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SummaryAsheron's Call Lite.
The GoodFirst of all, I'd like to say that I have a lot to say about this game, and most of it ain't good. You may want to skip right to "the bad" part, because most of "the good" crap have too many downsides to make up for it.
Undoubtedly the best feature of Asheron's Call 2 is the graphics - provided you have a system powerful enough to run it. The minimum requirements for the "high detail" mode is a 2 ghz processor, 512 RAM and a 128 meg video card. I've seen screenshots, baby, and they're spectacular. Unfortunately, my system ain't "top notch" so it runs and looks worse than that gunk you find between your toes.
Like AC1, free monthly updates constantly add to the game. They'll add new lands, new dungeons, new features, new armor, new EVERYTHING, and they won't make you pay for it. Take that, Everquest! Let me emphasize this - this is a really cool thing, folks. I'm not talking about "whee a new quest!" kind of updates, I'm talking about massive ones. For instance, just last month they added mounts as a feature! And with these mounts, they added a ton of quests, several new enemies, and new areas - just for the mount part! That's not including all the other stuff they added. It almost makes the game worth the money just to see what kind of great stuff they'll be adding in the next update.
The GMs rock. In Asheron's Call 1 or Everquest, asking for assistance was sort of like beating your head against a wall. It got you nowhere and you felt kinda bad afterwards. At least, in my experience (talking to GMs, not banging my head). But in AC2, the GMs are always there to answer your questions, always there to get you out of a bind, and they're always kind. Well, I can't say they're ALWAYS this way, but every single time I've bugged the GMs (and I have, a lot...heh) they've been nothing but curteos.
The game world may not be as large as AC1, but it's still larger than Everquest, and without the annoying zones! That's right, once you join the game you're in the world for good, provided you don't walk into a portal or something.
Many dungeons are now built into the game world, so you don't always have to take a portal to enter them.
Two new races to play - Lugians and Tumeroks, both your foes in the original Asheron's Call! Each one has a unique fighting style with three unique skill trees.
With the world destroyed, it's up to the players to work the economy. You're not going to find a merchant in a town to buy your stuff. You'll either have to buy it off a character or craft it yourself. Or perhaps find it on a creature.
Many people will probably find this bad, but I think this is the wisest thing the folks at Turbine have done: level limits for weapons. That's right, no longer are you going to see a bunch of damn level 1 characters running around with level 7,000 weapons and armor. Finally, some balance.
Oh, and gotta give Turbine a point for creativity. This isn't just another RPG set in some recycled Middle Earth setting. Everything here is 100% original (well, except maybe the "human"...)
Like in AC1, you're not stuck with your chosen profession. Tired of being a mage? Pick up a sword and try your luck as a melee fighter.
The BadWell, that's all fine and dandy, but here's where it goes downhill fast. I don't know which is the biggest flaw in the game, so I'll spit it out randomly.
Difficulty. Now, I'm no hardcore MMORPGer. In my experience, I level very slowly. I seldom group, I never look up information on how to do quests or where to find the best experience. I like to take things slow, I like to "take everything in" at my own pace. And as such, I tend to level much slower. I don't know where to find the good experience, and I never accept handouts like 70000000 gold that some level 80 jerk doesn't need anymore (huge problem in all MMORPGs, I think) that would give me a rediculous advantage. When I played AC1, it took me a whole month to reach level 15. Now, compare to AC2. I play the exact same way - take it slow, take everything in, do it myself or with balanced help...I'm level 30 and it's been about a week since I bought the game. And the level cap is 50! Give me another week and I'll probably make it there! You can literally make level 5 in less than five minutes. Seriously. You begin the game. Level up! You talk to a guy. Level up! You exit the training area. Level up! You click on this stone. Level up! You do the very first quest which probably takes up two minutes. Level up! And only then do you actually start fighting, which is painfully easy as well.
You might want to sue someone from the whiplash you get from leveling up so fast. You'll level up at a screaming speed until around level 12, where things slow down a bit, and then slow down more at around level 18. Around 25, it finally slows to a normal speed, in my opinion. So if you push yourself, you can make 25 in a day easily.
Everyone now starts with "lifestone recall". In AC1, this skill took some work to get because it was so useful, so powerful. But wait, that would require effort and work! We can't have that in AC2! Everything must be handed to you on a silver platter!
But even with the easy gameplay and quick leveling, it would seem Turbine was afraid one or two people might still find it "too hard", so they did the dumbest thing I've ever seen any MMORPG do: they completely took away death penalties. "You lie! They kept the vitae penalty!" you might say. Well, sure, you might consider the vitae penalty as a penalty for death, except that you regain it all back after hacking away, oh...five monsters. Ohh...tough stuff, there. I've gotten my vitae penalty down to 80 and still didn't notice it.
