Much has changed from the old AC that many of us knew. While the basics of the game remain the same - gain experience, spend experience on skills while leveling - ToD gives us new content to experience. Gone is the Lego-like blocky world and surroundings and in are new graphics. Granted, the new improved graphics are still in their infancy compared to the cutting edge work of the latest MMO, and perhaps more work could be done, but those of use who play the "old" AC will have to get used to playing in the "new" AC. The first time I logged into the expansion I really had to wonder if I was indeed playing the same game! Again, while the graphic improvements that are being included in ToD don't measure up to some of today's MMOs, AC will still run on many lower end machines - something almost no MMO on the market today can boast. The likelihood of you needing to buy a new machine to play this game is slim.
Visually the heads up display [HUD] for almost every part of the game has changed, going from a dark brown, blocky look to a much smoother tan colored display. This is much easier on the eyes after long periods of time. With the changes in HUD and font it makes navigating the various character screens much easier. You'll notice this when on larger screen settings - typically the higher the resolution, the smaller things tend to get. The new improved graphics minimizes this shrinkage of key components and helps enhance the HUD overall look and appearance. Functionality hasn't changed much apart from the fact that everything is now easier to visually find and locate.
There isn't any background music in AC, only atmospheric sound effects and the occasional cry, grunt or wail of death of various creatures, and ToD does nothing to enhance this. After five years of playing in silence, I think that some background music would have been appreciated. Granted, AC has the ability to let you mix and match whatever music you'd like to listen to in the background via a music player of some sort. Still, some music would have been an nice enhancement.
I'll speak about content in several different parts since content for a low level player is much, much different then content for a level 200 player.
The Beginner's game. This hasn't changed at all. While the new character race, the Viamontians, have their own version of the training academy, many of the quests and things that low level characters can do on the new island (and there are not that many things for a new player) tend to be exact copies of the starting locations that players who choose to be the regular races get on the mainland. There are two unique things for new players on the island however, the Beacon Quest and the Merchant Quest. While I'm not going to give away too many details here, I found both the Beacon and Merchant Quest to be fairly original - both new and old characters will enjoy the Beacon Tower, while older players more familiar with the world of Dereth may find the Merchant Quest to be amusing. Players who have never played AC before may get lost just trying to find the locations in general.
There are a couple of issues with the low level gameplay in the expansion pack - there isn't any low level gameplay. While yes, there are a few things to do for fresh out of the academy players, the monsters in the surrounding landscape quickly jump in irregular levels, often with more difficulty then the player can afford to face. While this isn't as great as a problem on the mainland where there are many places to hunt, the new player area around Sansumar is quite small and jumps from low level to mid level within a very small area.
The middle of the road - most players ranging from level 50ish and above will find the new island challenging and rewarding. However the island still isn't aimed at the middle levels. Most players in this range will probably spend their time still on the mainland desperately trying to level as fast as possible in an attempt to enjoy the higher level activities offered on the new island. Yes, there are creatures aimed at this level, but again the area tends to be limited.
In all my hunting in various places on the island, I really found two categories of places to visit: under 120 and over 180. There are many new quests and dungeons for players of these levels to play. In fact - I'd have to say about 80% of the expansion pack is aimed solely at high level players. This leads me to the next new mechanic of the game, again aimed at high level players - Augmentation gems.
Augmentation gems are ToD's new unique way of letting advanced players continue to enhance their character long after the lifespan of a normal character. Each augmentation gem requires a quest and an experience point cost in order to purchase. These costs are nothing to sneeze at. I believe the least expensive gem costs around two billion experiences points to purchase - that's a lot of zero's. The various gems you can purchase to enhance your character cover a wide spectrum of things to make your character unique from a strength gem that really increases how much you can carry rather then make you stronger to a gem that increases the amount of experience you get per kill. There are several other types - about 20 from the list that I looked at, that can be purchased by players.
And lastly - Rares - much like other games - Asheron's call now has rare items. However instead of being forced to hunt the same monster for hours on end, ToD's rare system is a little different. First, everyone who has purchased Throne of Destiny has a chance to win a rare. All it takes is logging on each character to see if they've "hit" the jackpot. If you don't win that way, you can continue to look for rares in the form of loot in the various critters fight. Please note however that for those advanced characters - you'll need to hunt minimum level 100 critters to even have a chance at scoring a rare item - killing thousands of low level drudges just won't do it.
According to Turbine, many low level (Tier 1 Rares as their called) are easily found by players. In fact during the open preview about 30 tier one rares were recovered from the inhabitants of Dereth. I however wasn't one of the fortunate ones. These Tier 1 Rares took the form of gems that would boost various statistics or skills - like +250 to health, strength or even jumping; for a period of 15 minutes. Not so great for a higher level player, but for a new player it's god mode time…
Higher tiers of rare items are rumored to be increasingly scarce - Tier two will be discovered about once a month, tier three and four maybe twice a year and tier five plus objects may take years to discover; however the higher tier items will be increasingly powerful and highly sought after.
In summary: Throne of Destiny offers returning players many new options that weren't offered to them in the early years of Asheron's Call ranging from more levels, a new playable race, new areas to explore, augmentation gems and the new tiered rare system. Newer players to the Asheron's Call game world may not see much difference but then after more than five years the world of Dereth is rather large and enormously deep and will take some time to explore before that new player would find themselves ready for the new content. It's not bad as far as expansion packs go - though there was so I'd hoped would be done that wasn't. I'll just have to wait for the next expansion to see more.
It’s probably pretty safe to say that I have either beta’d or played every MMRPG game that has come out onto the market since 1999 – And I’ve played muds, moo’s and mush’s as well. My likes about the game industry. Oh so much creativity! So little time. Dev’s doing what they say they will. Hmm, What else do I like about games. Well, I do like to explore… Some dislikes. Well, I really, really hate buggy games. Especailly buggy games that are actually really interesting. There’s nothing worse then having this super-hyped game that’s groundbreaking in many new ways – only to have it unplayable due to stupid little bugs that should have been cleared up waaaay before release.