reviews\ Dec 16, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Dark Age of Camelot: Shrouded Isles - PC - Review

Dansk arches slightly forward, head bowed as though in deep concentration, red hood pointing at the night sky. Her hands, held out to the sides, are encased in a blue glow, power manifesting itself in the form of arcane magic.

Off to one side, Gshot stays waiting, bow at the ready. He is a skilled warrior, accustomed to other forms of combat, but on this dark evening, it is his new bow and archery skills that will sing the death songs. Between the two, Gwesaad, a Valkyn berserker, scans the horizon. More beast than man, he knows that the double-edged axe strapped to his back will soon be called upon to ring its deadly cry into the cool air.

Dansk, motions toward the distance, and a blue spark briefly illuminates, followed by the cry of pain. The mygga, a giant cross between a moth and bee, charges toward its tormentors. This is no ordinary mygga, it is a red one, deadly to the lonely or young warrior. Normally, they are best left alone, but on this night, there are those who would dare challenge it. Dansk’s companion, a skeletal Returned Commander, and Gshot’s wolf companion move to meet the charge. Gwesaad pulls the axe from his back, a metallic ring signaling that reckoning is at hand. Gshot’s arrows whir into the night, finding its mark. The Returned Commander swings its sword as the wolf lunges, snapping and biting at the beast. Gwesaad’s axe dances in a splitter move, burying into the beast.

What seems like minutes is only seconds. The mygga lets out one final scream and falls to the ground dead.

"Ding," says Dansk, indicating she has just leveled. That means it is time to head back to Aegirhamn to cash out the booty from the night’s adventures and to train.

Dark Age of Camelot: Shrouded Isles, a Mythic Entertainment release, expands the massively multiplayer online role-playing realm with three new locales as well as new races and character classes. The Valkyn and the isle upon which Aegirhamn is located are two of the additions.

Of course, with new territory and new races, there are also new dangers, which come in the form of monsters and vile, evil races.

For those unfamiliar with the online game, there are three basic kingdoms, Albion, Hibernia and Midgard. There is a war raging for the control of the lands, whether it is on the realm-versus-realm servers, or on the player-versus-environment servers.

In Albion, the forces of good are battling against Morgana and her minions. Enter Arawn, the lord of the underworld. He has offered his support against Morgana’s Drakoran allies. He has offered his slave race, the Inconnu, to ally with the cause.

In Hibernia, a long-forgotten race, the Sylvan have emerged and seek the help of others. The Fomorians are on the rampage, bent on destroying all that is natural and beautiful. The lands are corrupted, the beasts have turned foul and the battle rages.

Midgard has its own troubles. A Troll Father has asked for help because the prehistoric savage race known as the Morvalt has besieged Aegir, home of the Troll Fathers. Some of the Morvalt have been captured, reasonably civilized and trained in the way of Midgard. They are known as the Valkyn, and now stand with the other warriors of Midgard against the threat.

The game does boast a host of other new features as well. The quick bar supports 10 slots of hotkeyed weapons, abilities and spells instead of eight, there are new weapons,  and a new interactive help system is readily available during the game. New crafting skills have been added: spellcrafting and alchemy.

The Inconnu can train in two classes: necromancer and reaver. The Sylvan can either be animists (spellcasters) or valewalkers (mages who wield a large scythe as a weapon). The Valkyn can become berserkers or bonedancer (a primary Midgard spellcaster) or savage (warrior who disdains weapons and favors ripping apart his or her foes with bare hands).

The three new islands, Avalon (Albion), HyBrasil (Hibernia) and Aegir (Midgard), are all wonderfully crafted realms full of danger, quests and realm combat.

Where this game really excels is in the social setting. There are no forced socialization, but banding together for adventure and fortune is a solid way to earn experience and booty. DAoC does take great pains to ensure that members of parties receive equal shares when it comes to booty and experience points. And the folks playing the game (at least all those encountered to date) have been generous to a fault ­ not only in answering questions but in teaming up with younger players and offering game advice.

The sound of the game is very solid, and the gameplay is easy to learn. The game does have some clipping problems, and it is not uncommon to have a monster attack and go right through your avatar, but because the game structure is so good, little things like that can be overlooked.

DaoC: Shrouded Isles does require the original game, and a Mythic account to play. New accounts are eligible for one free month of gaming, then there is a $12.95 monthly fee.

Shrouded Isles (and DAoC, for that matter) is not the best-looking program on the market. That honor likely goes to Asheron’s Call 2, but this game offers a lot of features that are missing in some of the other MMORPGs. While the Inconnu, Sylvan and Valkyn are rather odd looking, the diverse nature of the races, and the harmonious way different races can interact, make this a terrific online adventure.

This game is rated Teen for violence.


Gameplay: 9
The game has improved somewhat in terms of player interface and ease of weapons. The mapboards are large and the play is seamless.

Graphics: 9
The game developers have partnered with Nvidia to render a world that looks better than the original. The game has some clipping problems, but generally sports a richer look. The special effects are excellent.

Sound: 9
This aspect of the game is still very solid and very well done.

Difficulty: Medium
This game does not allow players to level up very quickly, but rather to learn and grow within the game structure. You can hook up with more experienced players to venture into areas your avatar may not be really ready to attempt, and there is definitely power in numbers. While the general concept is somewhat easy to grasp, there are nuances to this program that will likely take a while to understand and utilize.

Concept: 9
The introduction and evolution of the game is very well done. The new races and environments have been brought in with purpose of forwarding the whole game concept. This continues to be one of the best MMORPGs, in terms of socialization, on the market.

Multiplayer: 9.3
The way that DAoC is configured makes this a wonderful multiplayer experience. Whether playing on servers that are geared toward Realm-vs-Realm battles or in the roleplaying, cooperative or player-versus-environment servers, this game does a superb job of inviting and not forcing players to work together.

Overall: 9.1
The original score given DAoC was a 9. Shrouded Isles, with the new races and character classes, and expanded storyline ups that ante. This is challenging, and very enjoyable.


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