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Developer:
Sony Online Entertainment
Publisher: Sony Online Entertainment
Platform: PC
Release Date: 2003

by Ramielle of Bristlebane




LDON is the sixth expansion of Everquest, which is a nearly five year old MMORPG (massively multiplayer online roleplaying game). Despite its antiquity (by gaming and software stadards), Everquest still has by far the heaviest player base of its genre. This world has a slang of its own, so see the small glossary at the end of the article if you need a translation.


This expansion introduces instanced dungeons to the world of Norrath. That means a group of three to six players can get a temporary dungeon of their very own to explore and complete an assigned mission. You have 30 minutes to get to the dungeon and enter it and 90 minutes from the time the first character enters the dungeon to complete your mission there. There are three rewards: experience (points toward the next level for your class), dropped loot and point accumulation toward earned loot. In addition to the single group missions there are raid missions that take up to 36 players. They are said to be very difficult; I've never attempted a LDON raid so I won't discuss those further.


ATMOSPHERE

Excellent. There are five dungeon "themes", each based on an old world zone and accessed from an "adventurer camp" in a nearby zone. Deepest Guk, Mistmoore, Miragul's Menagerie, Rujarkian Hills and Takish-Hiz. Each theme has eight to ten dungeon layouts. The art is imaginative, sometimes spectacular in some of the large end rooms, but the graphics are limited by Everquest's ancient (and soon to be updated) engine. Appropriate music and sounds add to the ambience. Deepest Guk is gloomy and greenish with lots of plank bridges (thankfully wider than those in Upper Guk!), swampy areas and undead frogs and eyes everywhere. Mistmoore tends toward mummies, gorgeously robed vampires, bats and spiders. Takish-Hiz introduces the beleagered, magical, hostile sand elves and their elementals that live under the Oasis of Erollisi Marr in neatly squared off underground rooms with roots and sand breaking in everywhere. In Everfrost lies the hidden Miragul's Menagerie, cavernous ice bound libraries crowded with misbegotten experiments: the infamous spell-casting flying monkeys, mutations that crawl or shamble and frost goblins and spiders that have wandered in. Rujarkian Hills are controlled by large fierce orcs that dominate a slave goblin race and live in long hallways that connect a few large rooms, mostly full of crates and boxes.


Guk is by far the least popular theme. It's dark and rather hard to pull and navigating the place gets tedious. Mistmoore is perhaps the most popular. Rujarkian is the easiest to pull.


GAMEPLAY

Excellent. Fast paced and demanding for those used to breaking a "camp" and then single pulling to one spot for hours on end. LDON is a true dungeon crawl. Monsters do not respawn. You'll need good crowd control as pulls can bring up to five monsters. You must keep moving or you'll run out of time to complete your mission.


You can choose a normal or hard mission. Hard level is doable by very good groups and gives a chance at much better dropped items. At level 65 on hard the regular monsters can hit for nearly a thousand points so excellent crowd control is vital, as in bring a good bard or enchanter along.


There are four types of missions: Slaughter (kill 50 or 60 monsters), Collect (find 20 to 29 specific items dropped by the monsters), Assassinate (find and kill a boss monster that spawns after 65% of the dungeon's monsters have been killed) and Rescue (find an npc that spawns after 65% of the monsters have been killed and follow it to the entrance). Slaughter is the simplest and was originally by far the easiest. Collect missions were buggy when released but have since been fixed and are now probably the fastest and easiest mission. Assassinations can be challenging since the target boss is two levels higher than the mission level. For a level 65 group that means you have to kill a nasty level 67 mob who will probably be surrounded by several good buddies. Escort missions are very unpopular since you have to follow the npc back to the exit at a walking pace, and he/she may have trouble finding the way. You get to choose your mission type but if you decline a mission you must wait 45 seconds before you can ask for another. Since the unpopular mission types are the ones most often offered it can take several minutes to get what you want. Pickup groups usually choose slaughters or collects. A good group used to working together may take an assassinate. No one takes rescues. Both those mission types need work; I'd suggest that the bosses be itemized and the rescued npc offer a reward to make up for the extra time and risk.


LDON EXPERIENCE REWARD

Good. Decent, but many of the conventional dungeons or high level planes provide much better experience for the time spent. Group members must be within seven levels of one another to obtain a LDON mission but the best experience is obtained by having characters as close as possible in levels.


LDON DROPPED LOOT

Good. Most of the dungeon monster sets provide sellable loot and dropped coins at a reasonable rate for the level. (Note: this was true at the time of writing but the developers have since greatly reduced the amount of coin obtained per mission). On my server (Bristlebane) it is the custom for groups to assign a Master Looter to clear the bodies. When the mission is complete he sells and splits the coin among the group. Any dropped items are rolled on a Need Before Greed basis, even in pickup groups in my experience. If everyone has better equipment the item is randomed among the group for twinkage or sale.


