Revisiting the Original EverQuest

If you ever wondered what it would be like to play the original EverQuest in 2018 without two decades’ worth of updates and expansions, this PC Gamer article should be right up your alley. It offers a retrospective look at vintage EverQuest thanks to its Coirnav progression server that allows you to play the noteworthy MMORPG as if it was 1999 all over again. An excerpt:

I spent my first half-hour in a vintage, vanilla EverQuest server running around in circles. From what I gleaned from the fine-print lore at the character select screen, I playing as an Erudite—a race of narrow-faced magicians who spent most of their time in the dusty libraries around Norrath. My newly-birthed character spawned in with no fanfare in a tiny alcove high atop an alabaster palace, staring down a vendor, a guildmaster, and a mentor in the arcane arts. I exited through the backdoor with absolutely no idea what to do next.

I have met a number of videogame cities in my life, but I’ve never encountered one more cheerfully unnavigable than Erudin. As my poor mage opened up every door, he stumbled into auction houses, and banks, and dead ends. He jumped up and down in the static crystal fountains. He desperately double-clicked every NPC he could find in a faint hope of uncovering a quest, or at least a thread leading to one. Eventually I alt-tabbed out, found a genial YouTube video, and discovered a crystal platform that teleported me outside. “Oh, so this is the EverQuest I’ve heard so much about,” I thought.


It’s hard to think of a triple-A game that hasn’t been saddled with a long, doting tutorial, extremely forgiving respawns, or hell, a microtransaction functionality to skip all the grinding. But in the past couple of years, that pendulum has swung the other way. Look at Monster Hunter and Yakuza—both deeply abstruse franchises that have also somehow produced two of the most hyped game of 2018. Look at Dark Souls and Bloodborne, which proved that there was still a market for failure and frustration, and teasing players with only the faintest hints and implications.

That’s essentially the same thing EverQuest was doing back in 1999, although obviously back then its opacity wasn’t a response to a recently emerging trend. Clearly, people are feeling that call, when you consider that we’re in the midst of a mini-boom of hardcore MMOs with Chronicles of Elyria, Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen, and Camelot Unchained. Studios around the world are remembering the enchantment that can only be created through authentic discovery.

I’m glad I gave EverQuest a shot, and I’m glad that this world can exist with all its thorniness intact. I used to laugh at the grognards that bemoaned World of Warcraft for the olive branch it offered to casual audiences. For the first time ever, I can kinda see their point.

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Val Hull
Val Hull

Resident role-playing RPG game expert. Knows where trolls and paladins come from. You must fight for your right to gather your party before venturing forth.

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