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.