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Choose My Adventure: Dark Age of Camelot, week three


Frustrating and boring: These are two words that don't bode well for any MMO, and yet that's exactly what my Dark Age of Camelot experience this past week was.

Now, granted there's always an adjustment period with new MMOs, and I like to think of myself as a fairly patient person. I know that sometimes it might be a matter of minutes or understanding to flip "frustration" into "joy" and "boring" into "addictive," which is why it's good to stick games out until you're sure that the issue isn't with you playing the game wrong or being ignorant of what makes it work.

That said, if I wasn't covering DAoC for this column but was just trying it out for myself, I certainly would not have subscribed after finishing the 14-day trial. New player journey or no, I found more aggravation than fun this past week and kept wondering to myself, "When does it start to get good? Where's all that great stuff players are telling me about? And as a Troll, how much lotion do I need to get my skin feeling silky soft?"

Lion's Den
Extra leeway

Before any DAoC fans out there start constructing their Justin effigies and voodoo dolls, I want to say that I totally understand that this is the sort of MMO that asks for and demands some extra leeway and patience. I'm in this for a few more weeks to come, so I'm not passing down a final judgment, but as a new player, I found that my first experience in an RvR battleground was, shall we say, less than satisfactory (and since y'all sent me there, you have a share in the blame, muahaha).

As a Warhammer Online veteran, I was comfortable with the idea of battlegrounds. From what I could tell, the game teleported me to an isolated zone that was in a perpetual state of PvP. Called The Lion's Den, this area was a roughly triangular piece of land with a keep for each realm at the tips and a contested keep in the center. It wasn't too complicated to grasp.

As the only NPCs in my keep were a quest-giver (who handed out three PvE and two PvP quests), a "hastener" (who buffed my run speed), a merchant, and a guy who could teleport me back, there wasn't much reason to stay and hang out. The tooltips told me that this battleground was for players up through level 9, so I anticipated the quiet. However, it wasn't just quiet; it was downright morgue-like most of the week I was there. Just to see another player was such a relief that it brought tears to my eyes.

Off to adventure and drudgery!

Part of my growing frustration with DAoC is that, as with many older MMOs, there simply isn't enough information given to newbies. I mean, I can see that Mythic's made progress in this regard, but I had to engage in a lot of tabbing out to Google questions and a lot of in-game trial-and-error.

For example, battleground quests award bounty scrolls, and there's a singular bounty merchant. Easy enough to figure out. But even after completing several quests, I couldn't buy anything from him, even with several scrolls in my inventory. It took me a little while to realize I had to use the scroll to "unpack" the bounty points within, but how to do that? I right-clicked on the scroll and then clicked on the "use" button, but all that would do is give me a hand icon. Honestly, it took this MMO vet 10 minutes to figure out what I had to right-click on the object to pull up the tooltip, then type in "/use" into the chat window. Sounds simple enough but wasn't intuitive at all -- and I was tripping over stuff like this all the time.

With few players around, I trotted around to quest objectives (helpfully marked on my map), killed my prerequisite five giants and five snakes and five little guys, then headed back for an instant rinse-and-repeat. It was a tedious way to level up, and with very few items in the bounty shop that were worth purchasing, I decided to jettison the PvE quests and try to pick a fight wherever I could.

Snake fight

This was tougher than anticipated, however. With extremely few-to-no players around, simply finding someone to fight was almost impossible. I struck out for one of the enemy's keeps, thinking that I might be able to fight my way inside, but the guards insta-gibbed me as soon as I got within spitting distance. I guess that's not one of the intended goals of this battleground. Fair enough.

So as soon as I released back to my keep and buffed back up (thank God for speed buffs!), I headed out to the central keep, which was in the hands of Albion. Filthy Albs, with their six-pack of albs and all. Yet there I was met with almost the same result: Guards swarmed; I died.

By now I'd realized that if a fight goes south in DAoC, there's really no escaping it. Whether it was guards, a swarm of mobs, or a high-level snake, I could not run away from the encounter if I saw that there was no way I could win. Even with two speed boosts and a healing spell at my disposal, I would be cut down within 10 steps. That was discouraging. What was even more discouraging is that every death set my XP bar back some -- another old-school trait that I'm glad we've left in the dust.

So there I was, most of the way through the week, and apart from NPC quests and dying to guards, nothing had really happened. Without active PvP, The Lion's Den was as dull as a declawed tabby. Not a good sign.

The French connection

With extremely lowered expectations, I logged in on Saturday for my final day of play before writing this up... and then's when it happened.

ANOTHER PLAYER. Like, in front of me! Waving and everything!

My fingers trembling with excitement and a blood sugar drop, I said hello and sent him a group invite. He responded "French, no speak English," which was the full extent of our conversation apart from "Go" and "Hibs." Still, grouping with him and a second player did wonders to alleviate my boredom, and we chewed through PvE quests quickly while keeping an eye out for enemies.

Lo and behold, enemies did appear. With three members on our team and (I think) three on theirs, it seemed like it should have been evenly matched, but we got steamrolled not once but twice.

As thrilling as it was to actually see some PvP action, the actual fight was anything but enjoyable. DAoC seems to go out of its way to keep information from you, so enemy players didn't have names over their heads, just generic descriptions, which confused me when they started summoning humanoid pets as well. DAoC also doesn't indicate your target with arrows or circles or anything other than changing the name color to white, which is easy to miss when tab-targeting among a rainbow of name colors (as the colors also indicate con strength).

While I'm sure I didn't know what I was doing, the fight as a whole was just a mess. Thrilling, but a mess. Having two long-range instant spells plus a mez helped, but their spellcasters seemed to shrug those off while pounding me with nukes, and I could never get within melee range to return the favor. What's even worse is that in the middle of a fight, my keyboard utterly failed, and I had to log out for the day and get a replacement.

So that's where I'm at: frustrated and bored but patient and resilient. I'm definitely listening to your advice in the comments, and I'd like to know what you think I should be doing this next week:
It's time to put the screws to Justin "Syp" Olivetti, as he enters the Choose My Adventure chamber and pits his wits against your will! Check back each Wednesday for a recap of the last week's play, then sound off in the polls and the comments to determine his course of action for the next week.

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