Lords of EverQuest Preview

Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:Sony Online Entertainment
Developer:Rapid Eye Entertainment
Release Date:2003-12-01
Genre:
  • Action,Role-Playing,Strategy
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Third-Person,Top-Down
Buy this Game: Amazon ebay

Like many successful TV shows, the most popular massively multiplayer online roleplaying game in North America is getting its own realtime strategy spin-off. Lords of EverQuest will undoubtedly invoke (and has already from pre-release hype) many comparisons to Blizzard's latest RTS success, Warcraft III. The comparison is justified.

Both of them are in highly colorful 3D, beautifully animated, and have several roleplaying elements thrown in--characters gain experience, levels and magic items. The comparison should end there, however, since both games borrow the rest from past RTS's (especially the ones made famous by Blizzard). What Lords of EQ can justly claim as its own is both in its highly developed world lore, taken from the MMORPG and served here in new RTS form, and the roleplaying element with more depth than any RTS currently out. These differences, I think--and the developers are counting on--will be enough to separate this game from the crowd.

Loaded on my computer is the most current build of the closed beta test--well over a gigabyte of downloads and updates over these last few days. So far, it's multiplayer only, so any glimpses into the single-player campaign will be left to other previews; and everything but will be looked at here.

To anyone who has played EverQuest, the creatures, buildings, Lord races and classes, monsters and locals will be instantly recognizable. Well, scratch that last part. Though the names of places will be very familiar--even comfortably familiar--you'd be unlikely to find any resemblance between the Desert of Ro in this RTS and the one presented in the online RPG other than general climate. I cannot say what's in store for the single-player campaign of course; perhaps they'll include a mission or two in Freeport and you'll be able to gallivant your army through familiar places. What they have included in the multiplayer beta is a very large selection of your favorite rural areas from EverQuest tailored to RTS specifications, and many of game's more infamous denizens to actually play with.

A one-time devotee to EverQuest myself, it was pleasantly shocking to make froglok (gaz) warriors for use in my own army, especially after having dealt with them frequently (often resulting in my death) in the dangerous dungeons of Guk. Fans of the MMORPG may find themselves with similar experiences using different creatures when they first pick the game up.

LoE's Roleplaying Depth

The most notable difference between other RTS's and LoE is that all creatures on the battlefield will gain experience and level up. The Lords in Lords of EverQuest are much like the heroes of Warcraft III--they'll gain new spells, upgrade their statistics and receive new abilities as they level. In LoE, every creature will be receiving these benefits as well, as they progress and stay alive. This new aspect of the RTS genre will guarantee many challenging decisions for the player throughout a scenario, creating an overall more complex experience, a definite plus. As reported on the official site, units will also be carried over to new missions in the single-player campaign, making their survival within each scenario more important.

Inevitably, the player will venture from the base to explore their surroundings. Along the way they'll encounter treasure chests, magic items and hostile NPC monster groups (similar to the "creeps" in Blizzard's game) hanging on their own turf. Defeating these monster groups is good way to gain experience for low level Lords and allies before the real battle ensues between player and player. Occasionally, a monster group's boss will drop a magic artifact. Every unit in the game has four slots with which to put magic items, and any unit--assuming it meets the requirements--can pick them up and use them.

To add yet more depth, all units (and there are lots) slowly regenerate health and mana, similar to how it works in the MMORPG. Many Lords and creatures can also cast spells, buildings radiate their auras, and upgrades purchased to increase this regeneration.

Finally, the there's the character progression--after all, roleplaying as we know it is never without character progression. In LoE, each Lord and creature has several statistics that will be boosted automatically during level-ups. Resistance to spells, poison and elemental attacks, attack potential, movement speed, and different types of damage resistance are all included for the player to take advantage of.

Multiplayer Impressions & Gameplay Conventions

Apart from the familiarity of the EverQuest world (to some), and several instances of added and welcome depth, general strategy will be much the same compared to other RTS offerings; build, expand and surprise. It's in this depth though, that I'm predicting you'll find the payoff in Lords of Everquest, and the reason for picking it up. Imagine having a battlefield full of units ranging from level 1 through level 7 or higher, all with different strengths and shortcomings and you'll begin to see the variance this game promises. Multiplayer games will be races, like always, to beef up units and surprise-attack opponents. After several won and lost battles on a large map, you'll be left with the units running the gamut of levels and abilities, and that's where it gets interesting.