Everquest II: Desert of Flames Review (PC)

Sony Online Entertainment has been extremely aggressive in updating EverQuest II and has added a full-fledged expansion pack that offers gamers brand new quests, epic encounters, and over 40 new monsters, never before seen playing areas, and many new player vs. player game-play features.  There are new voice-overs for characters and a level range increase of up to 60 for all players.  Players are now in the Arabian-themed city of Maj’dul which has just been discovered.  You will able to either take on other players, disguised as monsters of course, in an exciting player-to-player combat style.

The heroes
Watch out of the fire arrows

The Desert of Ro from the original EverQuest is back in a new and exciting form as the Isle of Ro.  Here players will find the city of Maj’dul along with numerous dangerous and hazardous areas to roam through.  Many of the themes from the Desert of Ro are still intact, but most are tweaked in some way or have been enhanced.  There are still many vermin madmen running around and many Sand Giants everywhere.  The Isle of Ro, however, is a dangerous place for beginners; it is geared towards high-level players around the level 45 and up.

Your adventures will most often begin in Maj’dul with people like thieves, gamblers, and the “Carpet Police” attacking you, while many other enemies lurk around every corner.  There are three factions involved here:  the Court of the Blade, which is very military-like, the Court of the Coin (mercantile), and the Court of Truth (a legislative battle).  Each one of these three has a section of the city in which it the most influence.  Because of this, if you “make a friend” so to speak with one faction, you will have the other two factions hot on your heels.  Remember this when you enter into an enemy faction arena.  It might be a better idea to stay put if you’re safe where you’re at.

In order to progress through the game you must perform quests, and kill hundreds of enemies, of course.  Surely you didn’t think you were going to get away without killing anyone, did you?  The quests will become fewer and fewer as the game continues, and then it turns into an all out killing spree where players must focus on nothing but killing as many NPC’s as possible.  Enemies that are killed drop tokens that will turn into friendly NPC’s, which will in turn increase your position.  This will gain you access to more faction venders, quests, and housing and shelter on the safe-grounds of your chosen faction.  The only problem here is the ability to defend friendly factions; it simply isn’t possible.

Fight with dragons...
... and packs of beasts

The enemies in this game have been reworked and the monster encounters will be more difficult than ever before.  Because of this, mobs now sport a color-coded difficulty rating and are classified as the weaker enemies (who still need to be taken seriously), and the more powerful, sometimes heroic monsters.  These heroic monsters are no laughing matter, they are serious business, especially if you are traveling solo and taking them on alone.

The player vs. player game-play in EverQuest II is one of the best aspects of the Desert of Flames.  You can enter into arena games as your own character and play against others doing the same, requesting duels with other solo players, and battle it out one on one.  There is a feature that lets those watching bet on the outcome of the battle.  Another option is to play in “Arena Champions.”  Basically, in Arena Champions feature team members will take on monster form and enter the arena with their own special abilities and levels of power.  There are three modes for players to choose from: Capture the Flag, Destroy the Idol, and Team Death match.  In arenas you are able to set time limits, victory conditions, and you have the choice of allowing bystanders to watch.  If you succeed in arena contests there are special rewards such as trophies and special character titles, but get ready, these battles end up being fast and very hectic and chaotic.  

The graphics and visuals in Desert of Flames is sharp looking, detailed and well-textured, as is the tradition with EverQuest games.  The landscape on the Island of Ro will make you feel as though you are really there, with the endless desert and occasional oasis.  The new creatures, such as camels, monkeys, and tigers, share the island with the horrific monsters you will compete with.  The flying carpet, with its swooping and diving, gives a nice view of the visuals on the ground below.  While there are loading screens here, as with any other game, they aren’t hard to put up with at all.  The entire city of Maj’dul is pretty much open to adventure without having to wait for loading.

The sound in Desert of Flames is definitely game-fitting.  While the characters on the Island of Ro aren’t very talkative, animal noises prevail, making for a very real experience.  The Arabian style music that fills the air fits in exceptionally well with the arena in which you are playing.

Cast spells...
... and watch for enemy spells

Many game-play changes have been made in Desert of Flames.  Classes were radically changed and monsters were made more difficult.  In order to make the game more playable the level range has also been increased.  The level cap is probably the most significant change, which is a good asset for advanced players.

Top game moment: The best thing about EverQuest II: Desert of Flames is the player
vs. player combat.  It is beyond exhilarating to beat an enemy knowing that there is another person behind the controls and not just the computer.  It is especially satisfying if you have money on the game.

In EverQuest II: Desert of Flames players will encounter many quests, live environments, interesting and difficult characters, and many unforgettable adventures.  With good graphics, fitting sounds, and a high-level of game-play, EverQuest II: Desert of Flames has hit the mark in both solo and player vs. player combat.

by Paul
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