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Asheron's Call

Asheron's Call (AC) is a fantasy MMORPG for Microsoft Windows-based PCs, released on November 2 1999. The land of Dereth and its surrounding islands, in which the game is based, is a large, seamless 3D world that is occupied by hundreds of players.

General

Gameplay involves earning experience points through a variety of activities, including engaging monsters in combat and fulfilling quests. The earned experience can be invested to improve the character's abilities by spending it on such attributes as 'Strength', 'Coordination', and 'Quickness' or such skills as 'Unarmed Combat', 'War Magic' and 'Melee Defense', among many others. Skills start at a base level determined by a character's attributes--For instance, a character's base melee defense is the sum of coordination and quickness divided by three, which then could be raised by applying points to the melee defense skill. Each character has a limited number of skill points, which then allow one to purchase skills, which then allow that skill to be raised. For instance, if one had not purchased the melee defense skill it would always remain at the default starting level. Every few levels, more skill points would be granted, and if a character had enough skill points, they could buy a new skill. Besides experience points, questing and combat also yield equipment such as armor, weapons, health potions, and spell scrolls. Many types of loot can be improved or imbued with special spells and effects via Asheron's Call's crafting system, known as tinkering.

Unlike most other games of this type, Asheron's Call rarely uses typical fantasy fiction to draw ideas from and instead creates its own, unique creatures. Instead of elves and goblins, a large majority of the monsters in Asheron's Call are completely original. Examples include the insect-like Olthoi, the cat-like humanoid Drudges, the giant grey-skinned humanoid Lugians and the reptilian Sclavus. Many unique races and creatures from Asheron's Call can be seen in Wikipedia's list of species in fantasy fiction.

The Asheron's Call franchise was unique in providing complimentary monthly content updates or "Events" that added new quests, skills, landmasses, monsters, gameplay dynamics and bug fixes to all subscribers. Epic storylines linked multiple episodes to form distinct "story arcs".

Many other elements of Asheron's Call are radically different from most other MMORPGs. For example, Asheron's Call does not divide its world into different level zones. While some areas are much more dangerous to players than others, there is nonetheless a mix of different kind of creatures that creates much more unpredictability than is present in other games. Another key difference is that Asheron's Call does not use character level as the major determinant in the outcome of a combat. Level simply determines what skills are available, and it is the skills and equipment of players and creatures that determine the outcome. Whereas in many games a player will be able to move a cursor over an opponent and instantly know from their level whether they will be successful in combat, in Asheron's Call a character might be able to defeat much higher level foes or lose to much lower level ones, again depending upon one's skill choices and equipment. As with the absence of specific level zones, this creates a higher degree of unpredicatability than in most such games.

The game also features an unusual allegiance system, whereby a vassal swears allegiance to a lord and the lord gains a small percentage bonus of experience points based upon what the vassal earned. The idea is that the higher level lord gets experience point bonuses from his vassals, and repays his followers with money or equipment. In the words of one reviewer: "At worst, the allegiance system is a multilevel marketing scheme, whereby greedy, uncaring patrons enlist as many vassals as possible in order to gain large amounts of bonus experience. But at best, the allegiance system can provide a tightly knit companionship for players genuinely interested in helping others and developing an organized assembly.

The magic system as originally designed was far more complicated than in any other such game, with specific formulae for each spell that the caster must discover through painful trial and error. While this had the original effect of making magic challenging and somewhat rare, this element disappeared with the introduction of third party programs that would compute one's spell formulae without most of the experimentation. The system of spell components was later phased out and replaced with a simpler system wherein magic casters would carry a "focus" for each of the magic schools they were trained in (creature, item, life and war) and a series of taper candles and each spell was learned from a scroll, either purchased or found as treasure. The old system was left in as an alternative, but spell research was eliminated and most players quickly adapted to the new system.

The four magic schools allowed players to alter nearly any stat in the game. War Magic offered projectile-based attacks that bypassed a player or creature's base armor stats and came in the form of all three physical attacks (piercing, slashing and bludgeoning) and all four elemental attack types (acid, lightning, fire and frost). War also featured multiple types of each attack, including arcing projectiles, wall spells and extremely quick blasts, which were more difficult to dodge. Creature Magic allowed a player to alter skill stats and attributes, both on themselves and on their opponents. Life Magic allowed for heals and direct damage drains, as well as spells which made creatures or players more resistant or vulnerable to the seven attack types. Item Magic allowed players to alter the physical properties of armor and weapons. It also included portal magic, which allowed the summoning of teleportation portals to a limited number of other locations. Due to the vast size of the Asheron's Call world, portal magic became viewed as nearly essential to gameplay by the vast majority of players.

