There are a few things that remain constant about EverQuest, no matter how many expansions they release. The first and foremost is that the game requires a very significant time commitment. Leveling up to the point where you can effectively explore the lands safely can take days. Dying can result in severe penalties, including loss of experience and a long trek back to retrieve items from your corpse. At higher levels, healing can take forever. Finally, the best way to avoid dying and to pass the time more quickly is to join up with groups of people.
With that out of the way, the latest in a long line of expansion, The Lost Dungeons of Norrath, continues the epic EverQuest experience through addition dungeons, adventures, and items known as "augmentations." What the expansion doesn't do is make the game any better for low-level new players. At the time of this expansion's release, much of EverQuest's core audience has either reached or is approaching the games level limit of 65, at which point the standard method of leveling no longer applies. The Lost Dungeons expansion is clearly designed for high-level players since many of the adventures are difficult for groups of experienced level-65 players. In fact, only level 20-65 players are allowed to accept lost dungeon adventures, and players who prefer to go it alone (even though the game is specifically designed to discourage soloing) can't accept the adventures at all.
Perhaps the most enticing aspect of the expansion is the zone instancing feature, which significantly updates the game and makes it more of a competitor among other online titles. Adventures will be custom tailored to the level of the group, and the group is given two hours (real time) to complete them. Groups will also have the option of going on a "hard" adventure instead of a normal one. A group is assigned an adventure and then directed to a waypoint, where they will cross over a threshold where no other players outside the group can enter. That way, players won't have to camp around spawn points with crowds of strangers in order to get monsters to fight. Additionally, the adventures will be designed to make good use of a given group's range of skills. Rogues will be needed to disarm the many traps or pick the treasure chest locks that litter the lost dungeons. The rewards for completing these adventures are tremendous as far as experience and loot.
There are numerous dungeons following five different graphical themes, but there is no random dungeon generator. For the most part, these new dungeons are pretty straightforward and don't offer anything new. You'll have to find something, defeat a creature, or rescue someone. In the long run, the adventuress amount to the same thing: Killing room after room of monsters until you reach your goal. The two-hour time limit works well in keeping the game exciting by compelling players to keep moving instead of sitting and taking a break. However, it's not hard to imagine how two-straight hours of beating down beasties can become dreadfully repetitive.
Augmentations items are magically imbued artifacts that can be fitted onto equipment to make them more powerful. This is especially useful for players who have reached level 65, who can no longer level through conventional means. Though some may be very powerful, and especially useful in the lost dungeons, they don't actually introduce any new concepts to the RPG genre. EverQuest's slightly updated interface, however, makes it much easier to find other players that are within a level range. While this is great for high-level players, new players once again get the short end of the stick. EverQuest doesn't allow for high-level players to group with significantly lower level players. Also, most high-level players probably filter out messages from low-level newbies, making the interface upgrade only marginally beneficial to new players who are looking to get ahead.
In the end, The Lost Dungeons of Norrath is a expansion that is only beneficial to dedicated, long-standing players of EverQuest. Though it doesn't offer much that is new to the genre, it offers a few things that are new to EverQuest. The challenging adventures are sure to draw in elite players who are looking for something new. Those are are new need not look here.
+ Mission zone instancing is introduced
+ Updated interface makes it easier to form groups
+ Augmentation items add an extra dimension to game
+/- Time limit missions are compelling, but make for repetitive gameplay
- Unable to solo play in lost dungeon adventures
- Not for new players
- No random dungeon generation
If you are already a long-time, die-hard player of EverQuest, your decision is already made. The new expansion adds a little bit of freshness to this long-standing title. Many of the new features makes it more of a competitor among other online titles. For people who haven't played before, or may have dropped out somewhere along the way, The Lost Dungeons of Norrath offers very little in the way of pulling them in.
Reviewed by Steven Wong