GAMING: My Return to Dark Age of Camelot by Jesse Winter

A shot of nostalgia ran through me playing Dark Age of Camelot after a 10 year hiatus—like picking up the phantom scent of your grandma’s cookies, or walking through the hallways of your old high school. Except I wasn’t back home in the suburbs of New Jersey, or on planet Earth for that matter. I was immersed in the virtual world of DAoC, navigating it’s most iconic dungeon, Darkness Falls.

I remembered the ‘grind’ of those early Darkness Falls days. The stakes increasing as you ventured deeper into the dungeon. Better loot—tougher demons, epic fights with players from other realms vowing for domination. And of course, the demonic ambiance of Darkness Falls lived through my ancient monitor, weighing as much as a stone block.

This was Dark Age of Camelot in its glory. A game coming of age in the company of other Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games (MMORPGs), between the likes of EverQuest and Vanilla World of Warcraft.

I had to stop and take it in. Stop in the literal sense of pausing my character, or avatar—a Lurikeen Mentalist, or wielder of magic, named Jellymonsta.

 However, the fond memories were soon tempered. All the players once inhabiting the entrance of Darkness Falls had been reduced to Jellymonsta and one other Hibernian adventurer, a Celt Vampir. But the Vamp stood unmoving, the player probably away from the keyboard.

I had quests to complete and loot to obtain. I needed armor and weapons to compete in RvR—a multiplayer, player vs. player experience taking place within a world at war with itself: fought among the three enemy realms of Albion, Midgard and Hibernia. Without proper gear, or a template maximizing your character’s power in RvR, you’re fodder for your opponents.

So, I descended into the dungeon for the first time in over a decade, arriving at the starting quest offered by an NPC, a lesser demon ready to strike a bargain and send me on some missions. I was examining the potential rewards when a Shadowblade—an enemy from the realm of Midgard—ambushed me with a combat style called Perforated Artery.

Jellymonsta flopped.

I never stood a chance. Dead, my Lurikeen Mentalist could only ‘release,’ or resurrect outside of the dungeon.

However, I wasn’t defeated. My realm Hibernia had control of Darkness Falls. And I remembered DF was prime ganking ground. I had been smart earlier, and parked my Shar Champion, Enersha—my main, or primary character—in the dungeon.

You know, just in case someone like the Shadowblade messed with Jellymonsta.

Enersha Portal Picture

Enersha approaching the portal into Darkness Falls.
In Dark Age of Camelot, everything revolves around the unceasing battle between the realms of Albion, Midgard and Hibernia. And Hibernia controlled enough towers in the Frontier to allow entrance to the dungeon.

I returned to my Champion hell bent on revenge. As I descended geared out and flashing my 2-handed sword, a ghostly great falcata, the demonic whisperings seemed to call out my name: “Enersha.” It sounded like some twisted form of Latin. And like years past, I was immersed in Dark Age of Camelot.

Enersha Darkness Falls

 Enersha inside Darkness Falls.

At the spot where Jellymonsta was slain, Enersha was decked out in some of the best armor, weapons and accessories, compliments of allies and my own efforts. I was ready to go head to head with the Shadowblade.

I stuck around for 10 minutes, patrolling the area, running with a speed enhancement and inviting him to attack. But my foe was nowhere to be found—he had disappeared, using his stealth ability, or was now preying on the Albion side of the dungeon.

I did what my Mentalist was prevented from doing and continued exploring Darkness Falls. Maybe I’d encounter an ally of the Shadowblade—a Mid or another player: a nice juicy unsuspecting Alb.

I was hungry for a fight.

But DF was what in the world of MMOs appeared to be a dead zone. This once bustling hub of player activity had been abandoned to time. As games evolve and add new content, older zones become antiquated. Players lose the incentive to adventure in the older zones like Darkness Falls.

In DAoC’s case some incentive remained, but the days of players pouring into the dungeon when it flipped to their realm were gone.

After investigating the different wings of DF and feeling bored all by my lonesome, I logged out my Champion and ran the resurrected Mentalist back inside DF to complete my quests. The goal was to get into the Frontiers where most of the RvR action was happening.

But just as I was about to log-out my Champion Enersha near a ledge clear of demons, the Shadowblade appeared and ambushed me.

A battle ensued.

It was an ugly and close encounter—but a victorious one. Being back in Darkness Falls for the first time and getting revenge on the Shadowblade was exhilarating in a very nerdy way.

But after a decade of being away from DAoC, the noob in me was on display. Somehow I managed to survive, even though I had missed some positional melee styles and exhausted practically allmy powerful cool-down abilities. Not to mention that after the fight I had no means to heal myself. Left injured, or with low hit points from the Shadowblade, I died to a lesser demon—a trash minion. I forgot to train Enersha in minor healing spells granted by the Hibernian king, which would have saved my ass.

Enersha resurrected back in the Frontiers, the Hibernian staging area where allied players organize themselves before battling it out with the enemy realms, a town with the crazy Celtic name of Crair Treflan. Looking around, I saw the place alive with other diehard gamers like me. Over the years, the population had significantly shrunk, but the most passionate players were still around, consolidated on a single server, Ywain, keeping the Dark Age of Camelot dream alive.

Stepping back, I realized Dark Age of Camelot in 2018 hasn’t merely been a dose of nostalgia, but a world worth exploring all over again. It’s been great to have both the mixture of memories and the thrill of being a part of a living, breathing world. And unlike other MMOs with a player vs. environment focus, DAoC with its RvR, or player vs. player emphasis, has offered a unique, sandbox experience. DAoC has never felt scripted.

And like any great MMORPG, or virtual world, the experience is about your connection with fellow players as much as the timeless game-play.

When I first reactivated, I had logged into one of my old characters, a Cabalist named Enercia from the realm of Albion: the original Ener-sha. An old friend immediately messaged me. She told me that I reappeared on her friends list after 10 plus years. We reminisced about the good old days, the epic fights and old friends. Thanks to her, I got right back into the Frontiers. She built Enersha’s template, with all kinds of powerful armor, accessories and weapons.

However, the game isn’t without blemishes. The user interface, bugs and steep learning curve can be challenging and frustrating for any player—returning or brand new. And there’s no doubt Dark Age of Camelot will have to fight for its future. Some of the original developers plan to release the beta to their Kickstarter game Camelot Unchained. Like DAoC, the game’s emphasis will revolve around an unceasing three faction conflict.

Fortunately for DAoC fans and loyalists, Dark Age of Camelot has an answer for the competition Camelot Unchained and will inevitably offer when it goes live. During the latter half 2018, Broadsword, the current developer, plans to release a free-to-play version of Dark Age of Camelot called Endless Conquest. The perfect time for veterans and new players alike to jump back in and experience RvR.

You know where to catch me.

See you in the Frontiers!

Jellymonsta Alive and Well

Jellymonsta the Mentalist alive and well keeping watch over the Frontiers.

Jesse has been gaming since his dad brought home a Super Nintendo when he was a little kid. His favorite games include The Legend of Zelda : A Link to the Past, Warcraft 2, Starcraft Brood War, Diablo 2, World of Warcraft and his #1, Dark Age of Camelot. Thanks to Storgy, he can now publicly declare his love of gaming.
Look out for more gaming related content from Jesse and Storgy Magazine.

Jesse April 2018.jpg

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