EverQuest was originally released in 1999, nearly three years ago. It wasn't the first game of its kind by any means, though it was the first to feature a fully 3D graphics engine. Its impressive graphics drew many players to the game, who found in it a huge, detailed fantasy world and a surprisingly complex combat system. In short, many of those who started playing EverQuest years ago are still playing it now. A lot of these players have already purchased The Shadows of Luclin, EverQuest's third retail expansion pack. The launch of the expansion's new content early this December didn't go as smoothly as possible, much to these players' chagrin. Luclin also has some of the most demanding system requirements of any PC game ever released. That's because it's a very ambitious expansion to Verant's persistently popular online role-playing game. Not only does The Shadows of Luclin give EverQuest a graphical overhaul, but it offers even more new content than either of the previous EverQuest expansions--including dozens of new adventure zones, a new playable race, a new character class, new skills for high-level players, and more.
Luclin features an all-new character race and an all-new class...
The Shadows of Luclin installs off of three CDs. The expansion requires a minimum of 256MB of RAM, but 512MB is required for optimal performance. Regardless of whether you install the expansion, EverQuest now requires Microsoft's DirectX 8.1 API, which isn't supported under the Windows 95 operating system. To this end, the publishers of EverQuest are actually offering Windows 95 users a refund--these users, should they choose to stick with their operating system, will no longer be able to play EverQuest at all. The Shadows of Luclin also retails for $30--that's $10 more than the previous two expansions cost EverQuest players. And of course, to keep playing the game, you still have to keep paying the approximate $10 monthly fee. EverQuest has always required a serious investment of both money and time--and The Shadows of Luclin is no exception. Yet because of all that it offers, this expansion manages to be very worthwhile. If your system cannot currently handle it, or handle it well, Luclin's new features might just compel you to upgrade.
Structurally, The Shadows of Luclin is more like EverQuest's first expansion, The Ruins of Kunark, than like the second, The Scars of Velious. Velious was specifically catered to experienced players and consisted primarily of new adventure zones designed for high-level characters. On the other hand, Kunark offered a wide range of zones, suitable both for beginners and experienced players alike. Kunark also introduced an interesting, new lizardman race to EverQuest's already-impressive assortment of more than a dozen player races. In that vein, The Shadows of Luclin introduces yet another character race, a powerful feline species called the vah shir, which can be bards, rogues, shamans, warriors, or beast lords--the latter of which is a brand-new character class.
Verant has stated many times in the past that EverQuest had been balanced to support the game's original 14 different character classes, and no more. Indeed, between all of these, there was no shortage of variety. The dangerous environments of EverQuest have always demanded that you adventure in groups, and Verant has spent years tinkering each class so that it offers important, distinct contributions to any war party. So the addition of an all-new class is actually a big deal. The beast lord is an interesting hybrid fighter/magic-user that gains the natural ability to summon animal guardians to help it fight, as well as the power to cast spells specifically designed to boost this animal companion's fighting abilities. The beast lord itself is also no pushover in hand-to-hand combat and eventually acquires a variety of useful miscellaneous spells, such as healing and the ubiquitous Spirit of Wolf. The beast lord's versatile abilities make it a good choice for players who prefer not to group with others all the time or even for those who've never played EverQuest before. A number of EverQuest's races--barbarians, trolls, ogres, iksar, and now the vah shir--can be created as beast lords.
...as well as plenty of tough, new foes to fight.
If you've devoted hundreds of hours to building up a high-level character (or maybe more than one), then perhaps you're not willing to retire it and start a beast lord just yet. Fortunately, Luclin has something for you, too. Though Shadows of Luclin doesn't extend EverQuest's experience level cap past 60, it does allow for characters of 51st level or above to earn powerful, new abilities in place of experience levels. You can actually set the percentage of the experience points you gain that you want to go into this alternate advancement pool. As you defeat high-level enemies, you'll eventually gain special advancement points that let you do such things as permanently boost your stats or your innate abilities, fundamentally improve your combat or magic skills, and much, much more. There are a variety of general skills, class-specific skills, and archetypal skills (for fighter classes or mage classes) for you to choose from. Some of the new high-level skills seem extremely useful--for instance, warriors can gain the ability to attack, or just taunt, every creature within a radius of effect. Many such skills have prerequisite skills you must learn first. At any rate, the opportunity for you to continue improving and specializing your high-level characters should keep you occupied with your preexisting characters for months.
You don't need to reach level 51 before you can customize your character in Luclin. You can customize him or her superficially thanks to the new character graphics. Previously, EverQuest let you choose from a handful of different male or female faces for each race. Now, depending on the race, you can change the hair style and color, optionally add facial hair, and change eye color, all independently of the actual face you choose. The new character models themselves are noticeably much more detailed than the original EverQuest models, especially their faces, with their clearly defined eyes, noses, and mouths.