After many months of waiting and multiple applications, I finally received a chance to Beta Dark Age of Camelot. Being an Arthurian aficionado, this game promised much, and what it didn’t, I could only hope for.

I start off getting my confirmation code and load the client. (75 Megs) Even with my connection that’s gonna take some time, so I go to grab a burger and hope for the drive through to be a little crowded tonight. Two Rolaids later I’m ready to go.

I log in and decide that if I’m going to test this, I’ll try the most straightforward options at first. I chose to join the realm of Albion (the Camelot/British “faction”; there are two others: The Midgardians who represent a Norse background and the Hibernians who appear to be a really magical Ireland.) I choose to be a brawler, a Highlander warrior and head out into the game.

The initial village I started in appeared to be overstocked with vendors, compared to the number of players I can currently see. The server login said there was well over 700 people on, so I figured, once I headed out into the “wilds” I’ll run into other players.

I’m used to the interface for Ultima Online. This is about as close as the connection between Japanese and Swahili, so I’m constantly flipping through my printouts to figure out how to do anything. (“F6 to toggle warmode” F6? I’ll have to re-map that later. How do I re-map keys? *sigh*) After a good ten minutes I realize, I have a practice shield and sword, no money and no reason to really be in town yet.

Running into the woods seemed like a good idea. It really did. The animation was smooth, the lag was non-existent, and the background was amazing. I stopped and watched the sun set over the hills, and I have to say, it was as close to real thing as I’ve ever seen. Watching the stars slowly come out and the moonrise was a truly satisfying experience. It was immersing. It was the real world. Then the giant ants came out of the woodwork.

They weren\’e2\’80\’99t hostile, but like any good adventurer with a sword, my first thought was “Mongo SMASH!” The fight was swift, and in the end I had leveled and had a pack filled with mandibles.

I ran back to town, ready to sell these trophies and like any good warrior, buy Stuph(tm). I was lucky enough to run into another player who was able to explain to me how to actually sell things. My first complaint: the interface wasn’t really “intuitive”. The merchant interface seemed to be a bit touchy, and would close at the drop of a hat, but I managed to sell off my bounty. I had accumulated nearly 200 coppers in l3Wt! Then I began to peruse the merchant\’e2\’80\’99s goods. Reality set back in. Mandibles were worth about what they would be in the real world. Nothing. The last hour and a half had accumulated me just under two silver. Apparently they use a hundred to one coinage system; i.e.; 100 copper to a sliver, 100 silver to a gold, 100 silver to the next highest etc. The work I had done was worth chump change. As a low level character, I quickly got over my disappointment and headed over to the trainer. Luckily, his services were free. I had leveled, so he was willing to teach me how to use my weapon a little better.

Feeling a little more confident, I headed down the road. As I came upon a huge arcing bridge and a beach it began to rain. Again, an amazing effect. As the rain started, the sky grew dark, then the background fogged up as the rain began, and finally I was caught in the middle of a downpour. I couldn’t see more than a few steps ahead of me. I lived in Seattle for a few years, so I know rain, and let me tell you: This Was Rain.

Unfortunately, the Goblin Fishermen seemed unaffected by it, and chopped me into little bits.

Death was fairly straightforward. The camera moves to an overhead shot, and you collapse to the ground in a fetal position and the monsters turn their back on you to follow other pursuits. Like mauling the other poor bastard who didn’t see them in the rain.

I “/release” and return to town. I quickly go over my inventory and character to realize, I’ve lost nothing. All my copper, my sword, my shield, they are all there. Scratching my head, I wonder where the loss is. After flipping through my printouts again, I find out that I’m too low level, too unimportant to lose anything, but at higher levels, I’ll lose constitution and experience.

By the time I’ve finished reading, the rain has stopped, and the sun has risen again. I decide to spin in place to get a look over the whole area. Suddenly, I can see this immense, beautiful castle! Figuring it had to be important, I rush over to take a closer look.

I climb a hill, and I am told that I have reached the castle of Camelot itself! Considering the title of the game, I decide to enter the castle and see what they had done with it.

My second complaint: I understand the game is in beta. I really do. I understand Beta means not done. (Fallen Age – Land of the Slugs, anyone?) But this was simply awful. I crossed a corridor leading from the outer bailey into the castle proper, and got a loading screen. Once the load was complete, I was in Camelot. Lag? No, that wouldn’t describe it properly. Uber-lag? Still not strong enough. Uber-Molasses-in-january-oh-my-god-shoot-me-in-the-head-Lag? Closer. I would touch the arrow to turn, and I would spin in place. Forward was a series of jerky, screen popping jolts of color. I would aim my self at a point and touch the keyboard and after a minute or two, see how far I had actually moved. It was a nightmare. Just getting back out was a series of guess, poke and pray taps on the directionals. I hadn’t moved more than a dozen paces from the opening, but it took me a half hour to get back out. Over-rotation was a big problem. Finally, I got the loading screen finally, and was transported back to the bailey. The game appeared to be back to normal.

(I spoke with someone, and was told that Camelot wasn’t “optimized” yet, but it would be soon. I can only hope so.)

Tired, frustrated and ready to go to bed, I logged out.

I hadn’t messed with most of the features, and had only made it to the outskirts of the valley you start in, but I had spent 4 hours in game. The world was huge. I could only guess how huge at this point.

DAoC has tons of potential, and so far I’m giving it good marks. It looks slick, and once you understand the controls, it plays slick (I’m told they are similar to EQ). I’m going to continue playing, and keep reporting on the events and additions I see. I hope Mythic keeps the bar they set for themselves as high as it is.