Upon its launch, Asheron's Call also featured a Spell Economy system which, coupled with the game's complex spell-learning process, caused early players to jealously guard the formulas to the spells. The Spell Economy looked at the global use of each spell and made more commonly cast spells less effective, making it a wise move to protect lesser known spells. This system was removed from the game after the release of Split Pea, a third party program which allowed players to instantly figure out the progression of spell components.

The game's crafting system is much more primitive than what gamers have come to expect today, with crafting simply dependent on a skill rating that is bought from experience points.

Asheron's Call is also known for its friendly stance toward third-party software, particularly Decal, which allows the creation of gameplay-altering plug-ins.

History

AC was developed by Turbine Entertainment Software and published by Microsoft. The first expansion, Dark Majesty, was released in 2001. A second expansion, Throne of Destiny, which includes a graphics upgrade, new player race and new landmass was released on July 18, 2005. In addition to the expansion packs, the in-game story is advanced by monthly updates, which introduce new quests and gameplay dynamics as part of the subscription package.

While neither Turbine nor Microsoft have been forthcoming in releasing exact subscription counts, it is believed that Asheron's Call peaked in popularity in early 2002 at about 120,000 accounts and has since dropped to below 10,000. According to the Turbine developers, Asheron's Call has far higher than 10,000 accounts, in contrast to Sir Bruce's of MMOGCHART.COM.

In December 2003, Turbine purchased the rights to the Asheron's Call franchise from Microsoft and assumed full responsibility for content development, customer service, billing and marketing in 2004.

Story

Asheron Realaidain and the Empyrean

The story of Asheron's Call takes place on the planet Auberean which was ruled by the Empyrean. The Empyrean are tall humanoids with immense life spans and a powerful mastery of magic. Prior to Portal Year (PY) 0, their civilization dominated the surface of Auberean, a feudalistic, religious society that later split into several nations such as the Yalain, the Falatacot, and the Dericost. The main setting of the game is a small island in the Yalain dominion. The island was known in Yalaini as Ireth Lassel.

In PY0, a young Yalaini mage named Asheron Realaidain was experimenting with portal magic when he accidentally opened portals to an alien world. This planet was the homeworld of many monstrous insectlike species. One of the smaller species, the Olthoi, proceeded to invade Auberean via the portals, and legions of black, man-sized death machines spewed across the surface of the planet, skewering all other inhabitants on their massive pincers, their magic-resistant hides rendering them largely immune to the Empyreans' defenses. Their invasion went almost unchecked and the Olthoi all but annihilated the Empyrean civilization.

In a desperate attempt to save the survivors of his people, Asheron called forth all of his power and summoned many portals, none of their destinations known to him, hoping that one would lead his people to safety. He ushered the last of his race through one of the portals, remaining behind himself to attempt to repair the damage he had caused.

These portals opened to many different worlds, bringing various creatures into Auberean. Most of these creatures were as wild animals, some violent and destructive. One of the portals Asheron opened led to the planet Ispar, the homeworld of the human-like Isparians. The Isparians were sensitive to portal magic and were lured into the portals that appeared there. Upon arrival on Ireth Lassel, they were instantly enslaved by the Olthoi, who were constructing a hive civilization under the planet. As more and more Isparians arrived, some managed to escape slavery and live as nomads, hiding in the wilderness and defending themselves from the Olthoi with weapons of their own fashioning.

Elysa Strathelar and Thorsten Cragstone

Looking to destroy the Olthoi for good, two of the greatest free warriors among the Isparians, two lovers named Thorsten Cragstone and Elysa Strathelar, sought the advice of Asheron. Asheron helped them organize an assault on the lair of the Olthoi Queen. During the raid, Thorsten was struck down by the Queen herself. Enraged, Elysa pulled from her quiver an arrow that Asheron had enchanted for her with an elixir he designed to slay the Olthoi Queen. Elysa let the arrow fly and it struck the Queen in the eye, sending her into death throes that sent waves of primordial fear through the entire Olthoi horde. The head of their hive mind destroyed, the Olthoi domination fell into disarray, freeing the human race from slavery. The player begins as an Isparian freshly summoned from Ispar into post-Olthoi Ireth Lassel, renamed Dereth by the Isparians.

