The time has come to pick up your sword, rapier, mace, staff or rod - and don't forget your highest-grade armour. Why, I hear you cry? Because it's time to slog through another session of the all-conquering EverQuest. But be warned: this latest add-on is not for the faint-hearted.
Gates Of Discord is Sony Online's eighth expansion to its lucrative property, as it aims to prove once and for all that it's not going to abandon its loyal fanbase as it gears up to launch EverQuest II.
The storyline ties into the continuing adventures of Lost Dungeons Of Norrath's Wayfarers Brotherhood and the discovery of Taelosia, yet another lost continent that a few (Norrathian) cartographers must have been too wasted to notice. It also brings to the table the Berserker - the first new class we've seen since the Beastlord graced the Shadows Of Luclin pack - as well as 20 new zones (ten normal and ten instanced, but not random), plus a batch of alternative advancement skills.
In With The New
What else? Well, Gates also introduces new experience tracks, especially good if you took advantage of the leadership tools that LDON introduced. There's also a tribute system that'll help liquidate that bloodstained tunic and rubicite armour you've been hoarding in your crowded vault for five years into 'tribute buffs'. A bunch of new spells and disciplines for all classes are here too, as well as an entirely new brand of stress-related headache. The latter is particularly aimed at anyone who thrives on getting destroyed by something really big that they didn't see coming - and wouldn't have been able to handle even if they had.
The key thing to point out is that Gates Of Discord is not for beginners. It's tailored to players who have eight level 65 characters on at least 14 servers (OK, nine or ten maybe). What's more, you must also be adept at working under well-orchestrated group dynamics. As always, playing solo is not an option.
Unlike Planes Of Power and LDON, Gates does not have something for everyone. Back are the days of dangerous travel and nasty, expensive corpse recoveries. All of the streamlining that took the frustration out of EQ seems to have been replaced by complicated, precision requirements that only the truly elite can (or care to) handle - and only the truly daft can enjoy.
Hello My Pretty
It's not all hard work, though, and the top-notch feature here is the area design. The zones are absolutely stunning, with a palette of rich colours and textures, dramatic architecture, towering temples and other structures including fabulously lit corridors and very effective monster models. The Berserker class is fun to play too, but it's also similar to the other melee classes (if Warriors could sneer at them, they would). And no accommodation has been made for them in the new zones, but perhaps Sony didn't expect to see any level 65 Berserkers around just yet. However, as you read this, we can confirm there are plenty of level 65 Berserkers who've purchased the game and thrived.
If you haven't bought Gates yet, look into the mirror and ask yourself: "How many times do I want to die today?" Seriously, only the insane need apply.
The truly dedicated may thrive. Everyone else will wince
- Lush high-res graphics
- Serious high-level challenge
- Reintroduces tedium
- A waste for characters under 65