Dark Age of Camelot's newest expansion, Catacombs, was released in Europe at the beginning of April. Some distribution problems over the Easter Weekend meant that it didn't arrive everywhere it should have, leaving many of Europe's MMORPG addicts twitching. It did get there, though, and the result is that I, at least, am blown away.
The first thing that should be noted is that the expansion - the game in genereal, really, it's just more noticable here - requires a fairly good graphics card. It's playable with an average one, but you miss out on the sheer gorgeousness of the new zones, and on the new character models.
A good bit of the login process interface has been changed, to allow for the customisation bit. This allows you to adjust the faces of your characters far better than before - aside from choosing a basic face and hair, you can now adjust the width of nose and chin and the size and colour of the eyes. Elves can also adjust the length of their pointy ears, and shar can alter the length of their horns. I assume there are other particualr adjustables for other races. You get one customisation per character, and can get further ones by speaking with a particular NPC in the new areas.
As I mentioned above, the new areas are really gorgeous. The Veil Rift is a genuine thing of beauty, the Shar Labyrinth is much prettier than the other cities, and the Underground Forest (reminiscent of Darkness Falls) is deeply (pun intended) atmospheric. There've been changes to the sounds as well; parries and blocks now sound different - although I'm not convinced that the change to the parry sound is good - and there are fantastic environmental effects. The whispers in the Queen's Labyrinth are good enough to actually spook me a bit.
The expansion has material for all levels of play, and seems to do well at filling in the difficult levels between 40 and 49, where there were few enough quests available in other parts of the game. I went up a level and a half solely on quests in a couple of days, which is impressive at 44.
The major new thing, however, is the advent of instanced dungeons. These are similar to the mission sites from Anarchy Online, although some of them can be entered (from other dungeons) without a quest or task.
For the task ones, there are five taskmasters in each realm who give out quests such as "clear the caves", "kill Chieftain Bugbear in the mines to the east", or "kill 12 spragoonites in the mines to the east". These instances are tailored for the level of the character going in, have good xp and cash, and a drop from the boss monster. There's also a sizable bonus of xp and cash for completing the quest.
The ordinary instanced dungeons are entered from existing and new dungeon areas, and are called "adventure wings". They have good cash, some drops, and a new metal currency, aurulite. Like seals from Darkness Falls, these can be traded with specialised merchants for some impressive gear. This gear - including jewels, bracers and belts - can carry as many as six different bonuses, although some are for PvE only.
The new gear can also be got as drops in the main new areas, and I'm particularly impressed with one new bonus type - a reduction in the amount of experience you lose when you die. For me, given that when I'm playing solo I can end up dying four and five times a level, this is a godsend.
There's plenty to explore - even after a couple of levels, and a lot of dedicated exploration, there are still half a dozen areas I haven't seen at all, or have only barely seen. It seems to be a truly vast expansion, and well worth the money (25 euros, postage free from play.com). As a bonus, there's a 14-day trial version (though without the expansion itself) included in the box, so if anyone wants to try out the game, give me a yell and I'll hand it over.
Posted by Drew Shiel at April 6, 2005 8:45 AM | TrackBack