Asheron remains present to guide the human people from the shadows, hopeful that they can restore his world to its former glory.

The Viamontian Invasion

In Asheron's Call: Throne of Destiny, players are thrown into a bitter civil war...

A race of humans called the Viamontians managed to find their way to Dereth from Ispar during a war back on the homeworld. The violent Viamontians, led by King Varicci II, were trapped on an island hub for eight years. With the help of a mage named Nuhmudira, the barrier around the islands was destroyed and the Viamontians were unleashed upon Dereth.

Players are able to choose from this new race of blue-skinned people and can interact with the world around them.

The Viamontians have always been at war with the Aluvians (High Queen Elysa's people) and upon seeing that they ruled over Dereth, declared war.

Players must now choose to support the self-declared Queen of New Aluvia, or the violent King Varicci II.

Game Terms

Pyreal

Pyreal is a metal found on the planet Auberean. It is generally an alloy of precious metals combined in some ratio with pure mana.

In the game, the Isparians (humans), the one race to which all player characters belong, collect the metal and use it for various purposes. The Isparians' main source of pyreal is from the enigmatic golems that roam the countryside. These creatures are constructions of the planet's previous master race, the Empyreans, and motes of raw pyreal serve as their brains.

The Isparian unit of currency, the pyreal, is stamped from this metal. Pyreal is also the chief constituent of the powerful Atlan weapons, named for Asheron's father, their inventor.

The coins used to weigh one BU (burden unit) each, and with characters often carrying thousands of them at a time, the load could grow quite heavy. In response to player feedback, the weight of the coin was changed to 0 BU, eliminating the effect of the coins on a character's burden level. In addition, the coins used to stack up to 5K per stack. Player feedback changed this to 10K per stack and later, 25K per stack.

There are also rings and other types of weapons and items that are made from the material Pyreal.

Vitae

Vitae, the Latin word for "Life Force," is the vital statistic penalized temporarily upon death. A "vitae penalty," known colloquially as "VP", "vit" or simply "vitae" describes the effect of a temporary reduction in character strength upon death. This penalty results from the (intentionally) imperfect link between Isparians and the Lifestones which resurrect them. Said "imperfect link" refers to the magic Asheron has employed to siphon a portion of every Isparian's life to keep the trapped Empyrean alive, which happens with every death to the Lifestones. If a character is not bound to a Lifestone, they will still accrue vitae from death. As the character increases in levels, so too does the Vitae Penalty.

Player Killers

Player Killers (PKs) are those who choose to change their status to enable them to attack another PK in Player vs Player combat. On death they drop some of their items and the winner of the fight is allowed to take them. One server, Darktide, is dedicated exclusively to this style of gameplay.

The lore reasoning behind this mode of playstyle is attributed to Bael'Zharon, the Hopeslayer. In swearing allegiance to him, the character sheds Asheron's protection from attacking each other and devotes themselves to warfare serving (preferably) the Hopeslayer. In many instances, people have shed Asheron's protection solely to stand against those who attempt to do evil things. Examples of this include the destruction of the Shard of the Herald and the coming of the Burun Kukuur.

Player Killer Lite

Non-player killers can change their status to player killer lite at will. This allows them to attack other PKLs, but a death will not result in item loss or vitae penalty. However, you do lose all buffs that were self-cast or cast upon you, which can, in time, lead to a costly amount of expended components. This function is not available to player killers or on the Darktide server.

This ability, according to the lore, was granted by Oswald to the barbaric Isparians in an effort to give them a less damaging means by which to fight each other.

Islands of Dereth

Vesayen Isles

An archipelago of lush jungle islands, the Vesayen Isles are named after Vesayen Hylin, a refugee from the Olthoi who led a band of nomads to take shelter on the islands, which are located just off the coast south east of Ireth Lassel. The islands are home to many foul and dangerous creatures, such as Moarsmen, Niffis, Wasps, Zefirs, Idols, and powerful Undead, to name a few.

This set of islands can be a good home to an adventurer of about level 20. There is a portal to the initial town located just outside the wall at Shoushi. A player can also run south from Mayoi to the water and a bit towards their left and grab a portal to the north western shore of the first island.

The first island contains a mixture of low level Mossworts and lower level Versayen Island creatures. There are a few dungeons located on this island including one that has a large number of portals to other locations on Dereth. This island is connected to the next island by a bridge.

