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Lords of Everquest

Score: 60%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Sony Online Entertainment
Developer: Rapid Eye Entertainment
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 16
Genre: Real-Time Strategy

Graphics & Sound:

Lords of Everquest takes the Everquest franchise into a new direction, but this new path might not be the best.

Overall, Lords of Everquest looks and sounds like a cheap knock-off of Warcraft III. Characters look okay, but really don't go the extra step. Details are sparse, and don't really show off much of what higher end graphic cards have to offer. Character models are blocky, poorly animated and show little in terms of detail. This isn't as noticeable in game (since the camera is so far back), but it runs up and pops you in the mouth during cut scenes. This helps to make otherwise interesting story elements (okay -- interesting might be stretching it a tad bit), comical. There's nothing funnier than watching a really bad model flail around and try to pull off a dramatic death scene. Each of the game's environments is nice, and shows off more detail than those who roam them, but lack a nice battleground type feel. Since the game tends to drift more towards using small squads rather than massive armies, all of the levels are built like mazes. Imagine any of the dungeon crawl missions from Warcraft III, and you've got a good idea of how cramped nearly all of Lord's areas look.

Sound is something you'll likely want to turn down during your campaigns across Norrath. The game's soundtrack is cliche' at best, and doesn't do much to discern itself from themes found in every other RTS. Even after turning the background music down, it always feels like it's getting in the way -- almost as if it's crying out 'Please, please don't forget I'm here!!' The voice work is bad, but gets worse when combined with the equally bad writing.


Gameplay:

What Lords of Everquest lacks in presentation, it doesn't make up in gameplay. The story is confusing, boring and at times you won't even know it's there. Much of this can be attributed to the game's odd mission structure. Instead of featuring one storyline for each of the game's three factions, the game allows you to first pick a faction, and then you pick a Lord to play as. Each Lord's story depicts a different part of the game's overall story -- a massive power struggle between the three factions. This is all you really need to know about the story because, well -- it's all I really understood. Each scenario starts out strong, but runs of out gas quickly. The stories, however, run simultaneous of each other and intertwine, meaning you'll run into other characters and get parts of their stories as well as your own. Interesting? Yes. Effective? No. Though this gives a neat twist to the game, the game barely manages to pull it off.

Each of the factions you can choose from is composed of loose confederacies of races from Everquest. For example, the Elddar Alliance is made up of elfish and nature-type units (like frogloks: giant frogs with swords) and the Dawn Brotherhood is humans and dwarves. Players familiar with the series will obviously get more out of these alliances than those who aren't, since each unit looks like your typical unit. One of the interesting aspects of RTS games is the variety each faction offers. In Starcraft, the strategies you employ for the Protoss will be different than those you use as Zerg. This is what makes the game fun -- you can find a faction who fits your style and concentrate on them. In addition, it helps keep the single-player campaign interesting because you always have to adjust your play style. This isn't the case in Lords, since every faction looks and plays exactly the same. This makes it seem as though very little thought actually went into the game since every unit is comparable. The only difference between units in one faction and those of another are the graphics -- thus removing much of the strategy. Even resource gathering follows the same standard path. The main, and only, source of resources is platinum, which every faction collects and uses. There's not variety in build costs either, everything costs about the same.

Even some of the more intriguing and fresh aspects of the game don't go off without a hitch. Most of the game is based around commanding small, diverse groups of troops rather than building a big group of your most powerful unit and laying waste to enemies (although this strategy does work). After battles, your troops gain experience points and levels. In addition to becoming stronger, leveled units also gain new abilities. Once a unit reaches level 6, you can knight them -- unlocking additional abilities and a free transfer pass to the next level. Only two of your troops can be knighted. I would have liked to have seen more of this type of stuff put into the game since I've always enjoyed planning units in RTS's. Including the option to name units, alter their appearance or equip them with new items would have added to the squad-based approach. This, however, is not the case. Although you are allowed to bring some units over into different missions, the system is flawed due to a transfer point system that A) makes no sense and B) isn't useful unless you're taking over a bunch of low-level troops.

