Like it or not, the ‘Everquest’ series is a cornerstone of the MMO market. Few games have the longevity of the series and even fewer weather the barrage of new titles thrust to the market annually. So how does the granddaddy of MMO’s last so long as countless imitators fall around it? Pick up Rise of Kunark and you will find out for yourself.”Arguably, most expansions for a game are designed to give long time players a breath of fresh air, thus deepening their addiction to said title. Lovingly called ‘Ever-crack’ by so many ‘EQ’ addicts, the series has magically managed to continue to draw monthly fees from a fairly large contingent. The intermittent expansions and adventure packs serve to keep the game fresh.Too often, these expansions are sold only with true rewards for high character levels. Any veteran of the MMO market knows how difficult is it to advance. In some cases it can take months to progress to a level that reaps real benefits. Now mind you, if you like your fight rats and spiders as opposed to dragons and other titanic creatures, you may like to stay in the trivial early stages.I was a bit nervous at the prospect of reviewing Rise of Kunark because I remember my first foray into the ‘EQ II’ expansion universe. I had not played much because, when you review games, you are in a constant state of flux and do not have the time to dedicate to serious level grinding. It is a get in, get a good feel, make your comments and then move to the next title.MMOs are not designed to be played for a quick burst and then left. They are designed to draw you in to an alternate existence, where your MMO character is your virtual life. (Oh, if only I had that kind of time). Consider that, in order to experience true success, the initial investment is only a license to play the game. In order to continue you must pay a monthly fee. That is dedication.My approach to reviewing ‘Rise of Kunark’ is from the perspective of a potential first time player. While this is not entirely true, I must admit that I do not have access to any high-level characters. I also do not feel qualified to comment on the high–end offerings of the game, due to the fact that true fans of the series (those with characters capable of enjoying the new areas with high level requirements) will have a much more refined sense of the game than I. I do know that the expansion offers a new level cap of 80 (up from 70).Thankfully, ‘Rise of Kunark’ has a well-developed experience for new players. I think Sony’s idea is that they may be able to draw in a fresh crowd with this experience. The game centers on a new race, the Sarnak, a bipedal dragon-like race. Fortunately (for me) the Sarnak is an “evil” race and immensely fun to play.The game is very easy to get in to, thanks to the easy learning curve. This is a far cry from my first experience in ‘EQ’ where I was bearded by many who had played before I had entered (one aspect of MMOs that annoys me at times). As a matter of fact, it is realistic to expect transitioning to level 20 solo. This is a bit of a deviation from the concept of MMO, but it provides the player with enough experience such that when they are ready to party up, they will not look so much like a newb.Most of the quests involve carrying out specific tasks within a character level or two of difficulty. There are quite a few nice rewards for quests, mostly gear. I also found that item dropping was pretty well balanced. This is a big improvement from my experiences in ‘SWG’ and ‘EQ’ early on, where finding a sling shot and t-shirt seemed like discovering a gold mine. The ‘EQ II’ economy seems pretty well established. Also, quest and drop items are significantly better than those you can buy from the NPC shopkeepers. The quests are not particularly exciting nor is the combat. There were a few times that I found myself engaged with more than one enemy. Thus, recharging life and energy is not much of a problem.Being a ‘Diablo’ fan, I found the drop rate and quality of drops to be acceptable. I also enjoyed collecting the different items scattered about the wilderness. The inventory interface is easy to work with. The graying out of lower level items so you know you should change them out is a very nice touch (and I honestly don’t remember if this was present in the past).
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