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Reviewed: Asheron's Call
Author: Michael "" Ahlf       Date: March 17th 2000
Page: 3

Setting up to play Asheron's Call can be a little daunting, owing to the fact that it is hosted on the Microsoft Gaming Zone. Because of this, players can expect frequent server updates, and a small delay from time to time in downloading the latest client patch to make sure the game runs as it should. The main disappointment of the game is found in this regard, as it takes a good deal of effort -- as well as possible ISP-hopping -- to make the connection run smoothly over modem.

The enemies found in Dereth aren't the usual D&D-style beasties either, and come on two,three, or occasionally four legs as well as wings. As basic types go there are the Drudges and Mosswarts, which run around on two legs and are reasonably difficult enemies. Higher up the food chain are Shreths, which have four legs and are moderate to vicious depending on type, and the Wasps of varying color which launch spells around as well as stinging. Players who make it farther out will find more exotic beasties like Lugians (giants), Armoredilloes (which get somewhat nasty), "Sharks" which are three-legged entities that can get very nasty in their bite, and Golems of various elemental types. The later creatures have been interesting as well, ranging from floating crystal shards (more deadly than you'd think) to the "shadow" creatures who are hard even for experienced adventurers to take down. This is just a small sample of the diversity found out in the wilds, however, as explorers are continually amazed by new beasties and enemies to be found. In particular are the army of Tumerok warriors which are located in the middle of the continent towards the eastern seaboard: during beta the reviewer happened to wander near them and found himself dead multiple times, and also frightened by the teamwork they exhibited.

Player Killing altar -- don't
click unless you REALLY mean it.
Ah, the fun of gardening...

The graphics found in Asheron's Call are breathtaking. Waterfalls, lakes, forests, and houses are beautifully crafted, and the landscape rolls pretty naturally. The ability to run all over and reach the various landforms is a nice touch. The enemies are all well animated and designed, and there do not seem to be any significant problems with blockiness. Especially nice in terms of graphics are the skylines of the world and the weather effects: when a storm approachesclouds fill the sky, in the time of winter there are some nice colorful effects going on, and the times of night and day can be clearly determined. You'll want to be VERY careful, however -- some enemies are so well detailed that, from a distance, they look like fellow players and can lure the inexperienced adventurer to several deaths.

The game is bereft of music, but the sounds all are well done, corresponding to player actions and enemy motion as well as the usual attack sounds and grunts from monsters. The best part to be found here are the sounds of magic users casting or learning spells, while the worst is the grunts characters make when they are hit. This is perhaps the only truly disappointing part of the Asheron's Call experience (then again, the game is easily played without sound, and I'm sure many people do what I do and just put WinAmp on in the background). Not only that, but this is an RPG world, and so a musical soundtrack isn't really fitting with something on this scale.

Liches... gotta hate 'em.
What are they saluting? Go on and ask them.

The best part of Asheron's Call is the event system, however. Turbine's designers are constantly working on ways to keep AC fresh, and their efforts are paying off. Monthly changes to the environment including such fun things as a winter month (complete with snowballs to use as weapons), the "Dark Thaw" featuring creatures, and more have caused players to re-think their character strategies. Lately as well have been innovations to help facilitate social interaction. Guild meeting halls near towns have been made, to take away the problems of guilds not being able to meet thanks to the portal storm phenomenon (designed to prevent area overcrowding), and more dungeons and adventures come into being. Likewise, the creatures themselves have changed, with easy-to-kill enemies suddenly being smarter or more agressive, again preventing the world from stagnating. While none of these have been on quite the scale that the end-of-beta world destruction, which had several towns almost completely leveled, they have definitely added spice to the game as players race to collect the unique items, special weapons, or whatever else is offered only for a limited time in the game.

In terms of roleplaying games, Asheron's Call puts up an impressive experience and many previously unheard-of ideas such as zero load time when crossing the world and the ultra-deep character engine. Time will tell if it has what it takes in content, but Turbine is off to a good start, having staged two large-scale events so far. The first, in which they "destroyed" the beta world with meteors, was impressive in that it required almost no server downtime to construct, and gave players a real feel that things were happening. To a lesser extent the Winter event and the following "Darkness" events have been impressive as well: new creatures (such as cute snowmen that are good mostly for acquiring Carrots from) have emerged, the balance of weapon power has shifted slightly, and even those familiar with the world became a little disoriented as the whole world was blanketed in snow and then turned back to green. Based on the success of these events it seems safe to say that Asheron's Call will stick around for some time.

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Added:  Friday, March 17, 2000
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf
Page: 3/6

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