reviews\ Dec 1, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Asheron's Call 2 Fallen Kings - PC - Review

The cracked orb must be taken to the depths of the cavern to be healed. The band of loose and new friends sets out on the course, down through the carved halls lit with torches.

The Lugians, clubs in hand, lead, with human archers and Tumerok drummers to the rear. A Grutt comes around the corner, a fearsome beast which attacks mercilessly. The Lugian giants roar into combat, bashing away while arrows whiz past, embedding themselves in the neck and torso of the beast. Almost as quickly as it begun, it is over. With a death groan the monster topples face first into the dust of the cavern floor. One down, many more to go.

Asheron’s Call 2: Fallen Kings, a Turbine Entertainment and Microsoft massively multiplayer online role-playing game release for the PC, is one of those games that will easily set the bar for the genre. Not only does this game feature amazing graphical elements, but tactical or strategic combat encourages cooperative game play.

The world of Dereth has been devastated through a magical catastrophe. All that remains of the cities are burned-out husks, some with forges that barely work. Mutated life forms roam the reborn world – vicious beasts that know only rage.

From beneath the planet, the survivors of the calamity begin to re-emerge. Humans, Tumeroks and Lugians have all tasted defeat from the mysterious hands of something evil. Does that evil force still exist? Has it gone into hiding and will it re-emerge to threaten the new colonists?

In the evolving nature of the game, perhaps.

AC2 is one of those games that will allow players to customize their gaming experience. There are skill trees in three combat areas: Melee, missile and magic. However, don’t settle for the base menu board. There are two other trees associated with each category that will take players in another directions, although it will cost more in terms of skill points. For example, in the human skill tree under missile, you can click a tree in the lower corner that brings up ranger skills. Among them are pathfinding and a skill which will allow players to use one of those monsters as a fighting companion.

The game is rife with quests. Not only are there the vaults, which hold shards at their core – shards that relate some aspect of the history of the world and its fall, but caverns and resource areas that must be traveled to in order to gather the raw material for crafting new weapons. As warriors gather about forges to craft, that trade becomes a viable part of the game. There will be those who only live to hunt and kill, while crafters can work their trade and grow rich in a world where gold coins are hard to accumulate.

The game features a new graphics engine and combat system. Not only that, but new story lines will be inserted each month. Additionally, players can choose to fight on servers where there is no player-versus-player combat, or boot up on other servers where that option exists and kingdom combat (another skill tree) rages.

As for the kingdom of Dereth itself, it is divided into three land masses: Osteth, Linvak Massif and Omishan. Players initially begin on Osteth. That continent has several regions, some which are safer for newcomers, and some regions which will challenge the hardy warriors.

A unique aspect of the game (which is played from the third-person perspective, but does have a zoom feature and rotatable camera) is the combat system which allows for strategic battle. You can place archers on a ridge, while melee warriors take the brunt of a charge by the enemy.

All strategic moves are done through type chat, but the intuitive nature of the program lends itself to understanding a role and taking it.

The controls are kept relatively simple and really don’t take too long to get a solid handle on.

This is easily a game that is loaded with stunning features, however, there are some setbacks as well.

Asheron’s Call 2: Fallen Kings suffers from lack of a solid weapon-management system. It is rather ponderous trying to switch from the range or missile weapons to melee weapons without taking too much damage in the interim if wandering on your own.

It also may have be attributable to the older operating system, or the fact that this is a game that plays much better on a higher-end system (despite the PIII 800 MHz computer with 640 megs of RAM and an Nvidia GeForce4 Ti 4200 card, this game would only run on the “low” graphics setting), but difficulties were encountered in creating a character. The program crashed multiple times before finally linking up and allowing the player to select/create a character. It may well be a stability issue within the game.

Server support seems fairly stable though. Only once in playing an average of 8-10 hours a day during a four-day period did the game crash or were the patch servers unavailable. Both problems cleared up within minutes.

This is an evolving, amazing world. While AC2 may have a few stumbling points, it is easily one of the best-looking MMORPGs on the market. Not only does it feature addictive gameplay, but the entire set-up is geared to allow players to create their own in-game experience. From the depths of the Cobalt Vaults to the Prosper Marches or Arwic Outlands, Asheron’s Call 2 is a wonderfully enjoyable gaming experience.

This game is rated for Mature players due to blood and violence.


Reviewer's Scoring Details

Gameplay: 9
The program had some problems during the character creation phase but that is likely due to an older OS. It does take time to run from one area to another and there are numerous distractions (also known as monsters which will attack) along the way. The game does feature a portal system, but they are in a loop and while they will get you close, you may have to battle your way to your objective.

Graphics: 9.3
Even with a system that allows for only a “low” graphical quality, and with a slower modem, the game still played well. Some lag was experienced and caused a few stuttering moments in otherwise smooth animation.

Sound: 8.7
The music can be incessant, while the sounds of battle are expected. Still, considering the format of the game, both are well rendered.

Difficulty: Medium
The game has a minor learning curve, though not in the way it is controlled. The control elements are easy to master, but learning the nuances of the world will take time. Beginning players cannot just move into a region with tougher monsters and hope to succeed. You must work your way up, and use your leveling points wisely.

Concept: 9
This game incorporates many new features, from the new combat system, monthly additions (yes, that has been done before), and new graphics engine. All combine for a wonderful-looking game that will continually evolve.

Multiplayer: 9
What would a MMORPG be without other gamers. This world allows cooperative play, while giving players the opportunity to customize their own experience. You can fellow with other players and share experience points though there were some who complained that they were on the low end of receiving points for a group kill.

Overall: 9.1
Asheron’s Call 2: Fallen Kings is an addictive game that has a good spawn rate, wonderful graphical elements and solid sound. Players with lower modem speeds do not seem harshly punished for that, the quests are plentiful, the world changes almost constantly and the action can be intense. This is a terrific game that will raise the bar for MMORPGs.


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