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EverQuest: Omens of War

Score: 78%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Sony Online Entertainment
Developer: Sony Online Entertainment
Media: CD/1
Players: MMO
Genre: MMORPG

Graphics & Sound:

"Here we go again," is what I thought to myself as a copy of EverQuest: Omens of War was placed into my hands. I hadnít actively played EverQuest since the Legacy of Ykesha extension about two years ago. I was sort of happy to be back. I got to see some old friends and make some new ones. I couldnít get too sidetracked though; I had a job to do.

Graphically, the world of Norrath hasnít changed very much. Despite the fact that I hadnít played the Lost Dungeons of Norrath or Gates of Discord expansions, I was never overtly "wowed" by the graphics of Omens of War. They were nice, and familiar, but never terribly impressive. Some of the monsters looked so familiar Iíd swear they were just male human models. Oh wait, they were. Seems not everything was working real well at launch time, and many of the NPCs looked like human males. This was fixed by the time I wrote this review however.

There were two exceptions to the humdrum graphics: water and particle effects. It seems that water finally got a face lift in the world of EverQuest. While it doesnít come close to the water in EverQuest 2, the new water effects introduced in this latest expansion are actually rather impressive. Additionally, it seems a lot of work has been done on particle effects while I was away. This was certainly a pleasant surprise, as I have always been pretty critical of the random sparkles that have been passed off as real spell effects for so long. Lightning actually looks like lightning now, and the teleportation effects that you see when being transported to the new Realm of Discord are pretty cool.

One last aspect of the graphics Iím going to mention is the new system in place for displaying shadows. While very impressive, the strain on my computer was just too much to warrant ever turning the option on. Now I donít have the greatest PC of all time, but itís nothing to sneeze at, and even I couldnít find a setting where the game would still run smoothly with these new shadows turned on.

While the graphics hadnít changed that much, the audio... well, the audio hadnít really changed much either. If youíre reading this, chances are darn good you play EverQuest already, so you know what the sound effects are like, and thereís nothing new to tell you about here. Music on the other hand, if I had to pick a game to win a Ďmost improved in musicí award, EverQuest would probably win. The landscapes of Discord manage to be quiet and serene while at the same time being extraordinarily dangerous. The music reflects this quality very well.


Gameplay:

After fighting the gods in Planes of Power, and fending off otherworldly invaders in Gates of Discord, what was left for the mortals of Norrath to do? What the mortals of Norrath do best; find things and kill them indiscriminately. It seems the, now pretty obsolete, Priests of Discord found around the game have gained a new ability. They can now transport people to a place known as the Realm of Discord. This is the home turf of the Legion of Mata Muram, the folks responsible for the invasion in Gates of Discord. Well, now itís Norrathís turn to do the invading, and all a player has to do is find a Priest of Discord and theyíre on their way.

The first thing I should say is that Omens of War is most assuredly a high-level expansion, a fact that shouldnít be surprising since it raises the gameís level cap from 65 to 70. Unless youíre at least level 50, you wonít find a single thing to do in these new zones, and while there are a few places the 50-60 crowd can get their fight on, itís pretty much a playground for those level 60 and above.

One of the great things about Omens of War is that itís the first high-level expansion since Scars of Velious to have mostly unlocked zones. High-level players wonít have to spend a lot of time doing quests and trials to earn the right to enter the really good zones; they can just waltz right in. In fact there is only one locked zone, and I would imagine the quest to gain entrance is probably pretty extreme.

From what I saw, the zones consisted mostly of two types of monsters: the indigenous Dragorn, and the invading Legions of Mata Muram. Yeah, it seems this place didnít belong to the Muramites either, and many of the remaining Dragorn arenít too pleased with their presence. I could be mistaken, but it seemed as if the factions in the expansion werenít working too well when I played. It seems the Dragorn were suppose to like me, whenever I killed a Muramite, but I was never able to find a single Dragorn in any of these zones that wouldnít just attack me on sight.