Most of the game revolves around one unit -- your Lord. These are comparable to heroes in the Warcraft games. After selecting a faction, you can choose to follow a Lord through their story. Lords prove to be the most powerful units in the game (obviously) but also show very little variety. Just as with units, each Lord has a comparable counterpart in the other two factions. Unlike heroes, Lords cannot be resurrected, so if your Lord dies, the scenario is over. You can, however, create a special unit that will transfer its soul into your Lord. Since you're limited to the number of troops you can have in a particular battle group (stupid move number one), taking one of these resurrection units is just wasting space because they offer nothing to your army (stupid move number two). This ability would have worked so much better, and made more sense, as one of the healer's abilities.

Outside of the main Campaign, Lords of Everquest offers a Skirmish mode. I actually enjoyed this mode, which just lets you build units and fight for control of an area, more than the Campaign. You're not limited in your troop types and there's a little more strategy involved. Units gain experience much faster, and become much more useful since you can usually get use out of their special abilities. However, the game still has to contend with a less-than-good AI system that will usually give up if you pose too much of a threat.

An RTS wouldn't be an RTS without multiplayer options. RTS standards like Last Man Standing are present, as are some basic accumulation games where you have to get the most of something before time runs out (like kills or platinum). Lords of Everquest does offer one or two games that offer something different. Lord of the Levels is similar to the 'Get the most of...' games, but you're trying to level your units up. Grim Reaper is a war of attrition where you try to outlast the other player's troop numbers. These games are available for online play (as well as over LANs) and are free to play.


Difficulty:

Missions are laid out in a very simple fashion and require little thought. If you've seen it in other RTSs, you'll see it in Lords of Everquest. More often than not, your mission will be to storm someone's base or wipe out the opposing faction. Plowing through enemies is very easy to do because the AI offers very little challenge. All strategies employed by the AI are preset and reactionary, rather than adapting to your play style. In addition, there are multiple times where the AI strategy is to make units appear out of thin air someplace in your base. Defend missions are even easier. Given the maze-like structure of levels, most bases are in very easy to defend areas with one or two choke points. Rarely are unit abilities used (or useful) in missions.

Game Mechanics:

As previously mentioned, the AI in Lords of Everquest is terrible on both sides of the battle. Path finding is joke, as most units will get lost without constant supervision. Most of the time you'll get lucky and your armies will manage to navigate through the straightforward level designs by themselves. However, if something gets in the way, they'll stop instead of trying to find a way around the obstacle. Units are also unresponsive to commands at times and will either use abilities or attack at will rather than wait for you to tell them too. This makes trying to amass small war parties hard. There were multiple times where I would leave a small group in an area, go back to my base to get some newly-trained troops, only to hear 'Your Lord has engaged in battle'. The kicker is that the enemies were on the other side of an enclosed room and my units just decided to attack anyway. Arrg. Enemy AI faces many of the same hurdles, as well as the already documented lack of strategic thinking and tendency to give up.

Lords of Everquest's interface is watered down, making it both easy to use and painfully dull. Rather than feature one main window with all of your information, Lords of Everquest features five or six separate windows. You can choose to close down some and show just the info you need, or show everything. Much of the game's focus is on units rather than micromanaging of your bases. Buildings spawn by themselves rather than having peons build them, making peons less of a part of the game. In fact, you can usually scrape past missions with no more than four peons. Since you're not focusing on building massive armies, platinum comes at a premium. Mines usually hold less than a thousand platinum and are exhausted very quickly. Mines are also really hard to come by in some missions, so once a mine is exhausted a peon is useless.

Lords of Everquest comes in with potential and goes out as a disappointment. Overall, the game feels under planned and shows few signs of creativity in design. Instead of setting out and trying to make it's own niche in the RTS world, Lords of Everquest tries to follow the rest of the pack and falls way behind. Everquest junkies will probably enjoy the game more than other players, but may find the thrill of exploring Norrath from a different perspective fleeting.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

Minimum System Requirements:



Windows 98/ME/2000/XP; Pentium 4 1 GHz; 256 MB RAM; 800 MB HD; 32 MB video card
 

Test System:



Windows XP; Pentium 4 1.7 GHz; Radeon 9100 128 MB; 40 Gig HD; 640 MB RAM

Windows Law and Order II: Double or Nothing Windows Postal 2

 
Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated