With high walls and people guarding the gate, the Sony Online Entertainment ?fortress? booth was as closed off as always, but I, of course, managed to gain elusive access. Okay, so maybe access isn?t all that elusive, but there was certainly a lot to see inside SOE?s booth, or castle, or whatever you want to call it.
The game most prominently displayed was the first Everquest II expansion, Desert of Flames, set to come out in September. Set in what used to be the Desert of Ro, Desert of Flames will be the first significant addition of the world of Norrath since the game?s release last year.
Some of the new features Desert of Flames will introduce are an additional 10 player levels bringing the cap up to 60, 12+ new zones, climbable walls, and many new types of monsters to fight. Desert of Flames will also feature the game?s first introduction of PvP combat. PvP will take place in the arena. Rather than just being a free-for-all, you can also choose to engage in several types of PvP games like capture the flag. You will be able to fight as yourself or as dozens of different types of monsters, each with their own unique levels, statistics and skills.
The hub of the expansion will be a new city called Maj?dul. The interesting thing about this city is that four factions are vying for control, and the players can exert a direct influence on which is in power by doing various quests and missions. If your faction isn?t in power, be wary. Everyone in Maj?dul is attackable, and that means anyone in Maj?dul can attack you.
SOE also plans to release the second adventure pack on June 27th. Titled Splitpaw Saga, this series of quests will take players deep into the former lair of the Splitpaw gnolls. Some interesting things being introduced will be movable objects, exploding barrels and puzzles. The instances will also be scaled to your group?s level. So a group of level 20 characters or a group of level 50 characters will find sufficient challenge.
The other big MMORPG in SOE?s lineup was Star Wars Galaxies: The Total Experience, which is a retail version of the game that includes both Jump to Lightspeed and the recent Rage of the Wookies expansion. It appears the game will retail for little more than Rage of the Wookies alone, which may upset a few people that paid for it separately.
Though not a game, I was also given an in-depth showcase of the new Station Exchange service for Everquest II. Station Exchange will allow players to buy, sell and trade Everquest II items, coins and money using real world currency. SOE has been very careful to craft the service so that no abuse can take place. For example, you are not allowed to give an item description. The information displayed will be the same as what?s in the game so players cannot falsify what they are trying to sell. At the moment, you must use a credit card to use the service, but SOE is currently talking with PayPal to add that as an option as well. SOE also made it clear that this service will be specific to two NEW servers only. No existing servers will become Station Exchange servers.
SOE is also taking an interest in the portable market with two new PSP titles they will be publishing this fall, in addition to Untold Legends: Brotherhood of the Blade, which was recently released for the PSP. Check out our review here.
Gripshift is a platform-racing game that reminded me a lot of Diddy Kong Racing in certain respects. It has 100 unique tracks and you can complete them all like a normal race, but there are also items you can collect on a stage for extra unlockables, gold medals, etc? You are encouraged to NOT go through the track in the normal way, but flip, boost, and dive your way through ingenious short cuts.
Frantix is a puzzle game very much in the vein of the old Lolo titles for the NES. You must collect every gem in a stage and then head for the exit. Things like blocks, enemies, lava and water will block your path and you must use the various elements of the stage to your advantage to get what you need. Each level should only take between six seconds to two minutes to complete, allowing players to pick it up and put it down when they have spare time. With 150 levels across 6 worlds, Frantix should keep puzzles fans busy for a while.
One final thing to mention is that Planetside recently underwent some major design changes in how you accrue experience. It seems that previously, the fastest way to gain experience was to go out on your own. With the new changes, players now have a much larger incentive to form large groups.
As always, keep it locked here for full reviews as the titles release.