Players: 1+ Player Game | Release Date: 10/28/03 | Genre: MMO
One of the big things that Dark Age of Camelot (DAoC) has going for it is the ingenious way that it handles player against player combat. Instead of always worrying that someone is going to walk up behind you and start beating you down with a big stick, you only have those types of worries when you go out in the realm-versus-realm (RvR) zones. Keeping player combat and monster combat (PvE or player-versus-environment) separate allows players the luxury of picking what they feel like doing. To paraphrase the Almond Joy jingle: "Sometimes you feeling like smacking players, sometimes you don't."
While Trials of Atlantis (ToA) doesn't add any new content specifically for RvR, it does enhance characters through Master Level abilities. By completing various "Trials" in the new expansion lands, characters earn new abilities that help them be slightly more effective. Mythic did not want any of these new abilities to make people who have the expansion over-powered in comparison to those who don't have the expansion, but there is definitely an edge. Your character has to be level 40 out of the 50 total levels to start the Trials, and you generally need a good-sized group to accomplish them. This may be good for fostering more teamwork, but it also requires a significant amount of time to work through each one.
ToA also adds a new race for each of the realms. Albion receives the brutish half-ogre. The race has size and strength, but at the cost of speed and quickness. They can also become mages, but the general consensus is that their lower dexterity hampers how quickly they can cast spells. It might just be on my primary server, but I don't see a lot of half-ogres running around as compared to the other new races. Hibernia gets a much needed high constitution character in the shar, giving the flimsy reputation of the realm more backbone. I do see a good number of these running around on the other side of the race wars, and they take "more killing" to knock them down. Midgard picked up the frostalf. For a realm that focuses on brute force instead of magic, this race seems to be a great boon. The frostalf has high piety which is the main stat for their casters, allowing them to add a little more punch to their spells.
The new lands that have been added in are impressive, though it seems like they are usually deserted except for yourself and anyone with you. That can be both good and bad in that you don't have to wait in line to fight anything or compete for kills. Your mileage may vary here, since I don't play one of the more crowded servers. There's a huge underwater area to explore complete with sharks that can be ridden instead of horses. A section based on Egyptian folklore from the looks and feel of it. It has so much sand that you might never get it all cleaned out of your boots, and this is assuming that you don't run into any of the giant scorpions or snakes. There's also the volcanic area where everything looks like it was baked on the extra crispy setting. The thing that I found most disappointing about the new lands is that it seems much harder to find anything to fight there with characters below level 40. I might reconsider once I have had more time to explore it alone (I've only been there with members of my guild so far).
As you explore these new areas, you might be lucky enough to run across some of the new artifacts. Artifacts are items that must be "leveled" up similar to how your character gains experience, but they often have strange requirements. Some of them require a particular type of monster to gain experience, fighting against players from other realms, or even fighting during daylight hours in the game. Artifacts seem weak at first, but they become more powerful as they level up. The worst part of the artifacts is that you have to haul them around and collect parts of a scroll that tells you how to "activate" them.
I think the one thing that I like the most about the expansion is the graphics upgrade. It alone is worth the price. The new lands look the best obviously, but the upgrade enhances all the old lands also. Going underwater is a visual experience with the shimmering water, air bubbles, and the way that the light filters down through the surface. Things like grass appear more realistic, and trees have really changed. Trees look too realistic when I'm hunting nymphs. The tiny mosquito-like creatures are much harder to see in the dense foliage of the limbs.
Overall ToA is a good expansion. It is especially geared towards high end players who are looking for more ways to hurt things and new things to hurt. The casual player can take it or leave it, but I think it is worth it for the revamped graphics, not to mention the extra races. No one is really certain about how the upper level Master Quest abilities will affect RvR, but some of the things that the extremely powerful players have been saying make it sound like they are very happy with the results.