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Sharky Extreme : Games July 30, 2007


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    Lords of EverQuest Review
    By Dilip "Klashe" Trivedi :  December 26, 2003

    Gameplay

    In terms of overall gameplay, Lords of EverQuest appears to be in the midst of an identity crisis, and really doesn't cut a true line between micro and macro management. Most RTS games establish this early on by the types of units that you can produce and their various abilities. Micro management games will limit you to producing a smaller number of units but give each game character unique abilities and weaknesses, so the player is more focused on keeping individual units alive in order to win the overall battle. Macro management games let you produce vast hordes of units and limit the weaknesses and abilities of the units so you are more focused on the overall battle and strategy, rather than individual units.

    Lords of EverQuest rides a fine line between these two schools of RTS thought. You can produce large amounts of units, but these also come with many different abilities and weaknesses. For instance, each LoE unit has 6 statistics: crush, pierce, slash, magic, elemental, and poison, each reflecting resistance to different attack types. When taking part in a large-scale battle, with dozens of units milling around the field, it is doubtful that you'll be concerned with the elemental damage that your Hammerskull Grunt is taking from the enemy's Deadshot Archer. In a turn-based game, statistics like this are expected and even required, but in a fast-paced real-time game with vast quantities of units, game design is better left simplified.

    When Lords of EverQuest tries to simplify the basic gameplay, this can also make the game more difficult. For example, resource management has been cut back to just one material: platinum, which makes getting an economy up and running a fairly simple task. But the platinum mines on most maps exhaust after only a few minutes, forcing you to expand and keep watch over another base. Or, let's say a Lord dies. It can be resurrected it by creating one easily produced unit, but the catch is that the resurrecting unit must travel to the corpse, and then be fused with the body. So after a heavy battle at an enemy's base, where your army gets wiped out along with the Lord, then you can kiss him goodbye, as the chances of walking into an enemy base and reviving a lord with an extremely weak unit are very slim indeed. Obviously this was an attempt at making resurrection a more difficult task, but gameplay design like this keeps LoE in a stalemate between enjoyment and displeasure, and never allows much ground to be gained in either direction.

    The AI and pathfinding also leave a lot to be desired. When issuing a move command to units, sometimes two or three clicks are necessary to get them on their way. And while heading to their destination, if any units get trapped between a bottleneck on the map, they will change their path and find some cumbersome way to get there. This often means walking halfway around the map, so a fair amount of unit babysitting is required. The enemy AI in skirmish games can also be pretty lame. It wasn't an uncommon sight to see a computer's entire army wiped out, but still leaving the Lord to stay behind, fight and die. Sometimes it would even expand to a gold mine right on the outskirts of the player's base, along with many other strange mistakes, and the overall enemy AI is quite haphazard in LoE.

    Graphics and Sound

    The graphics portion of a real-time strategy game is a dual-edged sword: the visuals need to immerse the player the game world (without requiring an Athlon 64 FX-51 for smooth gameplay), but also need to accurately and clearly depict the action on the screen. Lords of EverQuest does well at immersive game visuals, but drops the ball when the action heats up. The game environment includes lots of little details scattered throughout, like skulls and crosses on a barren warfield or campfires and tents in a forested area, all of which makes it reminiscent of RPGs like Neverwinter Nights or Baldur's Gate. This adds to game atmosphere, but can be a distraction in combat, and just adds more clutter on screen. As mentioned previously, the units can scale too small, making it difficult to figure out what the units are, and sometimes, which side the units belong to.

    The music in Lords of EverQuest is excellent, and the composer did a superb job in orchestrating tracks that capture the feel of the EverQuest universe. The voice acting is pretty good, with Rapid Eye bringing in some top notch voice talent from the likes of John Rhys Davies (Gimli from Lord of the Rings), Katie Segal (Leela from Futurama) and Kate Mulgrew (Captain Janeway from Star Trek: Voyager), just to name a few.


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