Asheron's Call 2 - Review

Good Now, Great Later?

By: bean

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 7
   Interface 7
   Music/Sound 9
   Originality 7
   Plot 8
   Localization 8
   Replay Value 7
   Visuals 7
   Difficulty Above Average
   Time to Complete



Asheron's Call 2

   Asheron's Call 2 is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game produced by Microsoft. Players choose between 3 races and a variety of skins when choosing the appearance of their avatar. The three races include humans, ogre-like Lugians, and lizard-men (er, Tumerok). The story takes place 100 years after the good races (the ones you play) were forced to retreat to underground shelters away from big bad monster types. Now the hunted have emerged, and are planning to retake the land of Dereth by gaining the wisdom locked away in ancient vaults by their forebears.

   The gameplay is very similar to that of other MMORPGs in that experience is awarded for killing things and accomplishing quests, but there are a few innovations. Character development in AC2 is handled with skill trees similar to those found in Diablo II. As players go up in level, they gain skill credits that allow them access to new skills. Total experience points are allocated amongst these unlocked skills so that the player is able to prioritize skills they use over those they have only unlocked in order to advance on the skill tree.

   Additionally, greater emphasis is placed on the completion of quests, as missions often award much greater amounts of experience than would be gained by hunting mobs in an equal amount of time. The missions include journeys to vaults that contain shards of lore. These shards not only grant great experience, but unlock a bit of the game's story with quality voice-acting and nice illustrations. Emphasis on quests and the vaults are the game's greatest strength as many players group together in order to complete quests far beyond their individual levels. This teamwork and feeling of being drastically overmatched by your enemies gives the otherwise standard online RPG repetitive monster hunt a bit of dramatic appeal.

Good PCs get good water effects.
Good PCs get good water effects.  

   The allegiance system that allows players to swear fealty to one another in order to create an allegiance hierarchy has returned. Higher level patrons assist new players that swear to them (vassals) and in return bonus experience is given to the patron when the patron's vassals gain experience. The only key difference from the original AC in the allegiance system is that it has been nerfed so that patrons may only gain a certain amount of experience from their minions and must actually play the game in order to progress in levels.

   However, even veterans of online role-playing games may be annoyed with the game after reaching higher levels. The land of Dereth is immense and difficult to navigate as the shortcuts are a network of portals that take you to set destinations across the world. Learning the world-sized maze of portals is challenging, and traveling between them is tedious. Other online games have gone to great effort to remove the tedium of getting a group together, but Asheron's Call 2 seems to have enhanced it.

   The grouping feature is heavily bugged; fellowships sometimes lag and do not form for minutes, and at other times it is impossible to chat with your group. Lag is an ongoing problem whether you are grouped or playing solo even for those with high-speed connections. Undefinable bugs have caused me to completely lock up on several occasions, so that I had to restart my computer in order to continue playing.

Dereth in ruins (and giants).
Dereth in ruins (and giants).  

   The crafting skill in this game is both ingenious and, in my opinion, too difficult to master. Every item that monster's drop has a certain quality to its components. Crafters combine items that meet the component requirements of a recipe to create new items that may eventually be of greater worth than those dropped by monsters. As you create more items of a certain type, you are able to create better items of that type. This is great fun when you are successful, but you are not guaranteed success, and you lose the items you were using to create the new item even when you fail. You can enhance your chances of success by equipping a tool created for that endeavor like a smith's hammer for armorcrafting. Additionally, you can improve your success rates by being in close proximity to a workshop that caters to the type of crafting you are performing. Easy? Not at all. I created a tool to help me build smithing hammers and sat right next to the correct type of workshop, but failed ten times in creating a first level smith's hammer. That's twenty items destroyed, and nothing to show for it.

Dereth looks and sounds great. AC2's visuals are spectacular if you have a monster computer, but suffer heavily from slowdown and pop-up on slower PCs. The sound effects are well captured and really bring the mobs to life (many intelligent monsters will cry out for help when low on health). Plus, the quality background music blends well with the game's environments by playing dark and spooky music in suitably dark and spooky locales and being light-natured or ambient in more basic surroundings.

Microsoft plans to have monthly events that allow the players to take a part in making the ravaged land of Dereth better (or worse). These events should be spectacular if they are as well thought out and developed as the game's missions and vault quests. However, they are sure to draw every subscriber online, while the current bugs and lag may keep anyone from enjoying them.

"Limited skins make my beard look funny!"  

Asheron's Call 2 is a game that is innovative and addictive. Many will love it, but many others will be put off by the game's technical problems, crafting difficulty, and poorly designed travel system. Online games are constantly being updated, so these issues may be resolved in future patches. AC2 is a fairly good game now, but may be a great game later.

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