A Mere Flesh Wound
My time through DAoC initially was very pleasant and I have to say I was very impressed by what I had seen, however, things start to take a left turn as soon as the tutorial is over. Once you have chosen your starting point the game becomes painfully top heavy, of course this is true for any older game but in DAoC it seems that the developers have given up on giving new players the adventure that is the journey to the level cap. It took me all of five days to reach level 50 with a mixture of questing, solo grind and also grouping with level 50's. The overall point of the game is no longer to experience the lands of Albion, Midgard or Hibernia; it is simple to reach level 50, equip the latest and greatest armor, and get stuck into PvP. For many this is simply a non-issue, for those however that wish to play a real MMORPG, sadly in DAoC this element seems to have departed.
While PvE raids do to still occur and there are guilds that are more than willing to accompany younger players into the more spectacular sights of the game, you cannot help but focus only on the monodynamic path of the game. Everything is geared toward PvP and to someone starting off it can feel daunting and impossible to get into.
Most of my time spent in the game from a certain point was engaged in /follow as a level 50 took me through a task dungeon over and over again. The sentiment of wanting to do it yourself seemed almost laughable; no new players were doing this, all of them seemingly waiting outside a crowded tree stump until they were taken under the wing of a veteran. For all of my kind words of DAoC, this one element really spoiled my experience, I simply wanted to revisit a lot of old haunts and see the game how it is meant to be seen, nobody else however felt this way.
When Two (Virtual) Tribes go to War
Player versus Player, Realm versus Realm; this is the real point and experience of this game. Putting aside my issues with DAoC, this is an element were it does excel. Crowds of players constantly gather by frontiers and battlegrounds and with regular interval, lands are won, contested and defeated. The sheer enjoyment of PvP in DAoC is possibly the sole reason for its continued activity and while it may be down to a cluster of severs, this is no detriment to the game, log in at any time and virtual conflict is almost certainly happening.
Again I must state my surprise but at the gates to the various PvP engagements, an overwhelmingly huge number of players congregate, the activity is amazing; enter one of these zones and these too are full with players simply guarding the perimeter, if you want active PvP, this is your game.
Of course the obvious flaws are still apparent; there is almost a need to own dual accounts when it comes to PvP. Players will park their "bot" character at the start of the zone and allow it to buff them while they engage in the slaughter. To anyone casually playing the game this is a real turn off and although this issue has been somewhat rectified with Buff merchants it still is a problem for the less serious player.
Finally is the age old concern of joining an already advanced game; you cannot shake the feeling that you are just too late to get into proceedings. Players now have the best armor sought through raids and countless hours of "scale" farming to obtain "dragon armor" and it can feel very daunting to get into. This is an inevitable problem and one that is still very difficult to overcome.
The Player versus Player element of DAoC however remains still to this day one of the most enjoyable experiences around. The games successor, Warhammer Online, has added some welcome changes but ultimately Dark Age of Camelot is still the stronger of the two just by the sheer will of its community.
Love All the People
While the game is very top heavy and flawed for anyone wishing to really experience the game, the community of DAoC is one of the most friendly and helpful around. There is a tendency to offer power leveling with reckless abandon- however, these players simply wish for you to engage in the higher echelons of the game with everyone else and for this, you can only be grateful.
My struggles through the game were constantly helped by random passers by offering me help, kind word and more often than not coin. My constant badgering of the advice channel was answered with unwavering generosity and many players would take the time out to come and meet you and guide you to whatever task. The community shows the type of kindness you rarely see in this genre, rather than the stereotypical "are you local?" veterans, DAoC proudly bolsters one of the best communities around.
In honesty, Dark Age of Camelot is a very mixed bag; overall the game is surprisingly pleasant, refreshing and very good for its age. The Player versus Player is still hugely entertaining and the game is still active (even if it is just one server). The problem for me however lies in its survival path; the game has changed into something different, something less adventurous and ultimately less immersive. You cannot help but wonder why doesn't the developer simply start every character at 50 and make the game about gathering gear for your character rather than concerning yourself with a short leveling stint.
If you love PvP and can put up with a purely one dimensional experience then absolutely try this game out. If you are however looking for an immersive MMORPG with great PvE, then ultimately this is not the game for you.