|The graphics are easily the first thing you notice, and they are a HUGE upgrade. Asheron's Call (AC) already had rather impressive graphics with a GEforce 3 - the weather changes, lighting, and outfits and monsters were done quite nicely.|
But the Asheron Call 2 engine is an amazing step forward. Run through the water and watch the water ripple around your legs. Even better, dive off a cliff and watch your arching descent into the water. The trees leaves wave in the wind, the fountains shimmer and glow. The monsters are all unique with very intricate movements.
While in the previous version you chose from three types of human (generally 'European', 'Oriental', and 'Middle Eastern') you now choose from three types of sentient creatures. You can be the medium sized, athletic humans, the big, strong, solid Lugians, or the small, thin, wiery Tumeroks. Each has its strengths and weaknesses.
When you customize your character, the detail is amazing, much as in Earth and Beyond. You choose the body height and thickness, the hair color and style, the tattoos and clothing colors, and much more. In each case there are a whole range to choose from, from hair colors to hair styles to facial types. Your character is very much a recognizeable individual. Add in clothing, and you'll be hard pressed to find two alike in the world.
Each character has skills they choose to be good at, much like any other role playing game. If you wish to be good in combat and go out slaughtering the local creatures, you can do that. Learn magic, and either kill enemies directly or help 'buff' your friends so they are better, at least until your spells wear off. But the game also heavily rewards those who enjoy making items, something that was becoming popular on AC. Gather up items with the appropriate raw materials and craft yourself new clothing, a new bow, and much more.
This brings up one change that many AC players dislike. In AC, you could make minor items - say fletch wood into arrows, or catch a rabbit and make rabbit pie. I was a personal fan of cooking :) You could then sell the items back to shopkeepers (non-player characters) and earn money that way. In AC2, there ARE no non player characters. So if you make things, you have to find someone else willing to buy them. If you want something, you either have to make it for yourself or track down someone to buy it from. Since most people aren't on 24 hours a day, this can become somewhat tricky and frustrating.
Still, the way that most trades were made on AC were either in 'subway' (a dungeon with many entrances and exits) or for more important items, via auctions on web message boards. People would bid for items, bidding in the game currency, and whoever won the auction would arrange to meet the character to do an in-game swap. If anything, AC2 promotes even more of this in-game economy.
I enjoyed the human-shopkeep mentality from Ultima Online and thought it gave an outlet to those who were creative but not of a monster-killing mentality. I think that it was great for AC2 to head in this direction, but still think having a few basic shopkeeps around would have been helpful. When playing AC2 sometimes, there were literally so many people in some areas that I couldn't find monsters to kill to get raw materials, and I trudged far and wide trying to find some 'available' monsters.
There are all sorts of touches that show how great it is to have a game that's been played VERY heavily for many years. The characters can grab musical instruments and play different songs, and jam together. The commands are the same as in AC but have been tweaked to be even more useable. The changing of the day/night, and shadows, and weather, and seasons,all make you really feel part of an organic world.
There are still quests, for those who enjoy questing. There are random monsters for those who enjoy hack-and-slash. There are things to make for those who enjoy creating. And there are the various monarchies and groups for those who enjoy community and want to forge friendships. Those who enjoy the 'richness' of AC's community might forget that it grew over many years, just as the communities in DuneMUSH and the early Ultima Online and at EverQuest have all grown. To expect AC2 to spring to life with that level is a bit unreasonable. Like every RPG, it will coalesce over time. Sure, AC2 has bugs to start with. Every on line game does. And over the weeks and months, those bugs get sorted out and gameplay is tweaked until it shines.
I know that many AC players will have invested so many months (if not years) in their characters that it'll be hard for them to give them up. In the boards I've been on, there is certainly a die-hard contingent that swears they'll stay on AC with their friends and characters until the server is shut down. But on the other hand, copies of AC2 are flying off the shelves and people are having to scrounge to get their hands on copies. The new game is AMAZING in many ways. And as the months go on, AC will seem more and more dated with its old style graphics and falling number of players.
I suppose I liken it to playing Doom when Unreal Tournament is out. Yes, I used to play Doom for hours and hours and loved the graphics and gameplay. But in 2002, given the ability to play Unreal Tournament with its gameplay and graphics, the Doom CD sits on the shelf. I have fond memories of Doom, and my time spent with it made me a better gamer, better to appreciate what gaming has to offer now.
Screenshots and Hints for Asheron's Call 2
Buy Asheron's Call 2: Fallen Kings at Amazon.com
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