Asheron's Call is an online fantasy role playing game, set in the imaginary world of Dereth. Your time on Dereth is spent hunting monsters, collecting loot, selling, buying, and trading armor, weapons and other possessions such as jewelry, food and such. Released on October 31, 1999, Asheron's Call has fought, and fought hard, to compete with the other two more established online RPG's, Ultima Online and Everquest.
Asheron's Call offers very little in the way of activity in game beyond hunting monsters and fulfilling quests. To be honest, if this were a stand alone game it would flop in a second. The real draw of this game (and of all online games) is the fact that you are able to interact with hundreds of other online characters. It is this human factor that makes Asheron's Call as much fun (and sometimes as frustrating) as it is.
The graphics are very well done. The attention to detail (laces on shoes, stone work on dungeon walls etc.) make the game very pleasing to look at, though those of you with less powerful video cards might find that some of these graphics are stunted and flat, as the game will, by default, forgo the graphics for smoother and faster game play.
The audio is nice as well, with the sounds of birds, frogs, and screams of pain when you hit (and get hit) making it a pleasure to listen to. You can choose to play a number of pre-determined character types, or completely customize your character, allotting skill points as you will. There are only three races to choose from, and I find this somewhat limiting. All the races look basically human (with a few subtle differences). No elves, dwarves, trolls or the like, and this makes the 'role playing' aspect of the game less well defined.
You can customize your online persona with looks as well as skills, with various colors and styles of armor and clothing. I have yet to see two characters who look exactly the same, and this certainly keeps the game visually interesting.
There are several quests for the hearty adventurers, and there is never a shortage of challenging monsters. These, as well as the positive things I have stated above, are true of most online games these days. Lets face it, an online game can't survive in today's market without these kind of base characteristics.
So what makes Asheron's Call different? The main thing is the support from Microsoft. The game is constantly being updated with world altering events (summer to winter and back again), improvements to weapons and armor, the addition of new monsters, and more. Microsoft seems to be taking its responsibility as game developers seriously, and we are the better for it.
In truth, this game, like all online games, thrives on human interaction. You can solo, to be sure, but the real fun of Asheron's Call comes from forming parties and groups, and conquering the world through magic, imagination, and daring. Bored with work? Frustrated with real life? Then load this one up, take a deep breath and get ready to lose yourself in the world of Dereth. Just be sure to leave a trail of breadcrumbs behind you. After playing this game for a while, you may find it difficult to find your way out again!