The second island contains a lifestone on the far eastern side by the next bridge. There is also a tower located nearby that contains some Jungle Wasps. Again, there is a dungeon located on this island.

The third island contains a fairly new Mosswort Fort that is part of a quest. There are a few dungeons located on this island.

At the start of the fourth island there are some Mossworts and a Dread Idol in front of a dungeon. If you take the shoreline south you will go past an important dungeon and see a small town on an island across the water. This town has a lifestone and a Copper Statue along with some merchants.

When you go back north along the eastern shore of the fourth island you will come across another bridge. On the other side of this bridge on the fifth island there are several static spawns of Obsidian Golems. These Golems are importand as they drop their hearts every so often and they can be carved into keys used to unlock large Memosynes. The fifth island also contains the Jungle Shadows dungeon. This dungeon has a number of portals to other locations in Dereth.

As you continue through the fifth island you will see more dungeons and finally reach the sixth island. This is one of the most important islands of the group. There are a number of dungeons on this island, along with the Ithaenc Cathedral and its dungeon and a Wedding area overlooking the falls. This is the area where you get the Healer's Heart.

A portal was added to the western shore of this island to take you to a newer island in the distance. The completion of a quest is needed to gain access. On this island there is another Cathedral and quest. There are different spawns of creatures on this island with huge groups in very limited areas.

Aerlinthe Island

The volcano-island of Aerlinthe, located north of eastern Ireth Lassel (also known as Osteth), is the home of a powerful undead of the Dericost clan, Lady Aerfalle. Many dangerous creatures are found here, such as golems, tuskers, wisps and shadows.

Aphus Lassel

Aphus Lassel, another tropical island chain, is overrun with Tuskers. They have a village near the portal to the island called Oolutanga's Refuge. Aphus Lassel is known to be the home of the Tuskers, and is commonly called Tusker Island, Monkey Island or simply AL.

This island has no lifestones or tieable dungeon portals. There are only a few ways to get to this set of islands.

1. One of 3 level restricted dungeons on Dereth. 1-20, 21-40, 40+. These dungeons contain both Tuskers and Humans in large quantities.

2. A random Tusker Shrine on the landscape. It is a 4 legged statue and has Tuskers and Virindi standing around it.

3. Successful completion of a level 80 Bobo Quest on the second island alows the character to gain a recall spell.

4. Use of the Dangerous Portal Device can drop you at the far corner of the second island.

5. Acquisition of AL portal gems gained from the completion of any of several varying level Tusker only dungeons on AL. A special tusk drops near the end and can be turned in at the town for XP, token and recall gem.

Singularity Caul

This mysterious, circular island, located off the south-west coast of the Direlands, is a place of legend. It was here that Bael'Zharon, the Hopeslayer, put to trial his aspiring champions and granted them the power of the Shadow Stones. It has since been overrun by the Virind'i, mysterious, antagonistic beings of pure energy and a hive-mind society, Tuskers, and deadly Hollow Minions.

Marae Lassel

Marae Lassel was introduced in the expansion pack Asheron's Call: Dark Majesty, in September 2001. It is a fairly large island to the north of the Direlands, and west of northern Osteth. It is most famously the home of the new Olthoi Queen and her brood, replacing the queen slain by Elysa Strathelar. Also residing on this island are nomadic groups of humans who attack travelers, dangerous, feral Prairie Dog-like creatures known as Carenzi, and two warring clans of Tumerok: The Aun and the Hea.

The Aun have their home in a town called Timaru. This town is located on a plateau on top of the plateau in the center of Maral Lassel. In order to access the main plateau, you have to be level 35. There was a bug for a short time when the island appeared where lower level players could access the plateau by running up a ramp on the east side. The town of Timaru can only be accessed by talking with an NPC at the base of the town. If acceptable, he will teleport you to the town. You will be unacceptable to the Aun is you have recently given a bell for the Queen Quest and not been the Queenslayer.

There are several static dungeons on the plateau that have Olthoi that drop Pincers worth varying amounts of XP at Redspire. These dungeons are level restricted to players having a minimal level of at least 35, 45, 50, 70, and 80. There are also several dungeons that contain travelling portals. These portals appear and disappear in different locations. The one constant for these plateau dungeons is that they contain only Olthoi. The types and levels differ, but none have any magic capability.

