Spinoffs of EverQuest.
It was four years ago that I first studied the Tome of the Dead as a necromancer
and gave the land of Norrath a small taste of my pet zombies. Since that time,
America and Europe's number one Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game
(MMORPG). Aside from having about 400,000 subscribers forking their hard earned
cash over to Sony every month, EQ
has become a merchandising
juggernaut only one step below the likes of Lara Croft and Mario.
We can zip right past the ubiquitous T-shirts
caps and go straight to the line of action
figures. There's a dozen online
fan comics, plus a legit comic
book published by DC Comics. Would you like a custom portrait of your EQ
right up! For hardcore geeks, there's a pen-and-paper
version of the game complete with D20s. There's even a book on the 'making
of" EverQuest. But best of all is the EverQuest
Fan Faire, which provides us every year with a wealth of embarrassing photos.
Lots of 'em.
it comes as little surprise that, like Frasier riding the success of Cheers,
the spun-off Lords of EverQuest tries to find itself a prime-time
slot. And like any good spinoff, you'll find some familiar characters and some
new ones all tossed together in an entirely new setting. Our Boston bar has
been replaced by a snazzy Seattle apartment, and our MMORPG has a new real-time
Basically, LoE takes many of the familiar races and classes
from EQ - trolls, shadownights, paladins, dark elves, ogres,
erudites, necromancers, froglocks, etc. - and tosses them into the Warcraft
III setting. There are a few differences between the two games, but they're
minor. However, if LoE is just EverQuest-flavored
Warcraft, at least it's well made. Unlike the recent, bland
War of the Ring, LoE
manages to add a little extra spice to the genre.
The graphics, for example, are slightly better with some very nice textures that give a little life to the unit's immobile faces. Your little soldiers are well animated, with several different attacks and even some nice fidgeting when they're just standing around. Some of the huge units, like dragons (which you can only see in the single-player campaigns) look great.
The sound is also good, with all the clangs, crunches and spellcasting sizzles you would expect from a good battle. The score is generic orchestral battlefield music; you'll barely notice it's there. Voice-acting is mixed, with some of the lords and units excellently portrayed, while others, such as the ogres, sound just plain bad.
Speaking of the speaking lords, this game's not called Lords
of EverQuest for nothing. There are three sides to the battle: the
Dawn Brotherhood, the Elddar Alliance, and the Shadowrealm, and each one has
a selection of five lords. While you can only have one lord down on the battlefield
with your troops, like Warcraft, your lord is your most powerful unit and has
a positive effect on all the soldiers around him or her.
Every one of your units gains experience and levels from combat, so it behooves you to keep them alive for as long as possible. Your Lord's level also affects the level of all new units produced by your buildings. You can take a couple of your favorite units with you from campaign to campaign, but it has little effect on the game since by the time you get to the next campaign, your newly produced units are at about the same experience level as your combat veterans.
One nice innovation is the ability to move all your control panels around
and open or minimize them, just like in Windows. They're fine in their traditional
spot at the bottom of the screen, but it's always nice to be able to customize
your own interface to suit your individual play style.
35-mission single player campaign is long and difficult, mostly due to the low
levels of platinum, the game's only resource. You'll have to be an efficient
commander to win, and not just build up the biggest pile of cannon-fodder. When
you're done with that, the multiplayer game works fine through Sony's new matchmaking
service and supports up to 12 players.
However, some of the irritating legacy of Warcraft is here,
too. Why can I only have twelve units in a group? And the unit AI can be frustratingly
stupid. In confined spaces, like a narrow pass or between the buildings of your
base, units will belligerently stand in each other's way and traffic jams are
I was really hoping for more RPG flavor out of LoE since
it has such lofty RPG origins. But alas, your lord has very few stats and you
can't customize him in any way; he just gets more powerful as he goes up levels.
I would have also liked to be able to set individual unit AIs, like putting
all my healers in a defensive mode so they didn't keep rushing to the front
to get killed. Instead, my only option is to tell them to 'stand in place' no
matter what, an order they immediately forget the next time you move them.
There was an underrated game that came out a couple years ago called Warlords:
Battlecry that had all of these innovations and more. It was a terrifically
designed game that would have made more of a splash if it weren't for its lame
graphics. It's a shame that game wasn't the inspiration for LoE.
Don't get me wrong, LoE is a decent game in its own right
and it should temporarily satisfy two groups: EQ junkies who
just can't get enough, and Warcraft junkies who've already
played the hell out of The Frozen Throne.
In the end, this spinoff won't rank up there with the classics like Laverne
& Shirley, Mork & Mindy, or The Jeffersons, or even the great game spinoffs,
like Heroes of Might and Magic.
Instead, like Joanie Loves Chachi, The Facts of Life, or Trapper John M.D.,
Lords of EverQuest is there to fill a programming void until
next season's lineup. Now if only there were a way to stop Friends from spinning
off any shows…