||February 05, 2005
Wondering what PC games to vote for in our Best of 2004 Awards? Allow me to influence you.
Dark Age of Camelot: Catacombs is the expansion pack that most improves its series in recent memory. DAoC was fair without it, but is comparable to the other MMO giants with Catacombs factored into the equation. Enormous improvments such as these new player models, as well as many other additions and modifications, make Catacombs a worthy game to stick on your list. I'm not trying to tell you it should be #1 for everybody or anything like that, but when you look at what an expansion pack is supposed to do for a game, this is the very definition, and is therefore worthy of some voting love. It can surely find a home somewhere on your list.
Don't know what to think of Ultima Online: Samurai Empire? Check out my awesome review.
Love huge battles involving a buttload of people killing each other all over the place? Lineage II, World of Warcraft, and the previously-plugged Dark Age of Camelot are tops.
Down for phat levels of originality and gameplay that's just plain fun? City of Heroes, Ballerium, and Neverwinter Nights represented well. Bah, I'll shut up now.
On to the news.
Even with EverQuest II having hundreds of thousands of subscribers as well as technical advantages, the original is set to expand again. Hey, it didn't get all those nickname drug references for nothing, right? The new expansion pack, called Dragons of Norrath, will contain everything that gives an "expansion" its name, like graphic upgrades, more areas to discover and new monsters to slay, as well as modifications to the guild system. Story wise, Lanys T'Vyl and popular EQ covergirl Firiona Vie are back for another round in Norrath, which is entering an "Age of War."
In a more detailed summary, the game's official site tells gamers that the new zones' names are "Lavastorm" and "Thundercrest Isles." Sony also describes new interface features such as easier world map use, done by allowing a single mouse click switching the player's view from world view, to a continent view, to a zone view of the traditional line maps. Guild updates include a "Mass Corpse Summoning Altar," which allows guilds to summon guild corpses en masse to the altar room after a wipe out and a "Guild Portal," which makes it possible for guild members to purchase ports to pre-determined areas around the world.
Dragons of Norrath will be available on February 15th, selling for $29.99. Fans still engrossed in this long-running game can save $5 by pre-ordering the expansion directly from Sony.
Below are three select screens. See all ten from the new expansion here.
In more Sony news, Star Wars Galaxies now packs a "Veteran Player Reward Program." In a nutshell, this program honors players' three month, six month, and one year subscription dates by offering them special items that can not be obtained any other way. In the future, more rewards will come annually. Currently planned rewards are listed as follows, with links to explicitly detailed, official descriptions at the top of each column:
||3 month reward
||6 month reward
||12 month reward|
|For the Field
||Self powered harvester
||Crate of any existing resource (30k)
||Anti decay kit for 1 item|
|For the Home
||Holonet Terminal, Translator Terminal, Control Array, or Holonet Tracking Console
||YT1300 Passenger Lounge or YT1300 Modular Seating
||Database Input Terminal, System Readout Terminal, Main Systems Databank, or Holonet Databank|
||Protocol Droid or R2 Droid Miniature Replica
||TIE Fighter or X-wing Miniature Replica
||Stormtrooper or Jabba the Hutt Miniature Replica|
The following is a picture of a player with some of the more decorative rewards.
This game's official site is a must-visit for Star Wars nerds.
Had enough of Sony yet? Too bad, SOE's going for the hat trick this week. Remember last week's talk of EverQuest II becoming more accomodating to solo adventurers and small groups? Well apparently, EverQuest II Senior Producer Scott Hartsman meant everything he said in that letter.
Clearing up exactly what the bonuses would be, SOE has announced that a significant boost in small group (defined as two or three players) and solo experience has been added. These modifications make character advancement in such settings much more player-friendly and, according to SOE, that style of play will now "feel much more satisfying." New dungeons and quests have also been added for soloists and small groups.
While not as major, benefits of playing in a larger party have increased as well. The chances for some of the group-only, ultra-rare drops have been increased. It should also be noted that even with these changes, the fastest experience gain still comes in a full party. But now, the difference is not so drastic.
The next upgrade to NCSoft's City of Heroes looks to have an emphasis on player vs player combat. The company outlines some of the details regarding Issue #4: Colosseum on the game's official site. A few of them are listed below.
- PvP is only done with the consent of each player involved.
- Solo, Team, or Supergroup slug-fests for characters of all levels.
- Arenas are found in zones accessible to all levels of characters: in Galaxy City, Talos Island, and Peregrine Island.
- Includes constantly updating Ranking System where players see their character’s ranked among the best of Paragon City.
- Winners in the Arena matches gain recognition and the losers gain valuable battle experience without earning character debt.
- Updated Mouse Controls. This new feature allows players to control their characters movements with just the mouse.
As is the case with all City of Heroes expansion packs, this content comes to players at no charge.
Last week's column mentioned some details about the newest area that will be available to Guild Wars testers on the next free beta weekend. "Beta Weekend Event" participants have experienced The Ruins of Ascalon, and the devastation of that land has been shown in previous screenshots. Below are shots of the Kingdom of Ascalon in its glory.
