reviews\ Jul 23, 2002 at 8:00 pm

Dark Age of Camelot - PC - Review

Realms, countless quests, magic, battles – all are the hallmarks of massively multiplayer online role-playing games.

While Dark Age of Camelot, a PC release from Mythic Entertainment, doesn’t stray from those basic elements, there is wonder and delight in the way the company has realized the elements. In fact, when it comes to the MMORPG genre, Dark Age certainly is one of the best on the market.

The setting for the game lands players in the era shortly after the death of King Arthur. Chaos reigns and the land is split into three factions: Albion (the Britons, and Arthur’s former stronghold), Hibernia (home of the Celts), and Midgard (where the Norse rule).

Players enter the game by creating a character, choosing a realm and one of the unique in habitants as their avatar. Each realm is unique in appearance, with theme music, monsters and quests all tailored for that realm. Of course, you begin with little ability and not much in the way of possessions. The way out of the role of neophyte is to pick up a few quests, venture forth and spend a great deal of time battling the easier monsters you will find.

For example, if you have chosen Hibernia as your realm, you will get to choose from four avatar types: humans, the elves (spell-casters), Firbolg (giant-like creatures which combine magic and melee skills), and the Lurikeen (spells and melee combat). Of course you are given rudimentary weapons, and may be given simple quests, such as retrieving a family heirloom from sand crabs (which are numerous and just outside the village). The crabs are relatively easy introductions to the melee combat system used in the game, which is real-time but almost seems turn-based. After you knock off a few crabs, you can collect booty from them (which may only be shells), sell it for coin of the realm (broken into three denominations) and improve your armor and weaponry. You can also train, and devote your avatar to a particular vocation (such as ranger).

Each quest you receive is logged in a journal, which you can access at any time. You are, of course, rewarded for successful completion of a given task. But if knocking off sand crabs is not your cup of tea, then you can go after bigger game.

Part of Dark Age’s uniqueness is that each server is home to the three realms, and the three realms are at war with each other. Rather than your typical PvP game play, this is Realm versus Realm. You can defend your realm, lay siege to another and earn titles. This aspect of Dark Age is absolutely incredible. Each realm has a Relic (think of it as sort of “capture the flag”) that is a key goal, but with so many players involved, this is a massively multiplayer chess match, complete with moves and countermoves. Siege weapons can be used to attack an enemy keep, and should you successfully capture an enemy keep, NPC guards will appear to watch over it until your foe retakes it.

Whereas games, such as Ultima Online, thrive on adventuring and quests, Dark Age has taken the genre into a new realm, effectively raising the bar for this style of gaming.

Another element of Dark Age that bears mention is the grouping system. You can join up to seven other players, and they can have any experience level, and venture forth. Lower level players won’t be cheated on experience points won in combat, and can team up with higher levels (if they allow you) to gain points quicker. You can spend the points to train and improve your character’s abilities.

When it comes to the commands and hot keys, Dark Age employs two sets – the hot keys and slash commands. Hot keys will enable you to jump, run, and look up or down, et cetera, while the slash commands allow you to emote, send a message to a particular player or quit the game. It will take a while to get comfortable with the numerous commands available, but getting them down improves the enjoyment of the game immensely.

When it comes to the graphics, Dark Age uses the NetImmerse engine. Animations are smooth and environments are nice, though there seems to be some blockiness to distant objects. You can play the game from several different camera angles, which allows players to feel they are in the game. This aspect scores Dark Age above its competition.

The sounds of Dark Age are also very well done. The background music is wonderful, the spell effects bring the flashes of light to life, and the combat sounds are well rendered.

Dark Age of Camelot is a terrific game, and definitely one of the best MMORPGs on the market. It has depth of play, dynamic interplayer action, solid graphics and terrific sound. Players should be forewarned that this is an addictive venture, and extremely enjoyable.

Gameplay: 9
Dark Age has so many game playing aspects that players may put in a month or more of steady play and feel like they have barely scratched the surface. The numerous servers and large mapboards help give this game terrific depth.

Graphics: 8.8
Elements up close are rendered well, but distant objects seem a little blocky. While one would not term this a lushly rendered game, the elements are well designed and colorful. Spell effects are very good.

Sound: 9
The music, the combat and the spell effects are terrific.

Difficulty: Medium
This game definitely has a learning curve, and it will take time to level avatars up – which is the norm for this style of game.

Concept: 9
With its Realm versus Realm aspects, Dark Age is definitely well done. It is apparent that other aspects have been given a lot of thought as well (such as the grouping/experience points system), which makes Dark Age one of the better conceived games in the genre.

Multiplayer: 9.3
That is precisely what this game is all about, and Dark Age shines in terms of enabling players to work together and interact for a common goal.

Overall: 9
Dark Age of Camelot is terrific. It is well conceived, features solid graphics and sound, has incredible depth, and delivers multiplayer action that is unique. It will face competition with upcoming releases, but if gamers are looking for an immersive and addictive experience, this is it.


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