EverQuest is a popular on-line fantasy role-playing game which thousands of people can play together. It uses a 3D view similar to Doom and Quake, making a 3D card part of the minimum requirements to play. Most of your time is spent outdoors and the artwork is beautiful - night turns to day and arrives with a splendid sunrise. The game is highly combat oriented, so expect to fight a lot of monsters in the wild areas and dungeons outside your town. Fighting monsters is punctuated by quests you get from speaking to the non-player characters. One thing that adds to the excitement is that there is no saving and reloading if you find yourself face to face with death. In EverQuest, death involves a stiff penalty. You lose experience points and restart at a pre-set location with many of your precious items back at your corpse. To get them back, you must find your corpse - don't worry, nobody can loot it. Just hope the Ogre that sent you to the underworld has wandered off, or you will have to become quite creative in defeating him. Character advancement is slow, making EverQuest less of a game and more of a way of life. Be prepared to eat, live, breath, sleep and dream it. My first character took about 15 hours to reach level five (level advancement slows after this level). Your character will mostly adventure alone until level 10 or so, when you will have gained enough unique magic/skills to attract partners. Your skills grow as you practice. Baking, tailoring and fishing are some of the skills available. Low on food? Try your luck at fishing. The manual is thinner than an anorexic elf maiden. Many basic aspects of the game are listed in the manual, but not explained - character class descriptions and attributes are covered in two sentences. I understand this game is dynamic and constantly being improved, but I should not have to scour the Internet for guides and FAQs to explain fundamental game concepts. On the Internet, you will learn much more about the different character classes. Magicians (who specialise in summoning monsters to fight for you), Rangers (who specialise in fighting and outdoor skills), Bards (who are part entertainer, thief and fighter), and Shadow Knights (who have strayed to the dark side) are among the 14 classes available in EverQuest. You also will find information on EverQuest's 11 races, including Barbarian, Dark Elf, Dwarf, Erudite, Ogre and Human. Role-playing is highly encouraged and makes EverQuest stand out from other games with no social interaction. Fancy emot-icons are possible. For example, '/bow' can be used to bow and thank someone who has been friendly to you. You will see your 3D character bow to another character and vice versa. Other emot-icons allow you to blink in disbelief, look confused, clap hands, shrug, and - my favourite - bleed quietly. Being a highly social game, you get to see how political the human animal is. Surfing EverQuest news and chat Web sites, I found marvellous examples of ingenuity. On-line communities form as players make their own guilds, and times and places are set for auctions of treasure items. One group of clerics even organised a virtual sit-in to protest the lack of attention to clerics in the game. The hack and slash aspect was tedious at times, but the social aspect made up for it. A kind Paladin helped my character with money and a ring and another warrior gave me a back-pack and took me on a quick tour of key locations in town. Such generosity is in contrast to the Player Killers - people who use their characters to run around and kill other on-line players. This infamous practice happens in many on-line games and is frustrating to new players. Without going into details, EverQuest has rules that control this behaviour. You must buy the retail version of EverQuest to install the core game, and that costs about $300. It includes one month free on-line play, after which you pay about US$10 per month to maintain your habit. EverQuest must be played on-line and the monthly fee allows you to access EverQuest servers. The fee is on top of normal charges by your ISP. The developer, Verant, is constantly updating the EverQuest world and because of the pay-as-you-play on-line gaming model, has done a great job at customer service. It immediately begins to fix downed servers and will try to give users a repair-time estimate. The game balance is constantly being tweaked by the designers. If players are found to be using an item in a novel way that unbalances the game, the designers patch the problem. The EverQuest world grows as Verant adds adventures and quests to the story line. Verant also discourages cheating and profanity by issuing warnings and bans. I liked this game overall, but at times felt lonely - like a stranger in a new city. Everyone was running this way and that and seemed to have something to do, running past without so much as a 'good morning'. Some days I think this game would be more fun if played with a friend; other days someone befriends me and we adventure together, but, as in real life, sometimes you have to reach out yourself and make a friend. EverQuest comes alive with interaction from other people and is an ever-changing world that will enchant you. If time and money are things you have a surplus of, be prepared to be sucked into EverQuest.