Dark Age of Camelot
It's hard to know when you're in a position to properly review an MMORPG. You can't review it after a few hours play, because all you've seen is a couple of levels and a few areas, and you just plain can't see the rest until you invest more time. By the time you've invested more time, the notion of "review" is gone, and you're playing the game properly. I think I'm just on the threshold between those two states now with Dark Age of Camelot; I've been playing a while, gone up a few levels, seen a few areas, and had the benefits of one expansion and one patch.
So, what do I think? Well, they've got my subscription money for at least another year, and that should say enough all on its own. There are areas of the game that could do with improvement, but a good few of those are being addressed, step by step, in patches and expansions.
Player vs Monster
This is almost always known as PvE, and it's taken me some time to work out that that's Player vs Environment. Dark Age's PvE, then, is excellent. Monsters can be considered from a distance easily by the colour of the name that floats over their heads. Green means you can kill it easily. Blue represents a challenge. Yellow is going to knock you around a bit, but you should be able to take it if you remember your tactics and don't mess up. Orange is touch and go - I leave them be. Red will eat you, and purple will eat you faster.
Grey and white creatures are beneath your notice. There's a good bit of tactical diversity even when playing on your own - some creatures hit harder than others, even within the colour codes, some do different kinds of damage, some will call for help, or are aided by others of their kind nearby. Some will attack as soon as they see you, others will blithely ignore you until hit. And some of the aggressiveness changes - if you kill a lot of one kind of creature, their enemies will start to like you better. Your choices of weapon, armour, and other euipment have definite meaning here. I've found Dark Age's PvE to be excellent - as long as you're not doing something silly, you can continue to hunt, with just the right level of challenge. Do something silly, and you're dead.
Player vs Player
I haven't as much experience as I'd like of this part of the game, but that's because you can't get much until you hit 20th level. While there are pre-20th level Battlegrounds, they're almost empty. Hours of running around in one of them allowed me to meet and get killed by two players from other realms. An couple of hours in Thidranki, the 20th-24th level battleground, got me killed about twenty times, allowed me to actually kill one enemy, and in conjunction with the group I was with, racked me up some 27 realm points. Realm points get you realm levels and ranks, and realm levels and ranks let you buy new and rather powerful abilities from your trainer.
I love DAoC's crafting system. For one thing, it's completely independent of the class levels, and you can - if you can get hold of enough money - go straight to Grand Master craft levels without ever levelling in a class. It allows you to make a vast range of stuff from a relatively small set of components, and those components are easily available, at least at the lower skill numbers. This is in contrast to Anarchy Online, say, where you have to buy twenty different obscurely named components, of exactly the right properties - some of which would be unavailable where you were - and combine them in exactly the right order, to make the simplest of things. I understand that in cooperation with another character skilled in spellcrafting, you can make magical armour and weapons, but I've yet to try that.
There are refinements I'd like to see. I'd like to be able to customise the look of things I make a little more; to put a symbol on the breastplate of armour, or add different coloured edges, or the like. There are no auction channels, so selling my stuff when I get to the stage where I can make good and worthwhile stuff will involve standing in populated areas and shouting, or buying my own house and a consignment merchant.
I'm rather charmed by the housing in the game. The houses in Hibernia look properly Celtic, and I see from pictures that Albion and Midgard housing looks right for their cultures too. Houses can have NPCs in them - consignment merchants on the outside to sell your spare kit and craft products for you, and craft merchants on the inside, so that you can make that kit without ever leaving the comfort of your own place. There seems to be a fair variety of decor, too. At present, I only have access to my guild houses, but I'll soon be able to afford my own - if I want to (which I do).
My experience of interaction with other players has been excellent. My guild is small and casual, but no less useful for that. Other players I've grouped with have, more often than not, been sensible, tactically able, and not averse to teaching the newcomer how things work. My guildmates have been very generous indeed, and one player gifted me with an entire set of armour, weapon and shield, and then helped me jump two levels to boot (and see an article on atruism on The Daedalus Project). There are a few idiots around, of course, but not nearly as many as I enountered in my brief experience of Everquest.
Patches & Expansions
The expansion I was around for was New Frontiers, which was mostly to do with PvP areas. It seemed to work well, although I hadn't seen much of them before it. The most recent patch I saw was 1.71, which added mapping, a clock, some clever adjustments to levelling, and more benefits for the underpopulated realms, as well as a host of fixes. It was applied early in the day on a Wednesday, which seems like a sensible choice. I've no complaint at all about effects of the patches, nor the way in which they're applied.
So I really like the game. My advice is to go out and buy it - you might wait for the new expansion, Catacombs, but I wouldn't. And when you start to play, if you're in Europe, come looking for Madoine in Hibernia on the Excalibur server, and I'll get you started on the right foot.
Comments have been disabled on this post due to comment spam. If you wish to post a comment, please drop me a line via email, or comment on the newest entry, and I'll enable them again for you.
Posted by Drew Shiel at January 13, 2005 1:01 PM | TrackBack