Vissidal

Vissidal island is relatively new to the landbase of Dereth, it is set off the NE coast of the mainland just off the Olthoi North.

Getting to Vissidal island is restricted to higher level players 130+, and after completing a long and difficult quest called the Gateway to the Deep

The individual XP rewards per creature ranging from 700k to 2 m for a single kill. There are only a few categories of creatures and they are:

  • Moarsmen
    • Grimey Moarsmen
    • Mucky Moarsmen (kill quest)
    • Scummy Moarsmen
    • Gold Moarsman (gold item quest/6.5mil xp)
  • Shallows Sharks
    • Shallow Shredder
    • Shallows Gorger (kill quest)
    • Gold Shallows Shredder (gold item quest/6.5mil xp)
  • Niffis
    • Benek Niffis (kill quest)
    • Astis Niffis
    • Gold Niffis (gold item quest/3.5% Level xp, cap 8.7mil xp?)
  • Remoran
    • Remoran Sand Stalker
    • Bloodmouth Remoran
    • Remoran Sea Raptor (kill quest)
    • Gold Remoran (gold item quest/3.5% Level xp, cap 11.4mil xp?)
  • Golems
    • Aqueous Golem
    • Wave Golem

The Deep

Mage characters who have chosen to not take "melee defense" may find Vissidal very tough to hunt on, and to make things harder, there is an area called The Deep, where you must run to get the xp from the trophy items. This area has a very highest concentration of monsters spawned in groups around it. The Deep is basically a strange energy source with 4 NPC humans nearby. Several "kill task" quests are based from the deep and yield good XP on completion. A well coordinated group of 3-4 people can easily handle it, if they are experienced players with good communication. For higher level melee characters, (200+) Vissidal doesn't offer a whole lot of challenges, unless you venture inland and get into thick spawns.

Dark Isle

In July 2006, a new island opened up for characters of level 150 or higher. The island has several varieties of previous monsters, and some new monsters as well. New Shadows, Ruschks (higher level than those on Vissidal), Remorans, and Mukkirs are new variants of old monsters. Sleeches (a type of Niffis) are new to the game.

This hunting ground is unique from others because of the technology used with the monster spawns. The spawns typically consist of 4-5 monsters, but one of them is flagged as a "trigger" monster, and when it dies, it spawns two additional monsters, along with a "boss" monster, who has quite a bit more health and power and drops a trophy that is turned in for experience. There is no way to tell which monster is the trigger.

Once you get a trophy off a boss creature, you have 3 choices - either give it to The Deep (located on the Dark Isle), or give it to one of Varicci's soldiers or Elysa's soldiers (NPCs). Each NPC gives a different piece of armor after 100 trophies. Each NPC gives a different armor set (style, enchantments differ).

The armor given by the NPCs is called "Relic" armor, and once fully assembled (all five parts) it affords the user a multitude of enchantments, some of which are not available on any other item in the game.

Only one trophy boss spawns per group, so some players engage in "cherry picking", (killing creatures only until the boss spawns, then killing the boss and heading to the next spawn.) This is particularly prevalent as the normal monsters are worth only 1/3 to 1/4 the XP of the Vissidal island creatures.

The general consensus is that this island is more "mage friendly", but most melees find they can make more money/xp on Vissidal island, so this island seems to have balanced things out some.

With the introduction of the "Royal Runed" Weapons, (which cast Gossamer Flesh (Level VII Imperil) on strike), the island is now more melee-friendly. For example, using the Royal Runed Weapon, the player will hit a few times for 80 - 200 damage points each swing, and then chances are good that the Gossamer Flesh is cast upon the monster. It is a random "proc" spell, so not 100% reliable. After the spell is cast, the player will hit for 600 - 800 damage per swing and critical hits can be up to 1800.

Software Architecture

Asheron's Call uses Microsoft SQL Server for persistent game data.

Critical reception

Asheron's Call received generally positive reviews from critics. On the review aggregator Game Rankings, the game received an average score of 81% based on 26 reviews. On Metacritic, the game received an average score of 81 out of 100, based on 15 reviews.

Pricing

In order to play Asheron's Call, one must first purchase the game or download the two week free trial. The first expansion pack, Dark Majesty, includes the full version of the game. The second expansion of the game, Throne of Destiny, also includes the full version. Asheron's Call is a subscription service with a monthly fee of $12.95. Discounts available for multi-month subscriptions."

See also

References

External links

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