Everquest 2 has been around a long time; it has grown a lot since launch and represents, to new players like me, an incredible amount of content to play through. One aspect to the game that surprised me from the beginning was the quality of the questing experience.
I’d argue that it is one of the best games around for telling stories through questing; even if you are doing the standard sort of tasks (kill things, fetch things, click things), it doesn’t feel mundane. How does EQ2 achieve this, in my totally subjective opinion? I think the secret is that the quests are treated with care and attention to detail. They are rarely treated as a simple “Kill 10 Rats work order” as they are in more modern MMOs (Rift and Tera are both guilty of busy mode questing sometimes).
Most of the quests in the Steamfont Mountains, home to a rather tragic group of gnomes, are good examples of my point. The area has humour and pathos in equal doses, and the quests are usually multi-stage affairs that take you back and forth across the zone. There are always other quests that you can do to get good synergies for extra experience or money as well (such as the city task quests or lore and legend quests). Unlike WoW’s quest hub model, whereby lots of NPCs give you a bunch of single-task quests; EQ2 seems to focus more on a smaller number of NPCs that give you related quests that invariably have multiple follow ups.
There are often subtle changes surrounding the stages of a quest arc, which are used to
great effect if you notice them. It’s a bit more subtle than WoW’s more recent phasing technology – generally the differences are in the attitude or dialog of the NPCs around you. Quite a few quests have a nice surprise, dialogue or comic moment to reward you for completing the whole series, and of course the ever-present housing system means there are plenty of opportunities for collecting memorabilia from a quest for your dwelling.
This is all rather subjective of course. I could certainly give screenshot filled examples from SWTOR or WoW that illustrate equally good examples of questing from those games. But somehow I feel that EQ2 generally excels at setting the general quality of questing higher than the norm through this attention to details. It keeps you well immersed in the world of Norrath by presenting that world as you quest. As a side note the “quest helper” system is used sparingly in the game, unlike in WoW or SWTOR, you will often have to find objectives by listening to dialogue, reading clues in the quest text or in-game texts (like the manual pictured above) or by just searching around in-game. This at least makes it optionally possible to work out the details for yourself rather than the solution being invariably highlighted on the minimap with coloured spots and a directional arrow.
As a postscript to this post, I will note for balance that EQ2′s quests are “click heavy”. Every dialogue with an NPC is a multi-click affair because they are conversations, not just quest text in a box. For some players this might be too laboured as it certainly reduces questing efficiency to have so many speech bubbles to read. I’d say this is a positive more than a negative though since the detailed NPC conversations are part of the charm of the questing design.