Players: 1+ Player Game | Release Date: 10/11/05 | Genre: MMO
Darkness has risen across the land in Dark Age of Camelot in the form of Darkness Rising, the newest expansion for the popular MMORPG. The darkness is in the form of evil forces that threaten to rise up against the rightful rulers of each realm, and it also signifies the major overhaul that has taken place in the contested dungeon, Darkness Falls. We reported a preview of the expansion earlier, so let’s see how things have come together.
Darkness Rising (DR) marked the first time that Mythic has allowed digital downloads for new content. With a broadband connection, the download was fairly painless, but I read about some dial-up horror stories through various forums. For me, I started the download before leaving for work, and it was finished that evening. Some good Samaritans (and fellow players) hosted downloads for those who had bad connections which was a neighborly gesture. Installation proved equally painless, with some minor patches over the next few days to fix intermittent problems (pretty standard after an expansion release).
With the arrival of DR, Darkness Falls has received a massive overhaul. While the layout for the dungeon, whose control goes to the strongest realm, has remained the same, the visual experience proves to be something new entirely. Gone are the bland textures and sparse embellishments. In their place players find themselves traveling through a demonic dimension filled with nightmare images. The denizens underwent a transformation of increased visual effects and new abilities. New factions of demonic followers have escaped from whatever otherworldly prison that they inhabit, and adventurers will often witness them warring amongst themselves. The graphic changes are so pronounced that I can hardly remember what Darkness Falls looked like before the change.
No new classes or races were added with this expansion, but it did add champion quests. Heroes and heroines who answer the call of their realm’s ruler can begin seeking out these new champion levels, weapons, and armor. These new weapons and armor are marginally more powerful than existing items in the game, and they definitely look very nice. Before the release of the expansion, there were worries that these abilities and items would be far too powerful for players without them to compete effectively. Now it is apparent that though they are nice things to have, they do not give any extreme advantages.
When players gain champion levels (you need to be level 50 for this), they begin to receive Champion Experience. Each time they fill up this special experience bar, they earn the ability to gain sub-class abilities from other classes. A heavy tank that has no magical abilities could choose to earn a healing spell, some enhancement spells (buffs), or a weak ranged spell to aid them in drawing monsters into fights. Conversely, a mage could train in fighter abilities to gain weapon skills and the ability to wear a shield. Players cannot gain any abilities from their base class though. Keep in mind that these are abilities are relatively weak, but they do add a new dimension to classes that were one-dimensional.
Personally, I wished that the champion levels could be earned early on in a player’s career. I do understand at least one of the reasons why you have to wait. While a fighter might be able to heal his or herself to cut down on downtime between fights, it would also make players more self-reliant and discourage grouping.
The quests to earn these champion abilities send players on a tour of the game’s original lands in an attempt to uncover the root cause of the growing unrest in the land. These adventures culminate in newly-added dungeons, which offer new enemies to fight and new loot to recover – they wouldn’t be much fun without that now would they. For the most part, the quests are not as time consuming as those for the Master Quests which were added with the Trials of Atlantis expansion.
Die hard players undoubtedly snatched up the expansion as soon as it released. New players could probably wait until the mid levels before needing to purchase it, but they would be missing out on some nice graphical enhancements. On a side note, new players need to have at least up through the Catacombs expansion to enjoy the task dungeons that help speed up leveling.