EverQuest: Omens Of War
Sometimes, it feels like writing a review for an expansion pack is like recommending to a fish that it should stay in water. Take, for example, an MMORPG with a rabid fan base. Chances are that if you're a die-hard fan of the game, you'll buy the expansion pack the day of its release without a second thought to reviews or the actual quality of the expansion. By the time of an expansion's release, MMORPG fans are ready to tackle the newest challenges head on, and they're ready to tackle it right now. Good thing then that the new EverQuest expansion, Omens of War, is in fact a very good expansion, and the people that already own it and aren't reading this review are having a lot of fun with it.
Like the last few expansions, EverQuest: Omens of War is geared towards the high level crowd, meaning 60 plus at the very least and 65-70 for the majority of the new content. However, there are new features that anyone can take advantage of, particularly a new 'task'? system that offers an alternative to traditional grouping. Each task, which is in essence a mini-quest, can be completed in less than two hours completely solo, making it particularly nice if you only have a short block of time to play.
Much to the chagrin of some lazy levelers out there (ie: me), the level cap has been raised from 65 to 70. Add in the fact that a lot of the new key features have been implemented through new alternate advancements, including the much sought after additional buff and spell slots, and you'll have plenty of reason to grind through that experience bar once again.
The best news yet, however, is that EverQuest: Omens of War doesn't use the flagging/trial system that has been so prevalent in the last few expansions. Much to the delight of just about everybody, most zones are accessible right off the bat and should make both raiding and grouping a less frustrating experience.
With the release of Gates of Discord, SoE implemented a new graphics engine that made use of DirectX 9. Unfortunately, the expansion didn't really take advantage of the new technology cause, well, Gates of Discord was a mess in just about every way. EverQuest: Omens of War, on the other hand, really does take advantage of the new engine and makes EverQuest beautiful once again - and that's no small fear considering that EverQuest is over five years old. For the most part, the sprawling zones are well detailed, and the many castles/fortresses are especially beautiful.
How will EverQuest: Omens of War hold up in the long run? As it is with any major MMORPG expansion pack, and especially those geared towards high-level players, it's hard to tell when most of the core content has yet to be discovered. Inevitably, bugs will be found and balance issues will arise because MMORPG's are an ever-changing beast, but the groundwork for Omens of War seems to be solid, and it's without a doubt an improvement over the mess that is Gates of Discord. Casual players might not find too much in this expansion for them, and Omens of War certainly won't be drawing in anyone new to EverQuest, but for the target audience of seasoned EQ veterans, Omens of War will undoubtedly keep their (virtual) feet planted in Norrath for months to come.