Dark Age of Camelot & Shrouded Isles Collector Pack
(Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) are becoming more and
more popular these days and with the advent of broadband meaning lag should
become a thing of the past, this trend looks certain to continue. One
of the most popular MMORPGs amongst European gamers in recent months has
been Mythic Entertainment's Dark Age of Camelot. Of course the game has
been out a while now and recently the first expansion pack, Shrouded Isles
was released. We've been sent the Collector pack to review which includes
both Dark Age of Camelot and the Shrouded Isles expansion. Let's take
a look at both of these in turn.
Age of Camelot
There are several differences in DAoC from other MMORPGs such as no experience loss when you're killed in a PvP battle or not being able to loot a defeated human enemy. There are certain areas of a realm that are safe havens and should an enemy player attempt to enter one of these areas he/she will be attacked by an NPC guard (who by the way are ruthlessly difficult to defeat). It's not necessary to take part in PvP battles though, as there are many quests that can be undertaken, which are actually not that bad, or you can take on AI enemies within your own realm.
What realm you choose to play in will determine the available classes that are open to you. There are five races available to each realm and each of these races will have a handful of classes available to them. On reaching the fifth level your character will be able to join a guild if you so wish which will benefit your training in your chosen class. I felt the structure of DAoC was good, in regards to character creation and development and it didn't throw too much at you in an attempt to confuse you.
Each of the realms are quite large and it's going to take you quite a long while to go from one side to the other on foot. Thankfully the developers included portals, horse routes and of course if you have the ability you can cast spells to move you along much more quickly. My personal favourite has to be the horse routes which enable you to hire a horse and quickly move from one location to another. This prevents long journeys becoming tedious which is of course of major importance in regards to enjoying the game.
Graphically the game is quite impressive and I was surprised to see that lag wasn't much of a problem in a 56k modem. The lag only began to show its ugly head when a battle commenced but even then it didn't become too much of a problem. Having said that though I did stick to the lower 800x600 resolution which probably helped keep things smooth. I usually headed for the servers that weren't too busy as well (there's usually around a dozen or so and only about half are usually full), which again probably helped. It's nice to see a day and night cycle in the game as well as great weather effects.
There is nothing here that would prove to be an obstacle for a deaf gamer. Conversations are carried out via text and as you can imagine all information is given out completely in text. I played the game at the default resolution (800x600) and the interface never really got cluttered and the text was very clear and easy to read. You can switch to a smaller font if you wish but this is unadvisable. It is also best to avoid the option to have a transparent interface as it is a mess to be honest with the text boxes overlapping each other and making it tricky to read things at times. It's also a nice touch that the ability of your enemies have been colour coded so as to clearly indicate to you whether they are stronger, same strength or indeed weaker than you.
One big criticism I would make is that the game could do with a hefty manual to completely fill you in on the ins and outs of the game. You can find the answers to most of your questions in the online manual which is on the official website but this is a clumsy and inconvenient way of doing things. Most RPGs come with a proper manual that you can read whilst sitting up in bed or stretched out on the sofa (or even sitting in the small room :)). Such a game demands a comprehensive manual. After all with how much you're going to be paying over the course of time, there is no excuse to skimp on providing the gamer with all necessary information.
If you've cut your RPG teeth on epic single player games such as Baldur's Gate 1/2 and Planescape Torment then MMORPGs will come as a bit of nasty shock. By comparison to the classic single player RPG games these multiplayer games can seem rather hollow and lacking in real substance. In truth when compared to games such as Baldur's Gate II this is largely the case but in a MMORPG, the game is what you make it. The world is there for you to explore but there isn't any guidelines about what you should do and you have to give yourself a sense of direction otherwise the entertainment value will soon wear pretty thin. You have to bear this in mind as you'll be paying to play on a monthly basis.
There are now two additional player classes per realm. For Albion there is now a Necromancer and Reaver class; for Hibernia there is the Animist and Valewalker class and for the Nordic there is now a Bonedancer and Savage class. Some of the original races will be able to play as the new classes which is a nice touch and basically means that you don't have to choose one of the new races to take advantage of the new classes. The new races can also play as a number of the original classes which again is pleasing.
Each realm now has an additional continent and dungeons for you to explore. This greatly increases the size of the realms in DAoC. To further increase your enjoyment the expansion brings improved graphics, higher resolution textures, realistic water reflections and wakes as well as dynamic shadows. The framerate has also been improved.
Other additions include new weapons such as whips and chains, to name but a few, and a quick bar that allows you to place items there for easy access in a similar way to the one in Neverwinter Nights. There is also an improved help system and many slash (as in the / symbol) action commands. Duelling has also been added so players from the same realm can stage mock fights against each other. It is fair to say that Shrouded Isles is a cracking first expansion for Dark Age of Camelot and well worth the money if you already own the original game (of course if you don't own DAoC then this Collector pack will be a much better choice than buying the game and expansion separately).
In addition to the original game and expansion disk you also get 4 updated maps of the realms in this Collector pack, which as any player will tell you is worth having.
I have to be completely honest and say that MMORPGs are not usually my favourite type of game. I've tried them most of them but only 2 have ever held my interest and Dark Age of Camelot is one of these. The subtle differences in the way the game play will appeal to those of you who don't simply want to take part in PvP battles around the clock. The gameplay still isn't as in depth as a single player RPG but with the basis the game provides and with a great first expansion pack this certainly looks like it can only get better and bigger.
Game Rating: 8.5/10