As EverQuest celebrates its 10th birthday this week, I thought I would take a look back at the game which changed my perception of what videogames could achieve.
Up until I took my first steps in Norrath, I was strictly a console RPG player – and I played a lot. From exploring the kingdom of Hyrule in Zelda: A Link to the Past, to delving deep into Square’s Final Fantasy series, I thought nothing of ploughing upwards of 50 hours into these deep and rewarding titles.
However, as magnificent as these games were, they all followed a familiar pattern, where the player was essentially led from one point to another to advance the story.
I had three friends who played EverQuest on PC, and I was intrigued by their passion and enthusiasm for the game – a game which didn’t follow a cookie-cutter storyline, and instead let the player create their own experiences in a rich and diverse world.
Social interaction was central to the experience, and by grouping with other players from around the world, previously inaccessible areas would open up, and memorable encounters would ensue. It might be the norm now thanks to the myriad of MMORPGs on the market, but back then, EverQuest’s style of play was a revelation to me.
It wasn’t until 2002 that I finally took the plunge, and thanks to the help of my hopelessly addicted EverQuest friends, my PC was built from scratch just so I could experience the wonders of Norrath first-hand.
After much deliberation, I chose to play as a Dwarf Paladin named Balderak on the Torvenillous server. Over the coming weeks, months and years, the world of Norrath became my second home.
It wasn’t just the exploration and discovery aspect which I found so compelling about EverQuest, but the social interaction within my guild, Twilight Brethren, which sealed the deal. It was a wonderful guild, full of lovely, helpful people from across the globe - people who would go out of their way to help a struggling beginner such as myself.
A full namecall here would be too much, but chief among these like-minded players were Tegout, Milliana, Atiyin, Morghana, Fedarov, Olympe, Sardaor, Mubadger, Rosi, Rabbie, Grippa, Mavis, Bellesin, Bereg, Gakrek, Sebbi, and Caminarra.
With our merry band of Brethren, we traversed the realm of Norrath and beyond: The dark, dank caverns of Lower Guk, the underwater ruins of Kedge Keep, the decrepit and deadly Estate of Unrest, and the haunted Castle Mistmoore were just some of the places we explored. Even the gods weren’t safe from our trusty band, with Norrath’s creators quaking in fear as Twilight Brethren ascended to the metaphysical planes they inhabited.
I seldom had the time to take part in organised raids, but I did manage to attend several memorable encounters, and fairly early in my EverQuest life, seeing the fearsome ice dragon Lady Vox in her frosty lair was a particular personal highlight.
I played EverQuest constantly for two and a half years until I left the game to explore EverQuest 2 and World of Warcraft. I have been back many times since to sneak a peek at what Sony Online Entertainment have added to the game. I sometimes even toy with the idea of going back full-time, although I truly believe I played EverQuest during a golden era and worry the old magic would no longer be there if I were to return.
However, I’m thrilled to see EverQuest still going strong and although I am no longer part of the community, the time I spent with Twilight Brethren - many of whom I still keep in touch with and many of whom are still playing! - will always remain special to me.
So here’s to another 10 years, EverQuest. Happy birthday.
Images courtesy of Sony Online Entertainment