Asheron's Call was a major hit for Microsoft 2/3 years ago. It was one of the first really big time MMORPG back then, currently though there are loads and loads of them around and there isn't enough space for all of them. So does Asheron's Call 2: Fallen Kings give enough newness to what seems like a slowly dying style of gaming.
Are you ready for the next generation of multiplayer role-playing games? Asheron's Call 2 Fallen Kings combines state of the art 3-D graphics, innovative combat and game-play and a dynamic monthly update system that immerses players in a lush, living world filled with danger and challenges.
Asheron's Call 2 takes place in a fantasy world that has been devastated by a great disaster. You and your fellow players must venture forth and shape the course of this ever-evolving world.
Installation, Settings and Loading Speeds
Asheron's Call 2 comes on 3 CD's - although the 3rd one is only needed if your computer can handle the highest graphic setting (which means anything above a P4 2.6 and the latest GeForce/ATI card). The game is quite a resource hog (although the patches are gradually fixing lots of the usual memory leaks that seem to find their way into games these days. The really good thing so far over the last two months playing Asheron's Call 2 is that the servers are hardly down at all, the only really long waits are when the month episodes are released (patches).
Without a doubt the first thing you will notice when you sign up/buy Asheron's Call 2: Fallen Kings is how gorgeous the game ended up looking! but that isn't really what matters in an online title, you need content that keeps users paying out their money each month. The first thing I have to say here is that a lot has changed compared to the first Asheron's Call title - while the place you play in is the same in name, the game is defiantly not.
There are a few so called tweaks to the MMORPG that was Asheron's Call firstly you no longer lose items when your character dies (I don't like that but as I used to enjoy trying to get back my old items) and then we have the main change to me - you no longer have to go into shops to buy and sell items, you turn your own items into gold yourself, perhaps it is just me but although it is done so that player to player trading can happen I really miss the NPC's that used to be in the shops and it made getting harder to find items much easier. So the game has become much easier for new players, but hopefully for those of us who are used to these types of games far more content will be added over the coming months.
The game begins with you picking a character to play, be it a Human, Tumerok or Lugians, once you have picked your character you get a short intro movie showing you what has happened to the world of Dereth since the last game. So what is different in Dereth? Well the land has basically been destroyed by a magical disaster and it is up to you and all the other players to help reclaim and rebuild the land. How is this done? The game features various story related quests and the excellent monthly updates which carry the story forward...this is one of the reasons I waited two months to fully review the game as I wanted to let buyers know exactly how the monthly updates are proving to be.
Currently (now in the January story) the game still doesn't have a great deal for people to do apart from fighting, crafting and going on quests (which is basically fighting too). So why is there so much fighting in what should be a role playing game, well the main reason for this is the new looting system and crafting system. All items in the game are composed of one/two of the basic raw materials, wood, stone, iron, crystal and acid, they can be changed into gold straight away by dragging each item into the gold section of your inventory. The thing here though is that most players will be better of trying to craft new items - which means you have to use the raw materials from the items you have picked up on your travels to try and improve weapons, potions etc via the new crafting system. While this does improve the crafting over Asheron's Call it means that you HAVE to go out fighting as there is not really any other good way to get the raw materials to do your crafting without killing monsters and taking the loot from them.
The crafting system gets quite advanced later on (usually past the 3rd tier craft items) as they need specific items that you have to get from various monsters like wasp wings and horns - these are extremely hard to find in the game and thus are on the market from other players at some very high prices. The only bad point about crafting so far is that instead of improving it with the latest January patch crafting has managed to get a little unpleasant with it becoming harder and harder to make good items.
So how has the story system been going over the last two months, it has been pretty good so far with new quests added each month and the world of Dereth has been gradually rebuilding with each new release. It is a good feeling watching building, towers and bridges getting rebuilt each month. The quest system works quite well too, there are also massive underground vaults placed all over the maps which contain both monsters and a kind of boss monster to kill, once you have killed the boss you are rewarded with a quick movie explaining more of the story and a heck of a lot of experience points to help you level. Have you noticed that you will be doing a lot of fighting in Asheron's Call 2?
Graphics & Sound
If there is one thing that Microsoft/Turbine have really gone to town on in Asheron's Call 2: Fallen Kings it is the graphic side of the game, the graphics engine has been redone to create a fantastic looking world that is full of detail and animation. It is easily the best looking MMORPG out at the moment (Roll on Star Wars). The game is filled to the brim with fancy effcts, as a game designed for DirectX 8 should be, and if your PC can handle it the game looks fantastic even in Medium Detail - while those of you who can reach the level of Very High Detail will be pleased to hear that the game is even better thanks to Microsoft shipping an extra CD full of Very High Detail textures on it.
The sound has also been improved in the game, there are not only lots of ambient effects throughout the areas you visit, all of the monster sounds are better and there seems to be more speech from monsters asking to be healed and such like. But the main difference this time round is the inclusion of dynamic music, the good thing here is that it doesn't get in the way whilst you are playing, you hardly notice it and that is a good thing.
So all in all Asheron's Call 2 looks very promising, if it can keep improving with each new episode the game will have a long life, I am worried about the need to have to fight and fight through the game, MMORPG's should be demanding more than that. The story to the game is yet again good and the way it is spread out over the game and the coming episodes has been well done. Graphically nothing online gaming wise (apart from UT2003) can touch this either. Fingers crossed it will get better and better, it has the potential. By the way - I'm Terratogen on Wintersebb