Lords of EverQuest
Love it like life itself or detest it like a pop-up from the Gator Corporation, EverQuest is here to stay. The original game may be entering its twilight years, but goblin-fanciers everywhere are rubbing their club-like appendages in anticipation of EverQuest II, due some time next year. But if you're not content to sit back and sip mead in this time of inter-generational lull, the EQ beast is pushing vigorously into other, less-familiar territories. So, you've got the likes of Champions Of Norrath and EverQuest Online Adventures popping up on PS2, while back home on the PC you've got this - Lords Of EverQuest, the first Norrath-based RTS.
The Usual Suspects
Even though the game is set 10,000 years before the online game, in a world of chaos, vying forces and lost magical artifacts, it's not just carrying the EverQuest name for show (in case you were starting to smell a cheap cash-in). All the creatures in the game and many of their attributed powers have come directly from the MMORPG, so fans will be right at home. Like WarCraft III, Lords Of EverQuest relies on a strong storyline and single-player campaign, with 75 hours of combined gameplay before you get stuck into multiplayer.
The majority of the action revolves around three different factions, fitting your standard RTS 'good, bad and somewhere-in-between' formula. The Elddar Alliance is a collection of elves, hobbits and other hippie creatures, all sharing a strong bond with the natural world; while the Dawn Brotherhood is made up of dwarven paladins, barbarians and humans. The token 'bad' guys are those belonging to the Shadowrealm faction, who, in true bad-guy form, get the best lines and the best costumes.
Each side has its own selection of five battle 'Lords' who are the strongest units in the game. As well as having their own powers that they gain as they level-up, they offer various aura benefits that affect surrounding units. Lords are your personal representatives on the battlefield, and looking after them and lovingly building them up is one of the key combat elements in the game. In some ways, the Lords feature is quite reminiscent of a turn-based strategy game, which comes as no great surprise since many of the developers behind Lords Of EverQuest worked on the Heroes Of Might And Magic series.
The concentration on individual units over waves of troops is also a nice balance to the growing number of strategy games that seem to be adopting the more is more" outlook. Rapid Eye Entertainment has even gone so far as to put a cap of 50 units per side, which seems quite sparse until you realise what you can do with them (see below).
Looks-wise, LoE bears more than a passing resemblance to Blizzard's aforementioned goblin 'em up, and also utilises a powerful 3D engine that enables you to zoom in close to the action should you so desire. Although WarCraft III looks rather rough up close, LoE manages to retain its good looks at full zoom, even if it is impractical to command your battles from behind an ogre's left ear.
The resource management in the game is pretty standard. There are 20 different building types per side, all suitably fantastical-looking in design and able to churn out specific units and upgrades, while clockwork spiders and weird crab-women trundle around doing the resource gathering. However, one of the particularly nice aspects of the game (and a feature often overlooked if it's done right and moaned about constantly when it's wrong) is the interface. Each section of the customisable interface - from the mini-map to the commands menu - can be stretched, shrunk, moved around and switched on and off at will. This is unusually handy, especially if you want to concentrate on drinking in the battle visuals.
Lords Of EverQuest definitely has a lot of promise and, with a month left for polishing, the game is already looking accomplished. The impressive CVs of the developers should ensure it turns out to be a great RTS in its own right, with or without the hook of its big brother.
On The Level
Let Your Units Learn With You. Awww
All your units in Lords Of Everquest will be able to gain experience and level-up as they fight in the same way as the MMORPG characters. Once they reach level six you can wave your sword of leadership and knight them, endowing them with extra abilities and the power to lead their own squads.
This could lead to some interesting tactics in the game. A simple points system permits you to carry surviving units from game to game and seamlessly level them up, enabling you to nurture your favourite units into mighty behemoths. With any luck this will go some way to stopping online players from rushing in with swarms of minor units, as a cared for and cultivated higher level creature will have no problem doing away with a bunch of rookies. But, on the other hand, if you don't fight, your creatures aren't going to gain any experience by just sitting back at base digging up toe jam.
Download Lords of EverQuest
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
As an MMORPG, Everquest is an established, respected, and flourishing franchise. But while practically synonymous with MMORPGS, EverQuest is known only as a MMORPG. That, however, will be changing with Lords of EverQuest, a RTS title set in the world of Norrath. How will it be known as an RTS? Well, let's put it this way: Lords of EverQuest does some things right, some things wrong, and then some things are just done really, really wrong -- The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, if you will.
Lords of EverQuest doesn't look half bad. The overall look is a love it or hate it deal, but I think it works, though it's nothing special technically. LoE is also host to some fantastic voice-acting talent, such as John Rhys-Davies (better known as Gimli in the Lord of the Rings movies). Some of the lines seem forced, but on the whole, it's a commendable effort. The online aspect is probably LoE's greatest strength. Multiplayer matches can provide some fun with enticing maps and stable servers, although finding someone to play with can be a bit hard since SoEGames.com is still a ghost town.
The Bad One of the bigger problems in Lords is that there's no real diversity between the three different sides. Yes, there's a different story for each campaign and there are different units for each side, but there's no unit that really stands out for any them. Aside from the abilities of the lord, all three sides play the same, more or less. Another major dilemma lies in the AI. Units will often run off and do their own thing when confronted with an impassable barrier. Likewise, units are overly aggressive and the commands like defend, stand ground, and protect do next to nothing. Both of these problems lead to the bane of RTS titles: lots and lots of micromanaging.
The Ugly Lords of EverQuest seems to be missing one key component of the RTS formula: strategy. A bulk of the missions take place on maps with linear progression where the only real strategy revolves around making a sufficient amount of units and then herding them around to the objective locations. It feels like you're just jumping through hoops in the single player campaign instead of actually coming up with strategic ways to tackle missions. This doesn't taint the multiplayer experience, but it's a major reason why the single player campaign can be such a bore.
I wanted to like Lords of EverQuest -- really, I did -- but I just couldn't. There are just too many problems with its core gameplay for it to be a worthwhile and enjoyable experience. In the end, Lords of EverQuest is a mediocre game in a sea of refined and polished strategy games. Perhaps it's a bit unfair to compare Lords of EverQuest to an established RTS series like, say, WarCraft 3 -- after all, Rome wasn't built in a day, right? Unfortunately, that excuse won't actually fix of any of LoE's problems.
Hardcore RTS fans should avoid Lords of EverQuest while others interested in the concept (ie: EverQuest fans) should checkout the demo before taking the plunge.
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