Everquest 2 is an excellent MMO and it's actually pretty cheap. However there are a lot of different options for buying it so here is a rundown from the perspective of a player in the UK on 20th December 2009. You should check for yourself each option as it's likely to differ, the details below should make it easy for you to shop around.
To summarise Everquest 2 it is very similar to WoW. It started out quite like WoW then as the game evolved became more like WoW over time (crafting simplified and interdepencies removed, soloing improved, a talent like system added, WoW raid sizes were changed to be more like EQ2 raid sizes etc). The games have heavily influenced each other.
The principal differences are a more polite community, a more strategic, slower combat, and a greater emphasis on inventory management and crafting. You get a lot more bag and bank space in Everquest and collecting and harvesting are typically a bigger part of the play experience.
EQ2 is a good choice if you are a veteran WoW player thinking about rolling an alt. Why go through Stranglethorn Vale for the tenth time when you can level in a completely fresh experience with new zones that are comfortably on a par with WoW's quality?
I think it is also the game I'd pick if I were playing with children. The language and behaviour of other players in WoW is just not very nice. I've barely even seen anyone swear in EQ2 nor have I joined a group wondering whether they will kick me for some reason.
OK, now to look at the different deals for the game. You may need to get the Station Launcher to view some options, it's a quick download:
Option 1, Recruit-a-friend, no initial cost, current subscribers only (or ask someone to recruit you at http://forums.station.sony.com/eq2/forums/show.m?forum_id=2591 )
Pros: - the "friends" can group together for triple exp. Mentoring the friend will give him an additional 10% exp. They can also teleport to each other.
- the recruiter gets a load of stuff (special mount, station cash, collectible card game boosters), free month's game time.
Cons: - your account does not get a Journeyman's Cloak reward
- does not stack with the 60 free days you get if you buy the Complete Collection.
Option 2, Shadow Odyssey, accessible via the Station Launcher. £7.99
Pros: - all current expansions and adventure packs, Shadow Odyssey AAs unlocked and AA cap raised to 200, some collectible game cards.
Cons: miss out on Journeyman's Cloak veteran reward.
Note: it costs £12 on Amazon so get it via the launcher unless you can find a box somewhere for less than £7.99
Option 3, Everquest 2 Starter Pack, accessible via the Station Launcher. £6.99
Pros: £1 cheaper than option 2.
Cons: you miss out on an expansion plus the various freebies associated with it. Miss J-Cloak.
Option 4, free trial http://www.everquest2.com/en/freeTrial.vm
Pros: you get the Journeyman's Cloak, a reward accessed through /claim which gives +25% run speed to any and/or all of your characters. Also it's 2 weeks free time unless you take the Complete Collection. So playing for 14 days, then buying Shadow Odyssey = 44 free days, Complete Collection = 60 free days.
Cons: while on trial you're restricted in many chat options, can't send people tells unless they /friend you, can't use auction house and other anti gold spammer mechanisms.
Option 5, Complete Collection, $19.99 https://store.station.sony.com/hardgood.jsp?SKU=EQ2RE-HG-BU1009-EQ2TCC
Pros: all current expansions, 60 free days, 500 Station Cash.
Cons: no J Cloak, will not stack with recruit-a-friend.
Option 6, Station Access, £18.99 per month, if you have a sub to another Sony game your game time will be converted (I got 117 free days from a SWG sub I had active). You can check if you will be given time in the Station Launcher by clicking on the Station Access option.
Pros: gives you EQ2 except Shadow Odyssey, gives you access to all other SOE MMO games including Vanguard, EQ1 (only 2 expansions), Star Wars: Galaxies, Pirates of the Burning Sea, Planetside.
Cons: you are not given the complete EQ2 or EQ1 games, it's expensive, no J-Cloak.
Option 7, wait for Sentinel's Fate (coming out Feb)
If you're in no rush prices for older expansions will drop and/or they will be bundled into the new one when it comes out.
Conclusion: get a free trial then buy the Shadow Odyssey via the launcher when your time runs out. Great value, gets you the J Cloak which is by far the most important of the various freebies offered.
I actually went for Option 6 simply because I had a long SWG sub active. I must say it's a little annoying levelling without the J-Cloak.