No longer do you need to hunt down your corpse to regain lost gold or items. The guys at AC2 explain this as being an "outdated" death penalty. You know what's even worse? Death can be used as a method of transportation. I've done it several times. You can lifestone recall, but that takes time, and you lose a lot of vigor doing it. It's quicker to find some monster to kill you. You instantly go back to your lifestone with full health and vigor and the pathetic vitae penalty.
But what if your lifestone is clear on the other side of the continent? Don't worry, you are never within sight's reach of a lifestone or a portal. Ever.
With the latest expansion, they've reduced the cost of most expensive craft-items to (and I'm not kidding) 1/100 of what they were. They'll regret this later, undoubtedly, and just make it altogether free.
Dumbed-down interface. Those that were expecting Asheron's Call 1 in this game will be sourly disappointed. Everything's been changed, and for the worse. Asheron's Call 1 had one of the best stat systems ever, in my opinion. It had nearly fifty different skills, and you gained experience from fighting. I mean, if you were constantly hacking away at monsters, your melee skill would improve, even if you didn't win the battle. And you couldn't always identify items unless your lore was high enough.
All that's gone in Asheron's Call 2. You gain experience by fighting, but you have to manually put points into your skills. Only, your main stats (strength, endurance, agility, etc.) are completely gone now, and so is your basic skills (melee, ranged, lockpick, etc.)! Instead, you have three basic skill trees (melee, missile, and magic) as well as "special" and "craft". And EVERYTHING is identified for you. No longer do you have to have lore (which was really cool in AC1 - you could pay someone with a high lore to engrave the weapon stats for you. That really added to the game) to identify weapons, you just pick it up and viola! You know everything about it! And also missing are the great miscellaneous skills, like "run" and "jump"! They're ALL gone and replaced with weapon-related skills. Now, without some sort of enchantment, all humans run the same speed, all lugions run just as fast, jump just as high...there's very little diversity.
Diversity. Every race gets a unique skill tree, but unfortunatelly almost all the skills are the same. Sure, they might look different and have a different name, but they're the same. Each race and each skill tree gets the "basic attack", "basic power attack", "basic critical strike", "basic fire attack", and so on and so forth. Though higher up on the skill tree it becomes different, the first twenty-five levels are almost identical no matter what race/class you choose.
The allegience system is pretty much the same as in AC1. Good for most people, but annoying for people like me. Basically, the system runs like this: Idiot swears allegience to Dork. From that point foward a percentage of Idiot's experience goes straight to Dork. Dork might have many idiots swear allegience to him, so Dork becomes extremely powerful, extremely fast with little effort. Using his new found strength, Dork can get extremely powerful items and weapons, and can pass them down to his idiots, thus, he becomes even more powerful, even more quicker, as does his idiots.
This sytem doesn't quite run as rampant as it did in AC1, however, due to level restrictions (thank God), but it's still there, and that's bad.
It really feels like Microsoft was in a huge hurry to get this game out, as it is very incomplete. In the next update, we're promised headgear, amongst other things. Why weren't helmets included from the beginning?!
Linearity. Man, one of the greatest things about Asheron's Call 1 was that you could start at any part of the island. The deserts, forests, swamplands, you could start anywhere and travel accross a great landscape to your destination, fighting (or running from) enemies as you went. It was great. Unfortunately, in AC2, everyone starts in the same place. And even worse, instead of one giant continent, there are three small ones, and it's painfully obvious the way you're meant to travel. Fight in Continent 1 until you're, say, level 20. Move to Continent 2 and fight until you're about level 30. Move to Continent 3. Monsters will be too easy to kill on the continent you're on once you're a certain level, and monsters will kick your ass (plus you won't be able to enter the dungeons) on the other continent until you're a certain level. What the hell are these guys thinking? This is an MMORPG, not Super Mario World.
While "quest-giver" "bosses" in the game are pretty fun, the Vault bosses are dumb. They're just some drudge or something that's slightly more powerful and has a scary name. Whee.
The Bottom LineThe ONLY similiarities this game has with AC1 are monster names. Other than that, it's a completely different game. If AC1 was dumbed down to the point where a kindergartener could whiz through it, and made so easy that you could get pretty far blindfolded with supurbly updated graphics, you'd have something resembling AC2.
Still, it's early in the game, and with promised monthly updates surely much more will come of it. But I think I'm going to cancel my subscription and wait six or seven months while they make the game worth paying thirteen bucks a month for.
It's also very hard to make a biased review about a constantly evolving game world. My opinion is based on several months of Asheron's Call 1 and about a week of Asheron's Call 2, so there surely is a lot of it I've missed. There are good points I've probably skipped, but even more bad points I forgot. Basically the point I'm trying to get accross here is that I was expecting "the sequel" to Asheron's Call 1, and was let down. It's too easy and I miss the skill and stat system from AC1. Still, if you have a computer that can run it, it has some of the best graphics in any game I've seen ever, MMORPG or not.