Asheron's Call 2: Fallen Kings
Unlike many other reviews you will read, I will not start this review off by comparing MMORPG's to drugs and the players to drug addicts. That being said, the original Asheron's Call managed to dig its hooks into me for two solid years. My visits to Dereth have become more infrequent over the last year and it is a rare occurrence when I log in to the game these days. Along comes and its attempt to coax me back into the world of Dereth and forgo sleep once again.
The original Asheron's Call attempted (and succeeded on some levels) to create a completely wide open experience, including its skill system, where gamers could tailor the game to their own unique play styles. Asheron's Call 2 has shifted toward a skill tree system, removing the ability for a player to take any skill at any time. The skill trees are determined by your selected race (there are three different races to choose from). Additionally, the player can train and un-train skills in the skill tree system at any time. Perhaps the developers felt the need to add a buffer to protect players from themselves and their poor choices. Personally, I prefer the new system because it allowed me to test a new skill and if I was unhappy with the skill, I was not permanently stuck with it. The skill tree is well done and adds a completely new dynamic to the series that should help new players advance more quickly. Veteran AC 1 players, however, may feel a bit constricted.
Another new addition to the series is special attacks for melee characters. The melee combat in AC 1 was limited to setting your character on automatic and selecting to attack the monster with a low, medium or high attack. In AC 2 you can select auto attack and stand back and watch your character attack your selected monster but you will not be using your skills to their fullest potential. Your skill tree allows you to train special melee attacks that inflict significantly more damage than a normal attack. On top of this, monsters become vulnerable at times during battles and if you select your special attack at the moment the monster is vulnerable, you will inflict a mighty blow. This seemingly small change keeps combat fresh and the player remains involved in all battles.
The third major deviation from AC 1 comes in the economic structure. The Non Player Characters (NPC) in the game only serve as quest starters or providers of information. There are no stores or vendors to sell your loot. All loot can be salvaged into gold or used for crafting. Crafting is a key component to the economy. All characters can craft items (weapons, armor, etc) without needing to spend skill credits or experience points. The more you craft, the better your skill becomes and the better equipment you can create. The higher the level you are trying to craft, the higher the material requirements become, so you will always be compelled to continue collecting the high level crafting materials to make that next level sword.
The final major game structure change is the quest system. The quests in AC 1 were very vague and normally one person would solve the quest and post a walk through so everyone else knew what to do. AC 2 has a quest log that actually shows you when a quest is initiated, what the quest is, and what is needed to complete the quest. As your quest progresses, your quest log will updated, reflecting your advancements. Also, the game features vault quests which reward the player with experience points and movies about the history of the AC world.
The graphics and audio are nothing short of breathtaking. This is one of the best looking and sounding games you will find on the market today. Unfortunately, this beauty comes at a price. I run a P4 2.2 Ghz, with 512 MB of RAM and 128 MB GeForce graphics card. When playing on the auto-detected settings, I find the lag to be unbearable at times. It is not traditional lag like you see in a FPS, but more so like a frame rate lag where it feels like you are running in knee-deep mud. With each update, I can only hope they optimize the network code to help fix this problem.
Ultimately, this is a great game that will be very user friendly to new players and AC veterans alike. Some people will really like the changes and others will hate them. The first monthly event has already addressed a number of the complaints I had with the game, although I still find a large part of the game to be random hunting which gets a little old at times. If your system is at the minimum listed specifications, you are probably going to have a difficult time with the game but if your system is current, you should do alright, provided you scale back a bit from the recommended settings. Even if you are not floored when you first start playing, give the game a chance and explore some of the nuances and you will be hooked before you know it.
Download Asheron's Call 2: Fallen Kings
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