Asheron’s Call 1 and 2

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Asheron’s Call 1 was my introduction to the world of MMO’s. A friend of mine had an account and played with a group of people a lot. Learned to know a lot of friends from over the whole world because of that game.

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After Asheron’s Call got a bit older, Turbine and Microsoft produced a second game, Asheron’s Call 2. Microsoft sold the rights for both games back to Turbine, so now Turbine was the only party trying to earn the money. Asheron’s Call 2 gave me a great feeling of the MMO games genre and I really enjoyed the community, but then unfortunately it got shut down in December 2005, because of reduced player base.

Some groups of people tried to reverse engineer the client and server data and managed to get a somewhat basic version of the game to resurrect. That version I also played a bit with (single player basically without music and much functionality). Between Asheron’s call 1 and 2 I played older games (Ultima Online) and some of the at that time newer ones.

Return of Asheron’s Call 2?
Today it was announced on the forums of Turbine that Turbine had brought one server of Asheron’s Call 2 back online! That’s great news for fans like me. It’s also great news that I finally can show my girlfriend and perhaps others (via YouTube) that what made me love this game so much.

The server is Dawnsong and the game is in beta as lot of things have to be fixed or optimized (also think about that it was Windows xp back then and now we are having Win7 or Win8 and not all old games do run any longer because of that), so that players have to know that the server can crash or get downtime because of maintenance.

The only requirement for now is that you have to have an active Asheron’s Call 1 subscription. So I suppose I will re-subscribe again just for that! They also said that players who want to register for a new account, will also be able to join in on the fun. Unfortunately there won’t be any old characters, they have made a clean start with a new server.

The resurrection of the game is a good thing for the amount of players that have been wishing for this game to return. It’s also good for Turbine itself, the requirement will make sure they get some subscribers back to the old game as well. If Turbine in the future would make this game available for non-AC1 subscribers, but with an item shop, then perhaps they will get their income that way as well and more players towards the game.

If you want to try it out, please go to their forum announcement page for more information:
http://forums.ac.turbine.com/showthread.php?t=57257
or download the client straight away.

Otherwise, I’d like to talk a little about Asheron’s Call 2 here, as perhaps many of you have no clue about the very existence of this game and why it was a great game (at the time).

Well for one it was a great game because it managed to give us graphics on the screen with moving grass and beautiful colours and gradients and textures. After Asheron’s Call 2 shut down, there came several MMO’s that didn’t come close to the level of detail of Asheron’s Call 2. Not until now with Guild Wars 2 and the earlier Rift and Aion, that I felt that they had neared Asheron’s Call 2 on graphics level.

But Asheron’s Call 2 has something that other games still don’t have: Seasons. I am not quite sure about spring and autumn, but summer was sure colourful and winter was sure frozen and snowy! How would that play out? Well there are places in the world of Asheron’s Call 2, where there is water flooding roads, rivers, lakes etc. These water places became ice.
Perhaps this feature isn’t active yet in the current demo, but it will surely come back at some time.

I wasn’t really a hardcore player (and still aren’t), so I can’t tell you about all the inns and outs of this game, but I can tell you just those things that made this game fun for me.

I believe I did once max out a character, but never went up all the way with the Hero skills. Also the later expansion of the game I never played. Had bought it and planned to play it, but I never came round to it.

Story
As the world was rather doomed at some point after Asheron’s Call 1 (Cataclysm tic event), the great wizard “Asheron” made vaults in portal space to protect his people from it (shelters). Asheron’s Call 2 starts about 300 years later where (I suppose your children or children’s children etc) go out of their hiding places, listening to the “call” to return to the – now restored – world and reclaim it.

The three races were still present but next to them there were also other (and perhaps more powerful) races trying to reclaim the land.

Gameplay
You chose a race and entered the world. You can choose from Isparians (humans), Lugians (sort of tall and big blueish race) and Tumeroks (a race that was closer to nature and have a tail).

At the expansion, which I never got to play, two more races were added: The Empyreans (the mages of the same race as Asheron himself) and The Drudges (monster race).

Each race was limited to a certain amount of classes. These classes(professions) were chosen at level 15, so until then you just have your basic skill set and basic weapons. This game still had the holy trinity: damage dealers, tanks and healers.

