EverQuest’s release on the Pocket PC platform is peculiar, considering Sony’s affiliation with the Palm platform and the amount of money it is spending on promoting the CLIE line of handheld devices as multimedia centers. Yet here we have an official Sony Online Entertainment title with the publishing holder of the EverQuest franchise chartering Emodiv to create a Pocket PC title based on the EverQuest world of Norrath.
The developers, Emodiv, take a cartoon approach to the graphics. Your persona, for example, has a disproportionately large head compared to the body and the surroundings also suffer from some proportional discrepancies. But the graphics are very functional. They don’t promote eye strain and they are colorful and vibrant enough to depict the action properly on diminutive screens.
EverQuest was never known as a role playing title that featured a lot of genuine role playing. In the online gaming world, it finds itself similar to arcade action titles like Blizzard’s Diablo than the plot driven games from Bioware or the free-flowing universes like Bethesda’s Morrowind. Combat is unmistakably similar to the former. You develop a Druid, Magician, Warrior or Wizard primarily through the eradication of all offending creatures, which include Tolkien inspired creatures like orcs to the traditional D&D fare like the undead. They leave behind items and weapons and transform you into an increasingly powerful being. Up to twelve levels of experience can be obtained through the course of a game. The whole game is thinly wrapped with some quests and non-interactive dialogue. The depths for these come up far shy of classics like Planescape: Torment, Fallout or Morrowind – other titles that have had to commit resources to play their strengths in lieu of an online component.
Speaking of online connectivity, there is none in EverQuest for the Pocket PC. It is disconcerting, considering the well-developed online base Sony Online Entertainment has created through its station.sony.com chain of websites. I could easily imagine extra quests being released a plug-ins. Global rankings for characters and progress in the game are also missing as well as the ability to trade items, similar to what’s being done on the Game Boy Advance. The Pocket PC platform may not be able to handle the complexity of a persistent universe (although some have tried before), but EverQuest has always been a competition of sorts and in a solitary universe, other departments of the basic premise need shoring up to make it a complete title.
That’s not to say EverQuest is disappointing. Emodiv has done a respectable job for Sony Online Entertainment. Apparently this is the first of a three part trilogy, with the second portion, Attack on Qeynos already released. For a game of this size, EverQuest takes up a fair amount of space, a little over six megabytes. Further, the game runs on all Pocket PC 2002 devices, from the humble 206mhz StrongARMs to the latest XScale processors.
I actually lost a friend to the game of EverQuest. The world of Norrath was such a great escape for him that he literally disappeared into it whenever things in his real world nagged at him. Not paying rent, troubles at work, relationship problems seemingly disappeared with EverQuest. That type of appeal is a double edged sword. But it is one that has worked for millions of gamers who subscribe to EverQuest either through the PC or the Playstation 2. The Pocket PC version isn’t so immersive, partly because it lacks the horsepower and partly because the game loses some of its allure in a stand alone setting. Nevertheless, the mechanics and fundamentals that make EverQuest so popular – the acquisition of more abilities, spells and items, continue to be addictive.
This is most definitely a rare treat from Sony to the Pocket PC fans as it is really equivalent to Sony moving one of its marquee Playstation 2 mascots to the Xbox. Those charmed by this release will eagerly wait for the rest of the trilogy to be finished in 2003. And judging by how much mainstream attention EverQuest has gotten, those waiting will be many.
[09/10] Program Size
[12/15] Learning Curve