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Game Review of:
Asheron's Call
A Call to Arms?


From the January, 2002 issue of PC Alamode Magazine

Asheronís 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 play.

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 identity.

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. 

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