Jeff "CainEJW" Walker has written up an impression of his experiences in the early stages of Dark and Light's closed beta testing. In Round One of what could potentially become a handful of impressions before the game's April release, Jeff said the following.
Few MMORPGs set themselves up for grandure. Even fewer meet the marketing blitz campaign, but Farland Entertainment's certainly meets up to the moniker of largest game ever. In fact, it could possibly be too large. With majestic mountain tops, frozen tundras, and a scattered forestland, Dark and Light captures the true essence of landscape beauty.
As stated above, Dark and Light's largest asset is its beautiful landscapes. The entire game takes place in a very large world that covers a massive 40,000 square kilometres. For our non-metric friends in the United States, that is exactly 25,000 square miles of beautiful earthscape to travel, which is a little larger than the state of West Virginia. To travel this large game, the player is given multiple modes of transportation. The first mode of transport would be to walk, which proves to be both time-consuming and scenic. Gondolas are a second mode of transportation, giving every user the ability to go up the highest of mountains in minutes. A third mode of transportation is the high-flying balloons, but these are limited as you can only go from the takeoff point to a landing point. Yet another form of transportation in Dark and Light is the equally beautiful hang glider, which can reward the player with some breathtaking graphics. The next mode of transportation comes in the form of mountable animals, like massive dragons that must be fed periodically. The final, and most fun, mode of transportation is the very unique shield sledding that can get you down massive mountains in mere seconds.
"Dark and Light captures the true essence of landscape beauty"
Sadly, battles in Dark and Light do not share the same beauty as the land on which they happen. Thanks to choppy animations, the enemy will often end up sliding up to you instead of actually sludging through the snow to attack. Spells, though massively animated, look less flashy and more like an experiment with lens flares in Photoshop. Combat is less about strategy and more about exploiting bad engines, as the player must first find the monster to target it. A single click on the monster brings up the information for that monster, giving options of attack. If the player manages to survive against a difficult monster long enough to find them in the enveloping darkness, they may just die trying to figure out how to attack. Luckily, a double click will allow an automatic attack. Just watch out for skinny monsters like skeletons, as they are very difficult to click on once, let alone twice.
Another fallback for Dark and Light is its massive size. Upon playing the beta for over two weeks, this writer only spotted two other players. With the massiveness of the world of Ganareth, parties may be most difficult to find for a player. Skills are somewhat comprehensive for the classes, but are also very limited depending on the class. For example, a healer class will not be able to use the skills of an offensive fighter. In an attempt to add some depth to the world, Dark and Light has added as many as twelve classes ranging in size from miniscule faeries to gigantic trolls. At the time of beta testing, only four elvan races and the human race were available for play.
Characters are, as stated, part of a large group of classes. From these large races come many different customizations, but the beta lacked these changes in look. Instead, the player is left with only 5 races of generic appearance. Though the models are convincingly real, the beta simply lacks enough choices on custom character building. Equipment is, thankfully, unique for every piece, displaying both uniquely and clearly. Even the shield is detailed with different emblems.
In the end, this beta lacks every feature that makes an MMORPG the genre of great ideas. The beta lacks any noticable quest implementation, the developers have decreed that there will be no cave indoor areas, and NPCs are completely absent. Finding another player to trade with is almost a quest in itself inside the large world of Ganareth. Though it does show tremendous amounts of promise, the beta's gameplay doesn't seem to offer anything more than pretty landscapes and multiple forms of transportation. Though the game has many pitfalls, it is still very early into its beta life. Stay tuned for more impressions as new features are added to the world of Dark and Light.
The innovative Master of Epic is coming along nicely in its development process. On the February 9th, the game will get a third realm. For the uninformed, Master of Epic features many "ages" in which players must mess around. This new area will be the Chaos Age, which is adding to the already-available Present and War ages. Each age also has a certain gameplay focus point in this game; the theme in the Chaos Age will be "raiding." Among the monsters in that realm will be giants
that a single party, let alone a single player, can have
no hope of defeating. This necessitates the cooperation of multiple parties to bring down a single beast. A boatload of other information on this game was reported here.
Working with BB Serve, Mythic Entertainment recently brought Dark Age of Camelot into Japan. Regular service started on 1/31, with
all content accessible, except for that of the latest expansion pack, Catacombs.
JC Fan, the greatest screenshot contributor of all time, donated some Final Fantasy XI screens (with commentary below the table).
As I look back over these old FF XI screenshots, I can't help but remenisce.
Here are a few of the cherished moments I've captured for posterity:
Screens 1 & 2: I was lucky enough to spend my first ever festival in the
company of great friends. Silliness aside, it was a time of great
reflection where we all shared our hopes for the future.
Screen 3: My first airship ride was an amazing experience. Luckily, my best
friend was there to share the wonderous experience.
Screen 4: Looking out on the horizon simply took my breath away. It
reminded me that there was still so much more to experience in the huge
world of Vana'diel.