Difficulty:

Now, going to all these places and seeing all these things was a serious problem for me because Iím only level 57. So I couldnít write this without giving a thank you to the Torvonnilous guild Blades of Wrath and their leader Sythrak for letting me hang out with them for an evening. Of course I also needed to see how well people my level could fight. This proved difficult since many people my level seemed afraid to go to these new areas, so Iíd like to thank the following intrepid souls: Caka, Eatsome, Keilleanne, Iliiane, Arghor, and Doafist.

Now that thatís out of the way, be warned, the creatures in Omens of War are very difficult. From what I saw, they hit about as hard as monsters from Planes of Power and seem to have the hit-points of creatures from Shadows of Luclin. Suffice to say, thatís a very dangerous combination. While I doubt any of the boss fights reach the 30-minute length of some Shadows of Luclin fights, the normal enemies we were fighting seemed to take an awful long time to kill. The monsters definitely didnít seem to give nearly enough experience points for their difficulty. I dunno, maybe Iím just rusty.

Another thing I can add is that Omens of War will most assuredly become more difficult than Gates of Discord, and from what Iíve been told, no guild has managed to complete Gates of Discord yet. Hopefully the new level 70 will help them with that.


Game Mechanics:

Sony Online Entertainment is nobodyís fool, and made sure to include some things everyone could enjoy. The most prominent of these is the new task system. A word of warning if anyone from SOE is reading this, Iím a level 57 warrior, so you know whatís coming next.

Tasks are Ďsupposedí to scale themselves to fit your class and level. The task system could be said to be akin to mission terminals from Star Wars Galaxies. Tasks are convenient little multi-step mini-quests people are suppose to be able to do in a short sitting, and still get some experience, money, or whatever. For lower level characters, it seems to work just fine and dandy. For me, however, they did not.

Well my first task started off well enough; I had to find and explore this skull in an old Ruins of Kunark zone called Skyfire Mountains. When I finally found it, there were many monsters all over it that would have killed me in a heartbeat. Iím not entirely sure these guys would have even been killable by a full group of people my level. It worked out in the end though, with a little sneaky maneuvering on my part. I was feeling rather proud of myself, until I read part two. I had to explore some bridge on Veeshanís Peak. Um, what? For those who may not know, Veeshanís Peak is a level 60+ raid level zone that requires an intricate quest to even gain entrance. The words Veeshanís Peak probably shouldnít even be in the task system. Especially not given to someone level 57 and alone! I tried some other tasks but never faired much better. I probably could have done one if I rounded up a full group, but then whatís the point of just doing a task? All hope is not lost however, and I understand they are currently looking at this problem and will hopefully retune some of this in the near future.

Well thatís all for my task rant. There were some other things included in the new expansion including Voice Macros, which are great when used in moderation, a guild tribute system that lets you turn loot into points your guild can use as well, and finally, the long rumored new epic quests for every class. These new quests arenít just confined to Omens of War, and people may notice some new things popping up in all of the previous expansions as well. Additionally, one bug in the game popped up often enough to warrant a sentence here. I frequently had lots of trouble targeting and looting a corpse in Omens of War, and hopefully thatíll be fixed soon.

Letís be honest, Omens of War is for high-level folks. Sure, you can go fight there before youíre level 60-65, but the experience isnít nearly as good as places in Planes of Power or Lost Dungeons of Norrath. If you really wanna go buy it, by all means, go buy it. However, if youíve been wondering if itís really worth it while youíre in the 50-60 range, Iíd have to say probably not.


-Alucard, GameVortex Communications
AKA Stephen Triche

Minimum System Requirements:



Windows 98/SE/2000/ME/XP, Pentium II 400, 256MB RAM, ATI Radeon 7500/NVidia Ge Force 1 equivalent or greater, DirectX compatible sound card, 28.8k+ internet connection, 500MB hard drive space, DirectX 9.0b
 

Test System:



Windows XP, Pentium IV 2.8Ghz, 1024MB RAM, ATI Radeon 9800 Pro 256MB, Sound Blaster Audigy 2

Windows Dark Fall: Lights Out Nintendo 64 CyberTiger

 
Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated