Poor old Sony. Given the massive debacle that was the Star Wars Galaxies Combat Upgrade, you'd think that its developer - Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) - would steer clear of using that phrase ever again. Not so. With the release of the Desert Of Flames expansion for the underrated EverQuest II - a game easily as enjoyable as WOW, but with half the calories... Sorry, I mean players - came an all-singing, all-dancing, all-existing player-base-annoying 'combat upgrade'. SOE must be cursed.
Apart from inflaming the high maintenance players, Desert Of Flames brings plenty of good stuff to the table. High-level content, a level cap increase to 60, all-new dungeons and instanced zones, as well as a new continent to explore.
Some of its more hyped additions - climbable walls, for instance - are less impressive, being limited to specific areas only and don't really add anything essential to the core gameplay mechanic.
Back with the pluses, the PvP arena combat brings some added excitement, in a similar vein to WOW's Battlegrounds expansion, but minus the horrendous waiting times to take part. Team deathmatches, capture the flag, one-on-one duelling and more are available, while the option to play either as yourself or as a trainable 'pet fighter' works a lot better than it sounds. Think a grown-up version of Pokémon and you're on the right track.
All in all, this is a pretty good expansion pack with a strong storyline and structure, although it does feel as though SOE has missed a trick here. The whole continent feels rather small (compared to the mammoth size of the original EverQuest's expansions), and restricting content to level 50 and above (in terms of survivability - anyone can access DOF, but you'd be a fool to take a low leveller there) does nothing to address issues with EQII's now tiresome low level game.
It might have been a better option to provide a range of level content, giving new characters another area to start their virtual lives and really giving the background story added weight in the overall EverQuest II world. Nonetheless, Desert Of Flames is a solid expansion pack, with enough novelty to appeal should you be tough enough. And don't mind getting sand in your shoes.
A tasty desert (ho ho)
- Plenty of high level content
- PvP content works well
- Raises the level cap
- Could have been more wide reaching
- Combat upgrade has ruffled feathers
- Needs Polish