Genre : MMORPG
Publishers : Mythic Entertainment
Developer : Mythic Entertainment
Release Date : Q3 2004
When a company releases a free expansion, it’s usually a their way of saying, “Thanks for playing”, by giving you a fluff pack that adds some trivial new content. New Frontiers is much more than that – it proves Mythic takes Realm-vs-Realm combat, the much-touted “end game” of Dark Age of Camelot, seriously. The previous two expansion packs, Shrouded Isles and Trials of Atlantis, had no direct changes to the RvR system, causing many fans to clamor that Mythic wasn’t supporting what they considered to be the big draw to the game, and what separates DAoC from the other MMOGs.
If you’re a subscriber, you’re no doubt familiar with the dichotomous nature of the game: you spend almost all your play time fighting monsters to reach level 50 when your focus then changes to the player-vs-player game. At this point you fight players from opposing realms to gain Realm Points which allow you to earn extra abilities for your character. Arguably, the biggest change in New Frontiers is that this dichotomy has been eliminated, as you can now gain xp from - and level off of - enemy players.
The key thing here is if the main reason you play is for the extra challenge of the PvP game, no longer are you forced to kill monsters to level. You’ll still need to kill some monsters for cash, though, since as of this writing opposing players still don’t drop coin or weapons.
The ability to level via RvR and the new Battlegrounds would be enough to fill the low expectations of a free expansion on their own, but these are actually part of a broader design scope Mythic has had in the works for a long time: a complete gutting and rebuilding of the RvR areas and system.
Let’s start with the most visible changes, the terrain and frontier zones themselves. Currently, each Realm has their own Frontier where the RvR combat is held, and the zones aren’t contiguous - you can’t run from the Albion frontier to the Midgard frontier. Because of this, most of the combat happens in one area: the rolling hills of Hibernia’s Emain Macha. New Frontiers removes all of the current frontier zones and replaces them with one contiguous frontier. Each realm owns a third of this zone, with a large ocean separating them from their neighbors. They’ve made it easier to find the battle by adding an in-game map of the frontiers that shows where large battles are happening and your position relative to them. Travel times are reduced as it’s now possible to teleport yourself to a keep near the battles. They have also added new Battlegrounds for levels 1-44 (previously, the BG’s could only be used by players between 15-35). After level 44 it’s expected you’ll be doing all of your RvR out in the frontiers themselves. There’s a battleground for levels 1-4, 5-9, etc., and your cap is now based on character level as opposed to Realm Level.
Frontier Keeps and Relics are how the score is kept in RvR. If your Realm controls the most keeps, you get access to the special RvR dungeon, and loot gold mine, called Darkness Falls. If you control a Relic, everyone in your realm might get an increase to their xp earned – the actual mechanics of capturing a Relic and what bonuses you get is lengthy, so we won’t get into it here. The Frontier Keeps have gone through the most significant change, from both functionality and graphics changes. In the current system, there’s no difference between keeps and the only way to take a keep is to break down the front door and storm inside. Now, they are upgradeable by the guilds that control them, up to a maximum level of 10. Each level brings about some improvements, such as stronger and higher walls, larger structures and the ability to mount defensive weapons – like boiling oil to pour on your enemies. The Frontier Keeps also have three outlying towers that need to be captured before it can be taken. Once captured, you can use these towers to mount siege weapons and attack the main keep. Keep walls now pass the “can I poke a hole in it?” test, where you can now break through the walls, eliminating the bottleneck caused by only being able to enter through the front gate. Relic Keeps have undergone a hefty redesign as well. They are being removed from their current keeps and placed in a tower behind a locked “mile gate”, which unlocks after you’ve captured specific keeps.
Right now, each Realm has a separate RvR dungeon, but it’s hardly used and mostly forgotten. The RvR dungeon in New Frontiers now connects all of the Realms via subterranean caverns; fight your way through some badass monsters and you can arrive on your enemy’s backdoor.
New Frontiers also introduces ship-to-ship combat. You’ll be able to use three types of boats: a small Scout ship, a medium-sized Galleon, or a large Warship. The Galleon and Warship also have mount points for siege weapons that you can use to fight other ships and land targets. Given the large ocean that divides the frontiers, these boats will also be heavily used as landing crafts for invading armies.
Realm Abilities are getting reworked as well. Some Realm Abilities are being removed, the costs for buying others are getting adjusted, and each class is now given a free Realm Ability when they get to a certain Realm Level. There’s not much new to discuss here, as the person who is responsible for this is still sifting through a large matrix and making changes.
Mythic has a lot riding on this free expansion. Hardcore PvP players have been feeling that the RvR system has long been ignored by Mythic, and with two retail expansion packs that haven’t done much for RvR, it’s easy to see how they got that impression. This is Mythic’s chance to prove them wrong, and that RvR is where they consider the heart of the game to be. The good news is this expansion looks like it is going to add even more fun to the game and remove a lot of the current issues associated with RvR combat. This is definitely shaping up to be an expansion that if you cancelled your account because of the direction of the game, you might want to think about coming back for it.
Mythic has been closed-mouthed about the release date, other than the “when it is ready” line. However, with a paid expansion coming down the pike in December, and the inherent need to shift development resources to it soon to meet the holiday sales deadline, I’d expect to see this released before the end of June.