Originally released in November of 1999, Asheron’s Call has the distinction of being the fourth MMORPG on the market after Meridian 59, Ultima Online, and EverQuest. 13 years and over 130 updates later, Asheron’s Call is still going strong even after its successor, Asheron’s Call 2, was laid to rest (but in a surprise twist recently given a new lease on life).
On the last episode of Wayback Wednesday I was joined by six members of the Turbine staff. Senior Community Specialist Amanda Grow, Producer Rob Ciccolini, Content Designers Jared Seers, Scott Parker, Eric Deans and Todd McKim from QA were all present to guide me on my first adventure through AC. Before we departed I wanted to know what the high level narrative of AC is and why we should care about adventuring in this game. Jared explained that Asheron is an Empyrean and that Empyreans are the original race indigenous to Dereth. Asheron has sent all the other Empyreans away for their safety and summoned all of the player character races to test out his experimental portal magic. Asheron sounds like a super nice dude.
Asheron’s Call is the ultimate sandbox MMO. There are no classes in the game and therefore the trinity has never existed. Every character can tank, do damage, and heal. As you progress through the game and earn experience you can put points into stats and skills that you find helpful or interesting. One of these skills is Jump. The more points you put into jump the further and higher you can jump. This is helpful because AC does have puzzles in the game that require you to jump to different platforms. The team compared this to jumping on the moon. Does an MMO that lacks the trinity and has jumping puzzles sounds familiar to anyone else? I love going back and discovering things we consider innovative today already exist in older MMOs.
During the time I spent in-game with the developers, it became apparent one of the main activities that players take part in is the hunt dungeons. You will be tasked by NPCs to seek out a certain item. We had to collect a pincer from a beatle like monster. You can then turn these quest items in for a significant amount of experience points. In the hour and a half we played I leveled three times. Another interesting feature about AC is that they do not have maps for the dungeons; in fact they do not have any maps in the game. You will have to learn where you are going or break out the pen and paper and map it by hand. It is time to take some notes.
Fortunately you do have a stone that will allow you to teleport to nearby lifestones that you can bind your character to and use for quick transportation. AC has a whole host of other features that you do not find often in contemporary MMOs. For example they have non-instanced housing. You can buy a plot of land and build a home for yourself or a mansion for your guild and anyone can see it from the game world. They still have encumbrance. While you probably will not be impacted by this, items do have a weight associated with them and it can add up over time and have a negative impact on your character’s movement. There is neither an auction house or a bazaar in the game. The economy is completely player driven through trade. Items in AC do not bind to your player unless they are special quest items. This means all of your super shiny loot can be traded to other players or passed down to your alts. AC also has PVP and is considered by some to be the finest PVP MMO ever. There is a free-for-all PVP server named Darktide. You can also loot the corpses of the players you kill. Don’t go out alone.
Even with all the differences that AC has that separate it from most MMOs, the biggest item that the team feels sets it apart from your average title is random loot. The highest quality item can drop from any mob. So it pays to kill everything you run into. As you might expect from a game that is 13 years old, it has had a number of level cap increases. Currently the cap is at 275. Also with the February update the team has added a new tier of items to the game: tier 8.
You do not have to be level 275 before you can participate in “endgame” play in AC. Once your character is around level 160 you will be able to spend enough points in a particular skill-set that you will be able to meaningfully participate in high level encounters. Once you reach 160 you can theoretically get tier 8 gear. You would then spend the rest of your days looking for more tier 8 gear, or tier 8 gear that has better cantrips. Cantrips are spells that are randomly generated on your loot. With the newest update Turbine added new legendary cantrips to gear. These are randomly generated and can have up to three on an item. For items that you do not like and feel have no trade value you can break them down and use bits of them to increase the strength of your other items. This is called tinkering and it’s also the closest thing AC has to a crafting system.
Once I figured out that I could remap my keybinds and was no longer walking around like I had two left feet I had a great time in AC and I’m looking forward to revisiting it on a future episode of Wayback Wednesday. If you would like to meet the Turbine team at the PAX after party later this month be sure to send them an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For this week’s episode of Wayback I’m going to dive into DDO developer free. March 4th was the fifth anniversary of the passing of Gary Gygax, the father of the RPG. To honor his legacy I’m going to play through the Delera’s Tomb quest chain in House Jorasco. Mr. Gygax lent his voice to this chain as the guest Dungeon Master. You can see the action live starting at 9:30 pm EDT on our live stream channel http://www.mmorpg.com/streams.cfm. Thanks for watching!
Robert Lashley / Robert Lashley is a Staff Writer and Online host for MMORPG.com and RTSGuru.com. Rob's bald and when he isn't blinding people from the glare on his head talking in front of a camera you can chase him down on twitter @Grakulen