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Asheron's Call 2: Fallen Kings Review

GAME INFO
publisher: Microsoft
developer: Turbine Games
genre: RPG

MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS
PII 500, 256MB RAM, 32MB Video Card,1.5GB HD
ESRB rating: M
homepage:
www.asheronscall.com/

release date: Nov 20, 02
» All About Asheron's Call 2: Fallen Kings on ActionTrip


December 09, 2002
James Pogran

One thing is certain in the realm of gaming, and that is that MMORPG's are here to stay. The people who play these games are rabid fans, to say the least - some of the players enjoyment of the more popular MMORPG universes borders on the obsessive. The two most popular fantasy MMORPG's - EverQuest and Asheron's Call - are both due for sequels, complete with new graphics engines in order to make the world in which people lose all sense of an external social life can be prettier and more detailed, complete with an entire new beastiary of which to sharpen your sword blades or work out your magical frustrations against.

I know some of you are waiting with baited breath for Asheron's Call 2 to be available, with visions of a massive online role-playing world, filled with lethal monsters and powerful magics dancing in your head like so many pretty little pixies. I also know others could care less, that you've seen one MMORPG, you've seen them all. The problem is in this particular case, both sides are right on the money.

I say this is a problem because that while AC2 provides a visually stunning world in which to lay siege to monsters, delve into dank dungeons and forage to new corners of a virtual world to find endless treasures of gems and magic baubles, and meet strange but unique creatures (and kill them! - Ed.); it really brings nothing new to the MMORPG genre. Veterans of AC1 and newcomers alike will find that AC2 fixes the most of the problems of old and improves upon the hunting and crafting in some aspects of the game, but does not blaze any new ground, or make the game feel any different than the endless level treadmill that was its predecessor.

There's no denying the graphics in AC2 are superior to AC1 and easily rival if not surpass any current MMORPG. The issue with this is you'll need to have a pretty powerful computer rig to even see half the eye candy the game can push out though. The developers are not kidding when they say you need at least a 733mhz CPU with at least a 32MB second or third generation video card. My poor rig with a 1GHz AMD T-bird and a G4 Ti4200 lagged considerably when set with the highest quality settings. So much so, I had to do some creative work on the settings to get playable frame rates. Yet, even with all that, I still experienced considerable network lag. With a standard DSL connection my ping stayed between 150 - 180ms, no matter the time of day. One hopes that when the game is in full swing, more resources will be put towards increasing net speed, or figuring out how to handle the massive amounts of connections coming in from the four corners of the globe.

The gameplay of AC2 is can be boiled down to just another level treadmill, where you spend most of your time killing low-level baddies with substandard armor, weapons, and spells all the while feeling like you're never going to get out of the newbie land. It took me 10 hours to get to a level 10 melee character. Now, I'm no power leveler, but that's a lot of low level work to not see any significant reveal in story or an interesting boss level character.

While you're waiting to reach that next level, in order to keep the player interested in the game, there should be a purpose in killing all these monsters. AC2 solves this by the use of its questing system. The first quests are designed to show you how to use the world around you, but after that every quest seems to boil down to an endless stream of "kill [insert number] of [insert baddie]." Some quests tie into the story line, but the cut scenes are just stills of art with a voice-over. If they provided a little more information or a little more sense of the plot or created an urgency to save the world, I could see getting excited. But the entire story is the clich'd kill-baddies-who-have-destroyed/enslaved/corrupted-our-existence. Besides crafting the whole game is killing baddies to level up. The storyline comes in at a distant third, and so did my interest in continuing to play.

I understand the need for lengthening the time it takes to reach levels, after all this is supposed to be a game that takes months to reach any position of high-level play, but in the early levels, there were no bosses or weapons or story that had that "Oh My Gawd This Game Rocks" factor to keep me interested. From how much I played, it seems if you play at least 14 hours per week, for the first month all you'll be doing is fighting the same creatures over and over to gain levels. I know in order to break away from the pack, every character has to "pay his/her dues," but the crappy armor and other stuff you find isn't enough to take advantage of the nice new crafting system that AC2 implements.

The crafting system is interesting, but has flaws of its own as well. In order to craft anything, you have to find resources. Every item in the game has a certain resources ratings associated with them. You obtain these resources by killing anything living (more combat? Geez....) and rifling through their pockets for resource objects, go to a mine at one of 5 preset times only, or through trading with other players. There are five common resources, five uncommon resources, and a few very rare resources. Common resources are found easily in items or from the gathering spots. Uncommon ones can sometimes be gained from the gathering spots, though that is rare. More likely, they are refined from the common resources through crafting. The more difficult the recipe, the harder it will be to find the resources needed for it. Sounds easy right? Well, that depends how much patience you have. Patience for spending half your life looking for the right item that has that specific resource combination.

In terms of guilds AC2 has presented a few interesting ideas. First off, players can join groups, or rather allegiences as they're called here - guilds in EQ and DOAC. The head of an allegience is the monarch. Even though, the players will always have benefits by joining groups, there are a couple of downers to it. For example, group looting could've been handled better - only the player who does the most damage can loot. On the other had, it's also a benefit to know a bunch of people who are ready to back you up when some punk-ass mother f*cking ASSMONGER KEEPS ATTACKING ME....err...never mind. Seriously, alliances only work if all of the members have the group's best interests in mind. Face it; everyone wants to be the leader, not the sheep. With any luck, the benefits of being in one will keep the punks and llamas from ruining the concept, but I fear the kingdoms that are created in these alliances will only have the purpose of creating turf wars instead of the great communities that existed in games like these in the past. There's not enough reward in settling down, too much emphasis on what benefits can be had in fighting.

All in all AC2 is a good game. Even with all that I have said, it has managed to gain my respect. There's quite a lot to learn and find out if you're new to the field. You'll certainly get your money's worth for the first few months or so. But I'm afraid for those who've played MMORPG games like this one; you'll get bored far too easily, unless the monthly updates add a significant amount of story/quest content.

Turbine has promised monthly changes to the world, new quests, items, monsters and the like. Depending what players like you do, towns can be rebuilt or ruined. New enemies can be awakened, new skills found, new weapons made. The promise of a dynamic and interactively changeable world, the promise of new additions, the promise of new life, every single month, is a powerful thing. And it just might make this the best RPG you've ever played. Unfortunately, you'll have to play AC2 non-stop and stick with it for a long, long time - for more then the average gamer may have the patience to withstand.

This game, whether you like this genre or not, is a very good game, with some vary noticeable flaws. Its promise of new content every month with a changeable world affected by the players is very attractive, but the game itself can be laden with boredom, substandard equipment and obnoxious PvP (in the wrong zones). If all of the developer's promises are fulfilled, it will put a new spin on the MMORPG world. If the updates are not what they are cracked up to be, this game will be just another run of the mill online RPG.

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7.5   Good


HIGHS
Gorgeous visuals, interactive updates are promising, interesting spin on guilds;

LOWS
Steep system req's, endless treadmill of leveling, easy exploitation of bugs can allow campers and llamas to ruin this game, requires significant investment of time before your character can really go anywhere.

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