Lords of EverQuest Review
By Michael Richter |
Sony Online Entertainment is one serious bit of business. EverQuest is, for better or worse, the standard of MMO games--a highly successful franchise with a Sims-sized library of expansion packs that was large enough to break into mainstream pop culture and stay there. The whole while, real-time strategy gaming has been a healthy and steadily evolving genre, so one might even wonder why EQ didn't branch out sooner. In fact, it's too bad it didn't, because Lords of EverQuest carries with it many kludgy elements that current RTSs have cut away. While Lords might have done quite well a few years ago, gamers have become accustomed to a more honed experience.
There is a back story, and it is a little strange to delve into one, since it's being created almost from whole cloth, as EverQuest (the MMO) is a player-driven universe rather than a story-driven one. A vengeful and appropriately ugly enemy has risen up against the appropriately shiny good guys, and you'll be wading through a dozen maps per campaign in order to get to the bottom of the trouble. To be fair, it's not as cut-and-dry as it sounds, as you are able to actually play the ugly guys in one of the campaigns, and you can even start any of the three campaigns at any time, rather than them being strung together like in StarCraft and Warcraft.
Thankfully, Lords avoids the usually tiresome churn of "Build base, build troops, move troops, destroy enemy base" that can bring the fun factor to a grinding halt after a few tries (although it is certainly more fun more unpredictable in multiplayer). However, Lords seems to veer almost self-consciously away from this model, often leaving you to adventure game-type scenarios where you're wandering around the map gathering imprisoned allies or escorting VIPs.
Sometimes you have the opportunity to build up your troops before you go a-huntin', but it's a frustratingly slow experience. You can queue up units to be built and set a waypoint for them to automatically go to, but it takes a freakin' long time to squeeze a guy out. Although the only resource you require is platinum, it will usually be in short supply. You'll often just run out of money before you run out of patience. There might be other platinum mines scattered through the map, but that's a long trek for your peasant unit--unless you have enough money to build another HQ right by the mine.
Lords has the familiar building tree, where you can create a Hall of Uber Killingness until you've built a couple lesser buildings before it (and kept those buildings standing). And each unit-producing building allows you to buy an upgrade that enhances that unit's attack or defense in some way. The headquarters for each faction also offers a unique upgrade. The Alliance Oupost of the Elddar Alliance, for example, can let you upgrade your troops to heal faster than usual.
This can be a sticking point for some players, actually. When you can heal all your troops by just sitting around long enough (as long as you're not on a timed map, more on that gem in a minute), it makes for some unexpected and sometimes dramatic lowering of the difficulty. While this may make the game more accessible to the casual player (and Lords will likely get picked up by many on name recognition alone), it will strike the RTS fan as unbalanced. It can also be frustrating in multiplayer, when someone can just keep on running away from you and come back to poke at you guerilla-style. This tactic only prolongs a successful war of attrition, rather than adding a new dimension to the experience.