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REVIEW: Asheron's Call

Discussion in 'Playground' started by Shralp, Jul 23, 2002.

  1. Shralp Gems: 18/31
    Latest gem: Horn Coral


    Jul 11, 2001
    Likes Received:
    Ok, fine. Extremist said I should post a review, so here it is:

    Background: Asheron's Call is set on the island of Dereth. Years ago, a mighty mage named Asheron created portals to other worlds in a desperate attempt to save Dereth from the olthoi (giant bugs that walk on two legs and attack you with the other two). Through it came mighty adventurers. Like us. Now we work together to rid the world of the olthoi as well as the monsters native to the land: cat-people called drudges, lizard-men called mosswarts, strange tall folks called banderlings, gorilla-like tuskers, the ethereal wisps, and many more.

    Character creation: Creation is excellent. You choose a race from among the three Asheron summoned to Dereth: Aluvian, Sho, and Gharu'dim. (Roughly: British, Japanese, and Arab) Then you are given a pool of points to distribute among Strength, Endurance, Quickness, Coordination, Focus, and Self. Based on these, you are assigned scores for Mana, Health, and Stamina. You then pick skills on a point buy system (things like life magic cost more than things like lockpicking). These include combat skills and trade skills like alchemy and cooking, and you can specialize in as many as you like by spending more skill points. As your character advances in level, you will receive more skill points to spend, so don't worry about getting everything perfect.

    You can then customize your appearance. There's essentially one body shape for male and one for female, but you can then customize skin color, hair style and color, eye shape and color, nose shape, and mouth shape. Then you dress yourself in whatever color you wish and you're off.


    As with most fantasy games, there are plenty of quests to go on. Although there are go-fetch quests like BG2, there are also more subtle quests that require long memories and patience. Some require teamwork, and some you can solo. But the catch is that you NEVER have to do one. Quest if you like. You'll uncover a rich storyline. Or just kill random monsters. Or just hang out.

    Killing Random Monsters (aka, combat):

    The combat system is interesting. There is magic, melee, and missile. With a missile weapon (thrown weapons, bow, and crossbow), you click on a target, click to enter combat mode, choose a point on a slider between "fast" and "accurate", and then click whether you want a low, medium, or high arc to your missile. For melee, you do the same except that the slider is between "fast" and "powerful" and the low, medium, and high buttons refer to where on the monster you want to hit. (If you can find a weak spot in a monster, this can be important for added damage.) Mages just click on the target and click which spell to cast. To balance, mages have to have three things to cast: a back-pack sized "foci" of the school of the spell, a scarab that corresponds to the level of the spell, and a few prismatic tapers to burn. Sound complicated? It's not. Just buy enough for each type of spell, and when you click to cast the components will automatically be arranged as long as they are SOMEWHERE on your character. The magic schools are war (your standard firebolt, acid stream, frost bolt, whirling blade, etc. damage-causing spells), item (to make weapons more deadly and armor tougher as well as to teleport the large distances around Dereth), creature (to enhance a character's stats or lower a monster's), and life (to heal, provide natural armor or protection against specific attacks, or to make monsters vulnerable to specific attacks). You must have a "foci" for each school you wish to cast in, and you must be trained in that school. Then, so long as you have enough mana stored up (it comes back when you rest or when you cast certain life spells to drain it from monsters or convert it from your own health or stamina) and have the ingredients required, you can go point-and-click casting around the island.

    Hanging out (social interaction):
    The world I've been on is Wintersebb, one of several duplicate servers. (A character only exists on one server, but you can have up to five characters per server.) WE usually has about 1400 players running around during standard US evening hours. It's really easy to make a friend, go on a quest together, and then shoot the breeze. Or just hang out and shoot the breeze and skip questing altogether. You can always chat to the people you can see, but if you know someone's name, you can send them a telepathic message anywhere on the island. Because all servers except one are non-PK unless you do a specific quest to turn PK, it's a social game. Making it even more social is the allegiance structure. To put it simply, you can swear allegiance to someone. In return, he'll help you with finding items, recovering your dead body (more on that later), and earning money and XP. His reward is that for every bit of XP that you earn, he gets a portion. (You never get less for having a patron; he just gets a bonus.) And the more vassals a fellow has, and the more vassals his vassals has, etc., the greater his "allegiance rank." Having a higher allegiance rank not only allows him to use special magic items and commands, but allows him to buy a mansion for y'all to hang out in. In addition, you have channels to speak to all of your vassals, or your co-vassals, or your patron, or your monarch, with messages like "Hey, meet me at the mansion. I found a cool spell scroll for you." Which reminds me...


