Will You Answer The Call?
Massive multiplayer role-playing games are becoming more popular than ever, and the game developers have taken notice of this. If you are active within the gaming scene you have no doubt heard of Turbine's latest addition to the genre, Asheron's Call.
If you are new to this genre, let me explain how Asheron's Call works... First you have to create a hero who will be your adventurer in the world of Dereth, choosing one of seven professions for your character. You can also personalize your character's look, with over 100 million combinations to choose from.
His or her attributes and skills are typical for a character in that profession, but as you play you gain experience points from fighting monsters, and these allow you to raise these attributes and skills.
Before you can enter the huge world of Dereth though you have to sign up at Microsoft's online service, "The Zone". After you have registered you get the first month for free, but after that it costs $9.95 per month to play this game. This is probably the only downfall with these type of games...
The Naked Truth
The game features some very detailed graphics - most of the environments are very realistic, and the climate changes depending on where you are located. There are plenty of different environments in the game - mountains, swamps, forests, deserts, wastelands, and various dungeons.
Gameplay is solid and open-ended - the entire game is based around adventuring, improving your character, and making friends. Asheron's Call features an advanced allegiance system to help you with the last, allowing you to join various monarchs (guilds) who will help you if you ever need anything.
You can also swear allegiance to any character of a higher level, at which point you become that player's vassal .. but not for free of course. Usually your patron will provide you with anything you need (money, armor, weapons etc) and help you out.
If you prefer not to swear allegiance to anybody then you can instead make "fellowship" with other players, which basically means that you share experience points from your adventures.
Be advised, do not join and leave monarchs all the time as it costs you experience points. The first time you join a monarch it doesn't cost you anything, but the more you join the more experience points it will cost you.
Another of the game's features is that the developers can go in and change almost everything, from adding in new monsters to completely changing the world.
For example, at the end of the Asheron's Call beta they decided to end the world with a big bang. There was a meteor coming closer all the time, until it finally hit the world and everything was erased.
There were new enemies too, including flaming creatures (ranked level 5 and upwards) which could be found all over the world. During the beta, I bumped into one of these flame creatures called Inferno (level 123!) and it pretty much ripped me apart.
And during December Turbine changed the weather from a hot summer to a cold and chilly winter, complete with snow.
This is one of the things that keeps you interested - when you next login there might be completely new monsters to kill, or the world could have changed drastically while you were away.
It's A Perfect World, Right?
Well, not quite.
The sound is one of the game's biggest downfalls. The screams from the monsters when they die sound bad and are really annoying, though some of the sound effects are actually quite good, such as birds singing, blades swinging etc. Still, Turbine could have polished some of the sound effects a lot more to increase the sense of realism.
It also lagged terribly for me, and the worst part is that the monsters still attack you while you are lagging. This means that when your connection recovers you might be dead. And when you die you loose something from your inventory, as well as getting a nasty 5% reduction in your skills.
Asheron's Call is also very addictive - I sat down and told myself that I was only going to play for an hour, but after I finished playing I noticed that I had been playing for over four hours, which pretty much explains that I'm hooked...
Unfortunately Asheron's Call is only available in Canada and the USA at the moment, and I had to import my copy from America and play on their servers. It is still unknown when the game will hit Europe. I've heard several rumors pointing to a March release, but best wait for the official announcement.
Asheron's Call is a great game with wonderful graphics and awesome gameplay, but it is a bit expensive. First you have to pay $40 for the game, and then you have to pay $9.95 a month for playing it.
If you have the money then I certainly recommend this game, but I also advise you to have a lot of free time, because otherwise this game will destroy your social life.
If you like Role-Playing Games then you will love Asheron's Call, you will make a lot of friends, and the more you learn about the game the more you will like it.