I’m not usually a big fan of massive multiplayer RPGs. Most of the ones I’ve experienced have been light on plot and heavy on “killing stuff and taking its treasure”. Now, I have no problems with hack-n-slash style games, in fact I find them quite enjoyable. But most MMORPGs I’ve played have been nothing more than hack-n-slash with the added “bonus” of laggy connections, buggy play, a monthly fee, and a hoard of power-gaming uber-characters that happily pounded my measly little beginning character to dust the second I ventured into the world. Needless to say, I wandered into Asheron’s Call 2 with some trepidation. And I’m quite happy to report that I was pleasantly surprised at what I found.
The first thing I noticed as I booted up AC2 was the graphics—they are the best I’ve seen in this type of game. Even on my slightly outdated video card everything looks very, very good. The game runs a diagnostic and sets a default video quality for the computer’s configuration, but I found that I was able to pump up the detail quite a bit above recommendation and still not suffer any loss in game play. While good graphics do not a great game make, they certainly help immerse the player in the world.
After playing for a while, I also noticed something else quite remarkable about AC2—very few, if any, bugs. My experiences with MMORPGs in the past have been bug laden, but AC2 was almost bug free. I never experienced a single crash in then entire time I was playing. In addition, except for the occasional hiccup from lag and one problem with the current monthly quest involving some chests (which is being addressed as I write this), I saw no problems to speak of. Speaking of lag, there was thankfully very little. I never had a problem connecting or staying connected, something else that is a rarity in my time spent with MMORPGs.
The story behind AC2 is fairly open just now, but that’s a necessary tactic in this type of game. Set many years after the happenings in the original Asheron’s Call, Something Evil wandered into the world and sent all the goodly races into hiding underground. After a while of this, the Good Guys decided to make a go of it back on the surface. This is where AC2 picks up. The players take on the roles of one of three races trying to take back their world and rebuild their society in the face of Great Evil. Not much more is given to new players as they begin their journey, and not much more is needed. Games like AC2 are about exploration and discovery. Plot is advanced as players fight their way through various dungeons called “vaults”—once each vault is completed, a cut scene plays to elucidate what is happening in the world of Dereth.
The world in AC2 is a constantly changing one, which should keep things fresh for players in the months to come. Each month (or so), a new event happens that will alter Dereth. In their first monthly event, all of the beginning dungeons were restructured, giving new characters a different set of challenges to face. In addition, some new locked chests popped up in various dungeons, and their keys began to show up on corpses of the general monster population. It is the promise of new monthly events, constantly altering the face of the world, that can keep AC2 from becoming just a typical hack-n-slash affair.
But there is still plenty of hack-n-slash to go around. Combat is a major part of the game, and in addition to completing quests, is the only way of gaining experience and advancing characters. Combat is a fairly simple affair. There are basic melee, missile, and magic attacks, which can be spiced up with some special attacks or spells. Fighting is essentially a matter of double-clicking the enemy and watching the character attack, with the occasional special-attack hotkey thrown in for good measure. Nothing terribly exciting, but not terribly dull, either.
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