    One cool thing about AC is that you can have your own house. I have an apartment. Damona has a villa. Our monarch (highest rank of the allegiance) has a mansion. There're also a couple more levels in-between. You can decorate (usually with trophies you've won in quests, but also with normal furniture you buy). You can create a guest list to let people into your home or just let everyone in. And, you can recall home at any time. Like when you


    Death is not without consequences. When your character dies in AC, you are sent back to the last "lifestone" you touched. (For this reason it is wise to touch them when you see them. Otherwise you could start a long journey, die, and end up at the beginning.) For the first couple of levels you will not drop anything on death. Then when you die you'll drop some money (pyreals). Later, you will drop money and some non-equipped items. As your character progresses higher and higher, you will drop more items. All of this means you will want to find your corpse.


    As Dereth is supremely huge (none of us in months of playing have seen even 1/4 of it), navigation is important. You have a heads-up display with directional coordinates (e.g. 24.5N 34.5E) and a radar that tells you when bad guys, players, portals, lifestones, or shopkeepers are near. There's a simple command (@corpse) that will give you the coordinates of your last corpse, which is where you'll have to go to loot your own body (!) and get the stuff you dropped on death. Unless you died underground, where there's no such thing as coordinates. Then you just have to remember. In addition, Asheron kindly installed a series of portals all over Dereth. Any player can walk through a portal (although the ones to the more dangerous section of the island are restricted to those of a certain level, and the easy dungeons keep high level players out), but only those well trained in item magic can summon one of their own. (And those can only lead to places where one of Asheron's portals already leads.) In addition, home owners can always recall to their own houses and allegiance members to their allegiance mansion, but both of these take time: enough time that an attacking monster might kill you or knock you hard enough to interrupt your recall. And anyone can recall to the last lifestone they touched by dying or typing @lifestone.


    AC is a few years old, and you can tell. The graphics are not comparable to NWN but still far superior to EverQuest or Ultima Online. I looked at several MMORPGs, and only Dark Age of Camelot (which cost more than twice as much) had better graphics.


    I play with a dial-up, no 3D acceleration, and a 1.3Ghz processor. There's never a connection denied, although my crappy ISP will freak out on me. There are server lags if there are a lot of people in one place, but the developers have invented "portal storms" to randomly teleport people who remain in large crowds for too long. ArtEChoke was playing on a pentium 3 for a while and had trouble in towns, but he could still play.


    Every month there is a new storyline. Right now Asheron is getting old and is near death. His old enemy Gaerlan is rampaging across Dereth, killing everyone in sight. Gaerlan's pawn, Martine, seems to have gone stark raving mad. Yada yada yada. I haven't paid much attention to the on-going storyline, but I have paid attention to the monthly program updates. They actually change the game to improve it with each month. They add housing when it runs out. They "nerf" weapons that have become powerful enough to unbalance the game. They are in constant contact with players to see what is working and not working in the quests/game/storyline/etc. Way cool.


    Yes, I'll admit to a few shortcomings. For one, I miss some of the traditional D&D creatures. There are flying creatures, but no dragons. There are golems, but no orcs. There are no elves or dwarves or hobbits. While this can be a strength because it allows AC to develop its own lingo and become independent of the usual D&D crowd, it's also kind of sad in some ways.

    Also, the magic system is intimidating. At first I avoided it because I thought it looked like too much of a bother, but now I'm running a full mage with all four magic schools and now physical combat skills whatsoever. I used to use a staff sometimes, but I got rid of it.

    Lastly, the "main" storyline is out of reach for the lower level players. It takes place in the more in-accessible places of the island, and it requires a lot more power than our low (31 to 34) level characters can handle.

    Big strength:

    Flexibility. I can make any sort of character I want, and then completely change it around. you get new skill points as you level, so the only really unchangeable thing is what you specialize in. Then as you get XP, you can actually spend it on skills. So I can improve my life magic if I want to go that way. Or I can pump up my health. Heck, it's not too late for me to start fighting with a staff if I want to dump points into that. It's all good.

    Free download for one month. Requires a credit card. You can cancel with no obligation.


    Links to screenshots posted here:


    [This message has been edited by Shralp (edited July 23, 2002).]
  2. Damona Silvercloud Gems: 10/31
    Latest gem: Zircon

    Oct 13, 2001
    Likes Received:
    One teeny correction:

    I don't have a villa (yet). I have a cottage. The housing goes like this, apartment, cottage, villa, and mansion.

    Each is a major improvement over the last.
  3. Shralp Gems: 18/31
    Latest gem: Horn Coral


    Jul 11, 2001
    Likes Received:
    One more thing for those who tuned in late:

    Several people from Sorcerer's Place are playing AC now:

    ArtEChoke is Nul Vod
    Damona Silvercloud is Eye Vannah
    I am Shane Ralp
    Sorvo is Sorvo
    dcurjr is Seawind Oceanus
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