EverQuest: The Ruins of Kunark
|a game by||Sony Online Entertainment Inc.|
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For those of you yet to experience EverQuest, here follows a brief synopsis of the game and its concepts. EverQuest, like its counterpart Ultima Online, is a constantly evolving online role-playing game. Create a character from a variety of races (human, elf, barbarian etc) and classes (druids, wizards, warriors, that lot...) and travel the game world, killing monsters, either alone or with the help of many 'real' players from all over the world, earning experience as you go and gaining higher levels in the process. It all sounds very simple. Fact is, it is very simple, and very enjoyable as a result. Unlike Ultima Online, however, EQ has impressive visuals. The whole game world is in full 3D and very nice it looks too. The expansion contains the original version of EQand also brings a brand new continent to the game, namely Kunark and a brand new race to play in the form of the Iksars, an odd-looking lizard-like evil race. The continent of Kunark is huge, with impressive architecture, pretty scenery graphics and new NPCs, which seem more detailed than their counterparts in the other continents. This alone is probably enough to justify the cost of the expansion for EQ veterans, but there is another reason why the expansion disk is good news, and you don't even need to buy it to take advantage of it. Confused? Read on.
As anyone who has played EQ for any considerable period of time will readily attest, this game suffers from one major problem, a problem that was singularly responsible for many people leaving EQ once they achieved a reasonably high level: overcrowding. While Verant promised low server counts in the early days of EQ, it cheerfully neglected to stick to this promise as the game grew in popularity, resulting in massive server overloads for all the popular servers. It's not unusual to log on to Tunare, for example, and find 1,600 people hanging about there. Since the expansion's release, many high-level players have moved to Kunark in search of new items, with the knock-on effect that the original playing areas are now far less crowded. This is, of course, a good thing indeed. Having returned to the game for this review after a nine-month exile, I am once again losing large amounts of my time to it, mainly because I don't have to wait hours to get into one of the more desirable playing areas to 'level up' my character.
High-level players in particular will gain much from the Kunark expansion, since they can now level their characters up to 60 (50 was the limit with the original game). This means new spells for casters, and Verant has reduced the agonising wait for new spells between levels after 50 by introducing spells for every consecutive level you reach beyond 60 for most casting classes. The only downside of Kunark itself is the seemingly sporadic experience dished out for killing monsters. Most of the monsters con blue whether you're level 35 or 45 which seems weird, and anyone around level 40 will get much higher experience in somewhere like Upper Guk, although there are rumours that Verant will be increasing experience gained in Kunark to balance the gameplay (we can't confirm this as we go to press). It's also worth noting that high level players (50 and above) are finding very impressive loot in Kunark, so the expansion would appear to be heaven-sent for people in this level range.
While Kunark doesn't radically change ECTs gameplay, it has enough to justify upgrading, and the extra space afforded on each server due to a partial exodus to Kunark makes it far more appealing. Ultima Online may have more depth, but EQ wins in terms of sheer playability.