Call is a massively multi player online role playing game otherwise known
as a MMORPG for short. In the same vein as most role playing games or RPGís,
you create a character and travel through the game world engaging in combat
with monsters; learning skills; gaining experience and raising your attributes.
This goes on until you are powerful enough to take on the meaningful game
quests such as slaying the all powerful dragon that is crushing humanity
in itís claws. After a hundred hours or so of game play you would think
that everyone would figure this out and go away. Well Asheronís Call is
in the process of attempting to keep its subscribers interested and new
players rolling in.
Unlike most game worlds, the history is dynamic and you can even become
apart of this history. On a dusty dungeon library shelf you may find
a book with your character name in it after you have slain the dragon or
completed another grand quest. You may hypothetically of course, find that
said dragon has wiped out an entire town that was once a thriving center
of trade. They may even run that merchant that was charging exorbitant
prices for his colored cloth out of town on a rail you never know. You
might even find a plot twist, or a huge new quest that just wasnít there
last month and if you happened to be the first player who solved it you
could even win real world stuff from Microsoft.
Now you may be asking yourself how these kinds of events could be possible
in a world of thousands of players and several game world experience levels,
well Iím gonna tell ya. Turbine Entertainment the developers of this game
world for Microsoft, are updating this game world on a monthly basis improving
itís look and feel, creating new scenarioís and quests they are adding
living history as the game world progresses and adding new monster types
to exterminate. Turbine is in the process of developing Asheronís Call
2, which will have a much improved graphics engine among other improvements
and is due out in the fourth quarter of 2002.
The game play control is not too difficult but there is the fact that
almost every key on your keyboard has its own special function in the game
and if you are not used to that sort of control you may want to go out
and buy an $8 keyboard and mark the keys as to their function in the game.
You do use the mouse to click on other characters, attack, etc. The 3D
graphics and sound arenít bad now and with the promise of a new game engine
and monthly additions to the game updating its textures in new areas this
one could win best of breed.
The other things I found interesting about Asheronís Call were a system
of allegiances which you can join that work like a pyramid scheme giving
you, your king and other characters in your allegiance experience for what
you do in the game, encouraging cooperation between characters. You can
also join a fellowship to complete a quest or common goal with a small
group within or outside of your allegiance, and experience will be shared
with your fellows. You can break this fellowship at any time. You can of
course play solo but the more difficult quests require some help from others
to complete. A character creation system that gives you a huge number of
combinations so you will always be able to come up with a unique look.
There is also the fact that there are only three separate peoples to begin
a character from and yet there is a huge combination of skills and abilities
from which to choose.
Turbine has laid out the world so that it can fit many different styles
of game play as well so that new people can start in easier areas and do
not have to enter into dialog with other players in the game if they do
not wish to. You can progress to harder areas of the game without dragging
others who are not yet ready with you and getting them killed in the process
or join large parties at a low level to gain more treasure and experience
that is doled out proportionately by level. There is even a place for the
player killer or PK where they donít interrupt the flow of regular game
Back to the basics, the hardware requirements are awfully low, requiring
only a 166 Pentium, 32 MB of RAM and Windows 95/98. You do need 800 x 600
Super VGA and 16-bit color as well as a 4MB DirectX 3D Video Card. You
will also need a 28.8 KBPS modem for the minimum requirement. I would recommend
a broadband solution if you were planning to spend anytime playing an online
RPG such as a cable modem, DSL, or a T1 connection. The game cost about
$25 now and they give you one month free of online service via the use
of a coupon number on the CD case. After the free month has expired you
must spend about $10 a month to keep up your subscription through the Microsoft
Gaming Zone website.
There is an expansion out for the game called Asheronís Call Dark Majesty,
which sells for $20. It has a bit larger system requirements, Pentium 333,
64 MB Ram, about 400 MB Hard Drive space and Win 98, ME, 2000, or XP. Dark
Majesty also boasts the ability for you to control a house in the game
world and allows you to store your treasures there. You can decorate it
with game items you can buy or find but a house is expensive and it will
take some time to rake up what it takes to procure one. There are new lands
to explore through portals too another island.
The Microsoft Gaming Zone is now using Microsoftís Dot Net Passport
system, which I will leave you to form, your own opinion about but it has
made the initial sign in process a little easier if you have a dot net
I am still not sure if the MMORPG type of world is a place Iíd want
to spend a lot of time but it is an interesting work and if you want to
try one this might be a good choice as a place to start.