In the game there are several information stones available that show you where to go next or how to do certain things in the game. Later on I managed to basicly ‘see’ similar stones in the real world and thought I was in the game.
Levels were gained by completing quests and other activities. Quests could come from scrolls that were dropped by monsters, given by NPC’s or in some cases were connected to objects or certain appearances. There are also temples in the game that tell you a little about the history to the world, which also gave a serious amount of experience. Otherwise simply ‘grinding’ kills yields xp.
Items you didn’t want to use any longer could be ‘sold’ to gold immediatly at picking them up from the ground or inside your inventory, eliminating the need for merchant NPC’s.

The game might feel a little empty as houses in towns are simply blocks of with textures on top of them and there are nearly no NPC’s in towns. This has made me feel a little empty at times and I always wished for that the developers would do something with that. But on the other hand you didn’t need those NPC’s either.

Crafting
Crafting was entirely done by the interface. Bonus buffs were given by crafting at the various crafting stations ( you had to fuel them though for the real bonus) and materials could be gathered in the world.

Gathering raw materials such as mining ore was first done with special places where you could mine ore, but was later removed to be replaced by the Crafting 2.0 system where materials were instead ‘found’ with a map system where you had to walk in certain directions. If you have played World of Warcraft’s archaeology profession, than you get a feeling of that type of play aswell.

I am now not even sure anymore about how other items were obtained or how crafting was done exactly, but I believe you could improve items or craftings by adding a special rare item that was found on monsters (droprate).
Each class chosen, had three different trees of skills, which could be upgraded over the levels.

Generally I can say that Turbine always tried to get the best of other MMO systems and leave alone the bad things.

This game has guilds in the form of Allegiances. This is what had me mostly occupied, I was first in a guild lead by a Dutch friend from Asheron’s Call 1, but later when he quit, I joined an US server where I found a friendly guild. Most of the time I spend chatting in game with the guild and I even became an officer. I wrote the website for that guild and we wrote a special quest system on the website for an in game contest we held with screenshots. The Allegiance had a special ranking system where you were ranked as in a Pyramid game by patrons and vassals that provided XP through the chains upwards.

Items in the game were droppable on the ground. You could that way trade give items to others. Loot was also gained that way.

Monsters could group up with each other which made crossing certain area’s really challenging. For guild meetings there were special private instances available. Quests could be redone after a certain time period, unless they were designed to be one-time only. The game had also a form of mounts available, which I enjoyed very much as well.

Every race had very unique classes to choose from. I enjoyed playing mage the most, as I have as well in other games, but I also enjoyed playing a Tumerok healing and supporting others with buffs, drumming away on a drum or as a Lugian placing turrets that shoot your enemies down.

There was some form of PvP in the game which was called Factions. There are three factions available in the game: -… Certain areas in the game were contested territory, which means so much that players of other factions could kill you there. The kingdom points earned by killing other players were used in a special Kingdom versus Kingdom skill system and by raising KvK buildings.

(Live) Events
One of the more added value features was the fact that Turbine always actively changed the world with new storyline and special events. Especially its previous game Asheron’s Call 1 was famous for that and that was being continued in the second game. New storyline added more things to do, more storyline to learn about the world and often new features added to the game. Sometimes live events were being held where game masters would join the server to steer with attacks of monsters on players and the like.

Music
And another big feature in this game was the music. The music was designed to be dynamic. Music patterns were most likely sent by the server and changed upon dynamically. Each monster type had a different set of songs. These songs were added to the game music to get an extra effect that you were nearing another monster. During battle, music got more and more exciting.

Music was also used for a RPG styled thing, playing instruments. Although the newer Lord of the Rings Online has a redesigned system of that with instruments that can literally played by the use of the keyboard, Asheron’s Call 2 used music sample sets that could be recalled by using special chat commands (music1, music2 etc). These sets could be played solo or together with others. It was designed in such way that any music sample could run with the others.

Graphics
The graphics did look simply amazing for that time, and they still do to be honest. Waving grass, some sort of coastal wave on the water, clouds forming and disappearing dynamically, sunsets, rain, dark nights. The style in the game is cartoonish with a nearly photographic detail to things such as the paths you walk over.

I have loved this game very much. I am very very happy it has gotten back in business. This simply means that I can play it soon again and figure out all the stuff that I couldn’t write about because I simply forgot the many elements of this game. So you could expect another article of me here about this game soon.

Game on!

Steven

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