EverQuest: Ruins of Kunark Review

For PC

By Contributing Writer Rob Pecknold

Rating: Average
   Ah, EverQuest.  The scourge of the online RPG world.  Go into any 
Asheron's Call game server (easier said than done with all the bugs and 
crashes lately) and ask someone about EverQuest, and the likely response 
is, "Don't mention EverQuest!  Too much EverQuest!  Need pills..." before 
they start convulsing and fall into the fetal position.  It's almost as if 
Asheron's Call is the 12-step program for addicts coming straight out of 
EverQuest, or as many people call it, EverCrack.  Sure, EverCrack doesn't 
rhyme with EverQuest, thus defeating the purpose of the pun, but it's
pretty accurate.  I've heard of people playing EverQuest for upwards of 90 
hours straight.  
   But it's not sad and uncomfortable-sounding tales of gaming obsession 
you came looking for. You want a review, so I'll be blunt.  I wasn't as 
impressed with EverQuest: Ruins of Kunark as I thought I would be.  I don't 
understand the basis of all the praise that EverQuest has received.  Sure, 
it's a huge virtual world filled to the brim with quests and clever area 
names, but I just don't find it that fun for a variety of reasons.  By the 
way, this isn't just a review of the new features found in the Ruins of 
Kunark expansion pack.  This is a review of the world of EverQuest as a 
whole, including the expansion pack.
   I had problems as soon as I brought the game home.  To play in the new 
Kunark continent that I thought was included in this version of the game, 
I had to download the entire area, resulting in at least 20 minutes of 
waiting before I could actually play.  Keep in mind the fact that I'm 
reviewing the game on a 56K modem, the way most of America will play it.  
After all the downloading was finished, my first character was a troll 
named Britneyspears.  Yeah, I know the name is fitting, but the character 
never went anywhere because the game was too confusing at first.  I'm 
accustomed to the friendly, Microsoft-influenced interface of Asheron's 
Call, so I was thrown for a loop by EverQuest's cold, impersonal interface.  
After a while, I got so frustrated that I would intentionally drown 
Britneyspears or throw her off a cliff and then say, "Oops!  I did it 
   It wasn't until I discovered EverQuest's offline tutorial that I could 
actually do something in the game (with a different character that I 
eventually created).  The tutorial is laid out impeccably well and is very 
informative.  It covers every major aspect of playing the game, and it made 
me feel like I could hold my own in the full game world.  After reading the 
tutorial, I was still blind as a virtual Stevie Wonder, but I managed to 
make my way out of a giant city and into an area called The Field of Bone.
   I experienced many crashes, bugs, and lock-ups while playing this game, 
especially when playing as one of the new Iksar (or lizardman) characters.  
Maybe that's just a coincidence, or maybe Verant rushed Ruins of Kunark out 
the door to meet a deadline.  Whatever the case, I found it much easier to 
play as something other than an Iksar.
   Even with all of this game's crashes and bugs, I still have to give it 
credit for having some pretty damn impressive graphics.  The new Kunark 
continent looks particularly good.  Verant pumped up the polygon-count 
considerably on this continent, and it shows.  This game looks just as good 
as Ultima 9, which is kind of sad when you consider that Ultima 9 is a 
single-player game and Ruins of Kunark's graphics were rendered over a 56K 
modem.  This means that either Verant has some of the best texture artists 
in the industry, or Origin is just really bad at creating graphics engines.
   Ruins of Kunark really shines in its spell effects.  I can't begin to 
imagine how much work must have been done to make the spell effects look as 
good as they do.  Even the most basic spells have elaborate particle 
effects that look just plain amazing.  Not amazing like the particle 
effects in Fantavision, but amazing nonetheless.  This game's character 
models are also much better-looking than those in Asheron's Call, but AC is
still number one in architecture.
   Okay, so the graphics are beyond great, but what about the sound?  Well, 
let's just say that you'll find more inspired music on the latest John Tesh 
CD.  (Damn!  Another missed opportunity to bash those annoying boy bands... 
ah, who cares?  That's getting old anyway, and Tesh is God-awful.)  There 
is no music in Asheron's Call; you can just pop in any tune you want.  In
EverQuest: Ruins of Kunark, I can't listen to Kenny Loggin's classic House 
at Pooh Corner without having the game's poor excuse for classical music 
playing in the background.
   I'm a strong believer in the town layouts found in Asheron's Call.  They 
have the bare necessities as far as shops go, plus wide-open spaces for 
social interaction (which is what online RPGs are all about).  EverQuest's 
towns are too big and confusing to be of any use beyond training... which 
leads me to my next point.  EverQuest's combat sucks.  Horribly.  You 
basically select your target and hit AutoAttack, and that's about it.  Even 
the magic system is a bit contrived.
   Other than the graphics and innovation quotient, I couldn't find much of 
anything in EverQuest that I thought was better than what you can find in 
Asheron's Call.  As a matter of fact, after cancelling my membership a 
while back, I have now re-subscribed to Asheron's Call.  Sometimes you 
don't realize how good a game is until you play its vastly inferior 
   I made the mistake of subscribing to EverQuest: Ruins of Kunark for 
three months, and I hope that you don't make the same mistake.  Sure, 
EverQuest is revolutionary, but it's not fun, at least not in my opinion.  
If you're looking for an online RPG, you should buy Asheron's Call or wait 
a year for Ultima Online 2.  EverQuest: Ruins of Kunark isn't worth your 
time or mine.

Send your thoughts on this review to rob@mastergamer.com

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