Screen 5: The greatest joy I had in the game was in helping a friend in
need. If only he'd learned to run more and daydream less. ^^;
Screen 6: It's said: "Nothing can compare to the first time you catch sight
of the rainbow in La Theine Plateau." After seeing it for myself firsthand,
I would have to agree.
Screen 7: My friend and I were an inseparable duo. We even found time to
Screen 8: The lighthouses off the coast of Port Windurst that guide traffic
safely through the bay truly are a sight to behold. I was one of the rare
visitors who got to view them up close.
Second, Cory Buck tossed some of his World of Warcraft screens my way. I'm not quite sure, but they look to be of the game's fairly early going.
Send screenshots of your adventures through your favorite MMORPGs to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week didn't bring as many letters as I got used to over December and January. I suppose this is because I'm not writing hate rants about popular games. I promise I'll do some more of that when I get the time, guys. Promise.
Rebuttal of sorts (FFXI: CoP Spoiler)
In response to Shadowneko remarks. I said that gil farmers control the lower
tier HNMS on my server because they operate in Chinese gil farmer LS. These
were the same people who destroyed Zi'Tah and Beaduex and I mean the SAME
people (as in the names are the same, same ls etc). As far as HNM quantity,
those other 3 HNMS are the new dragons. Most LS have been unable to beat
them and the ones that have beaten them and Tiamate are mostly made up of
I mean no disrespect but your a lvl 53 thf and you really do not know yet
what your talking about. Your lvl of frustration is about to be tested very
soon. Every Genki is a testing point to test your threshold of pain and
annoyance. Once you turn 65 you get replaced by drk/thf, once you turn 70+
you will learn that most HNMLS will want nothing to do with you and will
expect you to lvl a RNG (only thing they need a thf for is TH2, since a
drk/thf will be dropping 2k+ dmg in spiral hell hate is a non issue and thf
can never do that and drks will be plenty for stun). Bottom line is once you
turn 70+ and are able to kill the hnms you will understand what I wrote
about but until then I strongly suggest people try not to speculate...
imagine someone telling you to go thf/whm just so you can blink yourslef and
heal yourself lol. Going to hnms where DRKs use sword and shield, where
level 75 monks are dressed in low level white mage chr gear.. you really
have no clue how broken the end game is. FYI i have all my JSE, rank 10 and
have done all Zilrat and i have done everything in promethia but Ultima and
i can say that only thing i really had any fun with was nation mission 5-2.
Bottom line is this, if your having fun in ffxi I do not mean to put down
your fun. But fact is this, Waiting hours to put together a pt is not fun.
Spending hours farming to get up to date gear is not fun. farming and exping
is split up into separate boring time consuming acts. in games like a WoW,
they give you the option to solo XP and farm at the same time and this is
where FFXI will meet a very serious problem. As the server population
continues to shrink you simply will not be able to build a XP pt. at higher
lvl you must have everything perfect. You either have a Level 3 Skillchain
(light and darkness) with a blm or you must have 3 Rangers and a bard in the
pt. Those pt setups are the only way things are done in regards to exp at
65+ (lvl 3 SC becomes available). the lvl3 pt is dying right now because
there are not many BLMs and it is almost expected by anyone with a job in
the 70+ that you need to roll a ranger. In most MMO games lvlin another job
would give you a new outlook on the gameplay mechnanics but in ffxi its like
going back to high school... and we know how fun that is.
Grunk lvl74 DRK Remora/Valefor
I stand by what i say.
Since this exchange seems to be among readers, I'll stay 100% neutral and say something everyone can agree on: New England - 31, Philadelphia - 17.
man when you're playing games there's nothing like mt dew. and no none of the "new age" colors either. just original green all the way. that's the best mmorpg drink. or hell man any game.
Dude, everyone knows the order of best Mt. Dew color/flavors goes Orange, Green, Red, then that Black crap that came out last October. I think its name was "Cancer."
So whoa, there sure is a lot going on.
I guess expanding EverQuest is a good move. After all, it does still have a good amount of very addicted players that, by every definition, deserve an upgrade. And in the sequel, small groups are being rewarded...or at least, they're not nearly as slowed-down. Now that makes me stand and clap. Sometimes you just can't get a decent party, and sometimes you just want to kick it old school with just one or two or your homies--more games should accomodate that play style. Not stopping there, Sony Online Entertainment busts out veteren rewards on Star Wars Galaxies. Holy crap, that company is apparently pretty good at keeping players happy.
As for Guild Wars, don't forget that I like to hear and print your impressions of the beta weekend in this column, like I did in this one. So on the 18th of this month, get in there and get me some more screens of the new area, then tell the world if you loved or hated it by sending me an email.
So it sounds like slow going in Dark and Light so far. I've read quite a bit about that game and a whole heck of a lot more stuff is set to be added; I can't wait to see how it all comes together. Big thanks to Jeff for the contribution. Next week, we'll see screens of some of his adventures through the City of Heroes European beta testing that ended just a couple of days ago.
See you in a week!
Take two Heath Hindmans and call me in the morning.