You May well wonder how EverQuest. with its hordes of goblins and predictable combination of fantasy races to choose from, ever managed to hold the number one spot in the online RPG market with so much competition coming its way. Speaking as someone who has played most, if not all, of the big name titles on the online RPG scene, I think I can answer that question for you. EverQuest's gameplay may well be linear and repetitive and its fantasy characters cliched and unoriginal, but the gameworld itself is hugely atmospheric, colourful, detailed and most importantly, varied. It really is that simple. Dark Age Of Camelot is too small and while Anarchy Online is big enough, everywhere you go looks the same, but in EverQuest you can travel just a short way and come across parts of the world that are completely different from where you've just been. This is what gives it such lasting appeal.
Brave New World
Neocron is the latest contender for EQ's throne, and let me just say straight off that it's no epic in terms of size and variation of landscape, although it tries a lot harder in this respect than recent games in the genre. Neocron's gameworid is comprised of sectors, at the centre of which is Neocron itself, a futuristic city full of mission terminals, which set you tasks so you can stock up on neocredits (in-game currency) and buy weapons and equipment. The settings for the city and all the zones linking off from it are dark and moody, many a little claustrophobic. The one major exception to this is the Wastelands, which is an outdoor sector that provides welcome relief from the cluttered sectors in the city and the outzones.
Within this environment players are forming clans (guilds) that are aligned to different factions of the game, many of which show natural hostility towards each other, and so the scene is set perfectly for player versus player combat.
You start off by choosing from one of only four character classes: psi monk, spy, private eye and tank (a straightforward melee soldier), but you can begin in a wide variety of locations, depending on which faction you choose to align with at the start of the game. This is a good thing and makes starting a new character an exciting prospect, since you can literally start over and experience your beginning levels from a completely different point of view.
A Class Apart
The classes all have names that make them sound unique, but basically they are all derivatives of classes we've seen before: the psi monk is basically a futuristic spellcaster, weak in melee but powerful with psionic spells. The spy can also cast reasonably efficiently and also excels in tech areas, whereas the private eye is an all-rounder (he can do a bit of everything) and the tank just runs around shooting and hitting things in the head, as that's about all he's capable of.
It's a very poor selection of classes I'm sure you'll agree, but you can personalise them to a large extent using the various sub-skills which branch off from the major skills all characters possess (such as intelligence, dexterity, strength) and this goes a long way to making up for the meagre class selection. Neocron does not feature levelling up' in the accepted role-playing sense. Instead you gain levels in your different skills the more often you use them which is a much better system. It has actually done away with the levelling obsession prevalent in most games of this type (most noticeably in EverQuest) and encourages people to just get on and enjoy the game without worrying about what level they've reached (it's very similar to Morrowind in this respect). Let's hope designers of similar titles take note.
Fight Now, Talk Later
The only controversial aspect of Neocron is perhaps the option for open player versus player combat (PvP) in all areas. You can avoid this by keeping your Life Enhancer implanted throughout the game, but you will level slower and suffer higher skill requirements to use weapons and items should you choose to play this way. It seems very strange that people who opt out of PvP for fear of being killed by other players are being penalised in this way, while rampant player killers suffer no such restrictions.
Admittedly, there is a system whereby your Soul Light becomes visibly negative the more you kill other players, eventually meaning you'll be killed on sight by guards and vendors won't trade with you. But in practice, player killers are not easily recognisable and you are just as likely to be killed by someone with a positive Soul Light anyway. The whole system is a bit of a shambles at present, though hopefully this will be fixed in the next patch.
That aside, Neocron feels fresh, exciting, engrossing and atmosphenc. It's a long way from being perfect, but we see great things ahead for this title.
Processor: PC compatible,
OS: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game Features:Single game mode