Having decided to give it another try, I bought EQ2 as digital download from Direct2Drive. The good news was that I just needed to buy one Echoes of Faydwer pack for $40 to receive the full game with all three expansions. I could even log into the game after entering the 20-digit code, so apparently a free month is also included. Not bad for that price. The less pleasant news was that the download was over 7 Gigabyte. I do have 6 MBit ADSL, but of course downloads over the atlantic are never that fast, so the download took something like 16 hours. I decided to buy EQ2 on Tuesday evening, by Wednesday evening I had it downloaded, and by the time I had it installed and patched etc. it was Wednesday late at night, so I haven't really played the game yet.
Thanks for all the advice on which server I should play, but most of these advised servers were US servers. Now if I ever want to find a group, I'd better play on a server in my own timezone. I do speak English, German, and French, but for ease of looking up things I usually prefer the English version, so I went for English (UK). So Everquest 2 presented me with the list of all English (UK) servers, and that was the point where I realized how badly SOE had lost against Blizzard in a fight that in November 2004 still looked like a duel of equals. There are only *2* English-language European servers for Everquest 2. World of Warcraft has 107 English-language European servers. Yes, I know, number of servers isn't strictly linear with number of subscribers, the EQ2 servers could have a higher population. But the difference still is striking.
With only two servers, I wasn't even presented with a choice of PvP or PvE servers, nor servers with or without Station Exchange. The two possible servers seemed to be totally identical. Only that one of them still had the three characters I created in November 2004. Guess where I went! Okay, my highest level character there is just level 16, but if I remember correctly EQ2 has something like shared bank slots, and one of my characters was a carpenter making quite useful boxes for storage.
So I move to the character creation. Now you must remember that part of my reason to retry EQ2 is nostalgia for the classic Everquest I played from 2000 to 2001. And in EQ1 my main was a wood-elf druid. So now in EQ2 I made another wood-elf druid of the same name. Well, actually it's a warden, a druid sub-class. I was actually surprised I was able to choose a class. When I played EQ2 last, I started without a character class at all, then got to chose between 4 basic archetypes on the tutorial island, and a class at level 10. I never made it to level 20, where I would have chosen my sub-class. All this changed, now you chose your sub-class right away at character creation.
Gone too is the ship bringing me to the tutorial island. Instead my newborn character appeared in an area called the Nursery. This appears to be the equivalent of the tutorial island for those characters that start in Kelethin, and not in Qeynos or Freeport. I took a couple of steps, found a level 1 mob, blasted it with a firebolt and killed it. Then I listened a while to a NPC explaining me what the color codes for levels and the up or down arrows mean. I had totally forgotten that in EQ2 all the NPCs talk. Not just canned phrases, like in WoW, but everything they tell you in the speech bubble they also say. Nice feature. Now I know why the download was so long. :) Well, anyway, that was all I did up to now, because by the time I got there it was already late. This evening I plan to do the newbie quests in the Nursery. By the weekend I should have made it to Kelethin and the Greater Faydark. Unfortunately it seems I have to be in the late teens, early 20s, before I can visit Crushbone, and then I need a group for most of the content there. Well, I'll worry about that when I get there.