Each mission may provide one to three minibosses that drop equippable items suitable for the mission level. Dropped equippable items are unique to each theme and carry suitable level restrictions. All but the very best equipped are apt to find some LDON dropped items that are upgrades even at normal level. Hard missions provide a chance at still better loot. In addition to these tradeable items regular monsters occasionally drop an augment. Augments are non-tradeable (NO DROP), can be merged with a wearable item and provides an increase to an attribute or a resistance. However, merging an augment makes the item non-tradeable and while the augment can be removed by a solvent that costs 10 plats, the augment is destroyed by that process.


LDON ADVENTURE POINT ITEMS

Very good. Each successful normal LDON mission gives the player one to fifty-one adventure points, depending on mission level, which can be spent at an LDON Adventure Merchant. Hard level missions yield twice as many adventure points per mission. Items bought with adventure points are NO DROP. Each camp has a merchant, each merchant has different wares for sale, and you must have earned points totalling the cost of the item you wish to buy at a particular camp in that theme, but once you have that many points in the theme you can spend points gotten anywhere there. The highest priced items cost 1492 adventure points, which requires 30 successful missions in that theme at level 65. There's literally something for everyone at these merchants from the lowest to the very highest. Armor, augments (including augments that increase mana regen, increase attack, add hit points and/or mana, give weapon procs), unique or rare spells for each class and weapons. The better LDON merchant weapons and armor each have two or three augment slots so with a lot of work you can make very special items. For instance my Level 65 paladin put together a 36% haste belt for about 1700 points from a Mistmoore belt and haste augment plus a stamina augment. She also has the Tak breastplate with a Flowing Thought2 augment for about 2000 points total. While there are better items in game, none of them can be obtained with a single group, but require raid forces.


CONVENIENCE

Very good. The camps are located in newbie zones in locations safe for level 20's: East Commons tunnel, Butcherblock near the Greater Faydark zoneline, Everlost, errr, Everfrost, North Ro and South Ro.


Each camp has a Magus npc that will teleport you between camps on request once you've visited your hometown, talked to an npc there and then answered a few questions at an adventure camp and received your adventure stone. For those who have offended their home town militia there are less convenient npc's you can visit in Rathe Mts (at the gypsies) or West Karana. This adventure stone enables the mage translocators for you and, when merged with a charm, can be upgraded by speaking to an npc after each ten wins in a theme. Once you have ten wins in each theme, you get another upgrade and more upgrades at 20 and 30 wins.


DOWNSIDES

If the server goes down your LDON dungeon poofs and you're handed a failure. I don't think they can do anything about the poof, but SOE should give you the win instead of a failure or at least abort your mission. After all they're the ones that failed here!


It can take time to find a LDON group or fill out an incomplete group with a needed class. Healers and slowers seem to be perenially in short supply. Some classes/levels may have to wait a long time for a pick up group especially during offpeak hours. Usually one or two group members leave after one run, which means you have to fill the slots or look for a new group. You can't just settle in for four to six hours and grind experience.


Desired classes: Bard (by far the best pullers for LDON), cleric, shaman (slow, haste, heals, crowd control), enchanter (crowd control is a Good Thing, plus slow/haste, lull), paladin (pulling, tanking). Damage dealers tend to be in oversupply so may have more trouble finding a group, while healers tend to be scarce.


OVERALL

Excellent. LDON revitalized Everquest. It has greatly increased ease of finding pickup groups, provides an alternative to areas overcamped in prime time and is just plain FUN. It brought jaded veterans back to the game and has brought true newbies into the game. At the low end it serves as a training ground for learning to play. At the high end it provides an alternative for those who don't want to join a raiding guild for whatever reason. If you do belong to a raiding guild there's still fun and loot here for you if you can get a few hours off from raiding. The uberrest players I know - and they're as uber as it gets - do LDON when they can.


Even if you fail your mission, you get experience and loot. LDON provides an attainable short term goal (wining feels good!), long term goals as you earn your adventure point merchandise and plenty of fun and eye-candy along the way.


GLOSSARY

Flowing Thought 2: item increases mana regeneration when worn.

Plats: platinum pieces are Everquest's highest coin currency.

Pulling: Act of intentionally luring a monster away from its path or home base to your group's safe spot to fight it.

Raid force: Several groups of players combine to kill very high level monsters.

Randomed: Everquest provides a random number generator that can be accessed by players to share items obtained by the group in the course of a playing session.

Twinkage: Giving a younger character loot obtained by an older, more powerful character.


Final Grade: 90%


System Requirements

  • PII - 400Mhz
  • 256 MB RAM
  • 16MB 3D Card
  • DirectX 8.1
  • 28.8k modem or better




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