’t like about not only EQ2 but about the current state of gaming and MMOs, in general. I suppose it’s the same way my father felt when he used to take me to Toys ‘R Us as a child and comment, “Gee, things sure have changed since I was your age” with a grim expression and a none-too-certain look on his face. It’s not that I don’t like the modern convenience, one-stop-shop, super-gloss look and feel of newer MMOs, or the business theories and practices behind them, but nothing ever stacks up to the memories in my head. When all is said and done, though, I generally think EQ2 is one of the best MMOs I’ve played, new or old. I often wonder — if I could start this game in present day, if I had never played any MMOs and EQ2 in 2013 was my first foray — would it feel the same? Would it hold the same power? I’ll never know, but I’m starting to realize as each year passes that perhaps I need to simply stop analyzing these games so much and remember to just HAVE FUN.