Set 10,000 years before the events in the immensely popular role-playing series, Lords of EverQuest allows players to control one of three rival factions battling for control of the mystical land Norrah. The three rival factions are the Dawn Brotherhood, Elddar Alliance and Shadowrealm. Fans of the series will be happy to know that the factions include many popular races and monsters from the EQ universe. Players can select which of these three to play as with 15 races and classes, giving you plenty of options. Each Faction has a unique set of missions and a comprehensive storyline that unfolds in a series of cutscenes between missions. Some of the characters at your command include ogres, elves, humans, dragons and more. Each of these factions includes more than 20 unique units each with their own special abilities and characters. Some of the more interesting units include Swarmcallers that can be used to destroy entire enemy battalions, Druids who will provide all nearby units with a force-field, Wretched Warriors, who attack foes mercilessly, Magic Summoners who can curse enemy forces. Each faction can also call on many types of Knights and warriors for combat. Other types of units in the game include Gatemasters, who increase your resistance to attacks, Dragon riders, who can ride dragons and give your faction an advantage in the air, Healers who restore your unit's depleted energy, Tricksters who can scout an enemy location using stealth or by turning invisible. Another important unit type are the recruiters who can change an enemy's allegiance and make them turn on their own kind. Players can also upgrade a unit's abilities three levels using standard Abilities, Knight Abilities and Knight Auras, which provide increasingly more powerful forms of their standard attacks.
As you traverse Norrah, you'll also have to fight many different monsters including trolls, goblins, gnolls and ogres. Each campaign throws a number of these battles at you, and some of the combat can be quite intense. While these battles are useful for gaining experience, these creatures are a distraction from the main goal of defeating the rival forces and taking control of the continent for your side. As you progress in your missions and defeat enemies, your units will face a variety of enemies and must attack them in a number of ways. With each successful mission, you can increase your forces' attributes, enhancing their strength and abilities. Experienced units are much more effective in combat, and overtake enemy forces much quicker - they also move faster, which can help you ambush opposing teams. LOE gives you many options in the types of abilities you want to emphasize, such as combat skills or magic spells. Unlike many other RTS games, every type of unit can level up, which adds to LOE's depth. As you defeat enemies, your units will gain more energy and power.
In addition to basic combat units, players will also have to worry about resource management. As you gain more land and space in your empire, your faction can build a variety of buildings such as Platinum mines. Other buildings serve variety of functions including spell towers and training areas for your troops. You have to be careful which types you build since each building requires a set amount of Platinum to build, and takes time to construct. The more buildings and structures you build, the larger the force you can support. While you start with only a few types of buildings, more can be unlocked as you gain experience and level up. However, these buildings and structures can be destroyed or damaged by attacks from rival foes and must be rebuilt. to increase the power and influence of your faction, and you can gain even more by capturing rival buildings from opponents.
While the game follows many conventions of the RTS genre, the inclusion of Lords, or commander units gives LOE a unique feel. Each faction includes several types of Lords, each with their own special abilities. Lords play a key role in your success or failure during each mission. There are 15 different Lords available, and each one is used to control and influence individual units within the faction. For example, some can cast special spells to increase their units' fighting abilities, hurl fireballs at rivals, cause opponents to become confused and more. Using these characters effectively is quite important. Not only do Lords command other units, but they have a variety of special abilities and spells that they can use, such as fireballs and more. The presence of Lords also influence nearby units, increasing the fighting ability of friendly nearby units, but negatively affecting enemy forces nearby. Using these gives LOE an innovative combat system that makes the gameplay more interesting. However, the balance between Lord and standard combat units is tilted because the Lords are exponentially more powerful which makes the nearby units into pawns. Their fate doesn't seem to matter as much as the Lords' survival, since you can always create or recruit new units. In fact, the fate of your entire force is tied to the Lords, since all the faction's units are upgraded when the Lord levels up. This system makes LOE more accessible, but the traditional strategic depth of most RTS games has been sacrificed. However, there are multiple Lords on each side, which compensates for this. In the single-player game, players will find 36 unique maps to play on, giving LOE plenty of depth. During the game, you'll encounter dozens of enemy types and there are literally hundreds of spell combinations you can use during each battle. Single player missions are interesting and challenging. Aside from the Lords, however, the gameplay is somewhat routine, and doesn't stray too far from RTS conventions. LOE's Enemy AI is decent with forces attacking when strong and holding back defensively somewhat when they're vulnerable. On the other hand, non-playable units have a tendency to get in the way of each other, even friendly units trip over themselves, so you have to spend more time manually moving these units than you really should. The game plays well with a decent command structure and menu interface that allows you to view the action from a variety of perspectives. You can even change which menus you want to view and the level of transparency. Controlling and moving your characters and units around is relatively easy, requiring only a few mouse clicks to perform most tasks.
As you might expect from SOE, Lords of EverQuest includes an extensive online support, with multiple modes that support up to 12 players simultaneously. Even better news is that the playing online is free and doesn't require an online subscription. The online component's main gameplay mode mirrors the rules and conventions of the single player experience, though the addition of human players makes opponents' moves and strategies far less predictable. However, there are also some interesting variations on the main game, such as Last Man Standing, where you battle foes in a grueling fight to the finish. There are also several timed games where the player with the most levels or Platinum is declared the winner. During online play, players can choose to team with other online players or play in a free for all mode where it's everyone for themselves. These modes are quite enjoyable and have a high replay value.
LOE's gameplay is surprisingly deep, and the title does a decent job of transferring the look and feel of EverQuest to the RTS genre. The character designs are very nice and look fairly faithful to their RPG counterparts, with decent animation that brings the battles to life effectively. The environments look decent as well with a lot of variety, though they are a little bit generic with some worlds feeling a bit drab. LOE's appropriately subdued sound effects and music effectively compliment the action throughout, with some of the classic EverQuest tones used effectively when characters level up. Players can also change perspective on battles and zoom in and out for better perspective, call up maps and menus easily. The presentation is enhanced by several cut-scenes that move the story forward in an entertaining fashion. LOE's production values are a notch or two above the standards set by other games in the genre. The visuals are slick, displaying more imagination and polish than you'd expect from most RTS titles on the market.
While bringing the characters and environments of a MMORPG into a different genre seems like a difficult task, Lords of EverQuest does an excellent job of this. There's some decent strategic elements to the gameplay, but the Lord characters bring a bit of role-playing and character customization to the genre. The ability to control a number of characters while managing an empire lends the game depth, but the magic spells and mystical creatures gives things an interesting fantasy element. An intuitive interface makes controlling the action onscreen an easy task. The single-player experience is solid, but becomes predictable after awhile. LOE's extensive online support compensates for this and makes the opponents more interesting. The polished graphics and slick presentation effectively bring the EQ world to a new realm without losing the essence of its appeal. Lords of EverQuest is an interesting hybrid title that succeeds in more areas than it falls short. The game is entertaining and challenging, making it a decent choice for fans of either EverQuest or Real-Time Strategy titles.