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PC Review - 'Everquest: Lost Dungeons Of Norrath'

by Mark Crump on Oct. 9, 2003 @ 2:52 a.m. PDT

Just when you thought you'd covered it all -- five massive continents, the moon, and the homes of the gods themselves -- a new series of adventures leads you into some of Norrath's greatest sources of speculation and mystery. The story that began in Broken Skull Rock now yields new clues about an event threatening to change the face of Norrath. Assist a band of adventurers on their quest to unearth long-hidden artifacts of power from forgotten dungeons, secret catacombs, and long-buried ruins. A mystery is unfolding and a new age of exploration and adventure has begun!

Genre: MMOG
Developer: Sony Online Ent.
Publisher: Sony Online Ent.
Release Date: September 9, 2003

Buy 'EVERQUEST: Lost Dungeons Of Norrath': PC

Hold on to your swords and helmets kiddies, because this may be the best EverQuest expansion yet! Lost Dungeons of Norrath brings the mission-based content used in Anarchy Online and Star Wars Galaxies to EverQuest, only here they are called ‘adventures’. Gone are the days of sitting in one spot while someone pulls the same monster over and over again while hoping the EQ lottery hits and you win a piece of useable gear. Now, each time you successfully complete a Lost Dungeons of Norrath adventure, you are awarded adventure points that can be used to purchase some pretty good gear.

These adventures are handed out by the new ‘Wayfarer's Brotherhood’, whose camps are located on the original EQ land masses. The Brotherhood, it appears, are in need of a few good men, and your party looks as if they are up to the task! The first time you log in after installing the expansion, you are prompted to return to your home city and talk to one of the Brotherhood's agents. If you're like me, and every time "home" sees you coming they lock the gates and call the guard, there's a neutral agent in Lake Rathe. The agent goes on a long-winded spiel, and sends you off to find another of the Brotherhood. Take good notes when talking to the first agent, you'll get a pop quiz from the next guy. After you answer the four questions correctly he hands you an Adventurer's Stone which allows you to get adventures from the Brotherhood and use their teleport system. At each of the camps, you'll notice a NPC with "Magus" in their name: this NPC can teleport you to any of the other camps.

After that, the idea is simple: get a group of 4-6 people close to your level, seek out the recruiter from any one of the Wayfarer's camps, and get an adventure in one of the Lost Dungeons. You are given a set time limit to finish the goal, and if successful, you are awarded adventure points. If you fail the adventure, you do get extra time to finish up, but the points awarded are half of what they would normally be. Wipe out and everyone dies: you can stick a fork in the adventure, it's done. The dungeon is nice enough to spit out your corpse; the days of the price of failure being a 13 hour corpse run are mercifully gone. The amount of points awarded varies based on your level and the average level of people in the group. The experience points you earn from doing an adventure can be a pretty hefty amount. It's important to know you aren't going to be awarded enough adventure points to get the best gear quickly; there is still a serious time investment to getting good gear. While the time sinks EQ is well known for do still exist, the important part is you are actively working towards getting gear each time you do an adventure, while getting some serious xp at the same time.

There are four types of adventures: collection; assassination; rescue and slaughter. The collection adventures, where you have to collect a certain amount of items during the time allotted, are currently very buggy. Likewise, people are reporting spawning issues with the mobs required for the assassination and rescue adventures. Sony is aware of these issues and is working to correct them. The relatively bug free slaughter adventures, where you have to kill a certain amount of mobs during the allotted time, are the most popular.

The reason the adventures are timed is because each one is ‘instanced’ which means the dungeon you enter is created solely for your party, and the monsters are also of appropriate level for your party. That's right, the days of yelling "Camp check!" when you zone into a dungeon are ancient history. Since these instances take up a lot of processes on Sony's servers, they are timed to go away after a set period to free up system resources. One of the issues I've long had with EQ is the most efficient way to play was to sit in one spot and pull mobs there. It was mind-numbingly boring, but now the timed instance forces the adventure to move at a rapid pace. Doing these adventures was the most fun I've had playing EQ in years. I've always been a big fan of dungeon crawls, and this expansion injected a fun-factor that I've missed for quite some time.

Each of the five Wayfarer's camps gives out adventures that are specific to a set of dungeons. For instance, the camp in Butcherblock gives out adventures in Mistmoore's Catacombs, and the one in Everfrost gives out adventures in Miragul’s Menagerie. Initially, awarded points from the Butcherblock camp cannot be spent at any other camp until you’ve earned (and spent) an equal number at the other camp. For example, if you earn 1000 points at Butcherblock, and 1000 points at Everfrost, you cannot use the 1000 Butcherblock points at Everfrost until you’ve spent the Everfrost points. The point totals cannot be combined to buy one item; you must spend them on separate items. Since it makes sense to max out your points in one camp, one of the problems people are having is finding groups in the camps that aren't in vogue right then. On my server, about 80% of the people are doing Butcherblock adventures. When I went to Everfrost to try out those adventures, there was nothing there but myself, and the sounds of snow crickets chirping. That's when the ability to teleport between all the camps comes in handy, since you can just run a cycle to see where the action is.

The gear you buy is very good, and is a significant upgrade to what most players already have. While these items aren't class based, you can now customize all the gear in the game with enhancements called augmentations, which allow effects to be added to pieces. For instance, I can add an augmentation to a breastplate that allows me to regenerate hit points while I'm wearing it. How cool is that? You buy augmentations the same way you buy any other LDoN gear; by completing adventures. One big downside to the augmentations is they are not reusable if removed. If you have added an Augmentation to a breastplate and get a new breastplate, you can't transfer the augmentation. However, if you get a better augmentation you can remove the one already there. Once an item has been augmented, it becomes "No Drop" and can't be traded between characters.

Deciding whether or not you should get this expansion will hinge on two key questions: are you the type of person who solos 90% of the time, and are you new to EverQuest? If the answer to either of those is "yes", then you will get two things out of this expansion: a 50% weight reducing bag (in game), and a pewter keychain (out of game). Since the dungeons require people to be grouped, there is no option for solo play in this expansion. Sony has been hitting the ability to solo with a pretty hard stick, and this expansion clearly shows their focus on providing group-based content. At least now when you group everyone gets a reward of some sort, which should help coax some of the die-hard solo player out of their shells. For the people who are new to EQ, I haven't seen many low level groups forming; most of the groups have been people who are over level 55. The amount of adventure points you get at the low levels is so minuscule it's not really worth doing except for the xp, or if there are low point items you want to get.

If you are a fairly hardcore player, who already has the best gear possible, this expansion is of limited value too you also, since the equipment you already have is better than the earned stuff. For these players, you'll appreciate the additional challenge even though you won't see as many gear upgrades. There is some raid level content available if you are over level 60, but these raids are tuned assuming you can already raid the elemental planes. If you aren't capable of doing elemental raids, you're going to have a hard time on these raids.

If you're a longtime EQ player, or a veteran player who let their account lapse, the changes this expansion brings makes it worth the $30. If you are a casual player who lost any hope of getting better gear a long time ago then run, don't walk, to your local software store and grab a copy.

Score: 8.3/10

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