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Game Reviews

by Forest J. Handford

Asheron's Call: Dark Majesty
Turbine Entertainment (Microsoft)
Best MMORPG I have Played. November 26, 2003 Asheron's Call 1 was my first MMORPG and as such it will probably always have a special place in my heart. I think this is true of many first games I have played in a genre. Doom, WarCraft II, and Super Mario Brothers (for NES) all hold similar positions.

At the same time AC1 has many things that led me to leave it for AC2. Unfortunately I found AC2 even more disappointing. One of my main issues with AC1 was how far behind I was.

I had heard of graphical MUDs back in the days I played real MUDs. At the time however they were very unimpressive. I ignored the genre until a friend of mine asked me to help make a patent relating to MMORPGs. As research I got a copy of my first MMORPG, AC1.

Back in my MUD days nobody cared what sex a character was. In fact many of the MUDs I played had three sex possibilities, male, female, and neuter. As a Joan of Arc fan I often prefer female characters. So when I joined AC1 I played on Morningthaw as Coventry Joan.

Coventry Joan was a spec UA, run, healing. At the time, I had no clue what they were but had read somewhere those skills would be useful. I got to level 35 with this character. Many times I had been told I should re-roll because it was a badly designed character, which was true.

After getting to about level 15 my wife started playing, on the same account, on HarvestGain. It was quickly found we couldn't share the account if we both wanted to play so I bought a new account, and a new computer. Great excuse for a computer btw. I bid farewell to my MT friends (Clan Wartorn) so I could join my wife's server. One of the things that bothered me about playing on that server was that most people thought I was a woman IRL, including my monarch. Instead of correcting them and at the same time humiliating them I was glad to move on to another server to play a male character.

In HarvestGain I quickly met new friends like Jocasta. As I got up in levels I wanted more and more to take part in PK. What I found was that PK on white servers was very unbalanced. Really, the only people who I could fight would almost always mop the floor with me even with my improved character design (4 school mage w/ mana C. spec) because only really high players went red.

Another thing that always bothered me about AC1 is the exploiting. Around the time I left it was at it's peak with combat macros, Insta-OG plug-ins, and XP chains. Also I had such a late start there was no possible way I could build a powerful character that could compete. So when AC2 came out I was very relived to not only get into a PK server but to get into a server from it's very beginning.

When AC2 let me down I did consider returning but because of all the reasons I had left plus the things that pampered me in AC2, like better graphics and actual music, I could not. All in all though it is the best MMORPG I have ever played.

I give it an 8 out of 10.

Player Information:
Coventry Joan of Morningthaw
Miyamoto Yoshi of Harvestgain
U Know Who of Darktide

Asheron's Call 2: Fallen Kings
Turbine Entertainment (Microsoft)
Excellent Game October 24, 2002 I played AC2 1 month short of a year starting after I got into beta after attending the 2002 ACPL. I really enjoyed it while I played. I was a monarch on SnowReap for what eventually became the oldest shadow monarchy on the server. Unfortunately our server was the first to be merged. As some people in the game industry have pointed out, Meridian had server consolidations before its demise.

The main problems with the game didn't really bother me. The chat server and authentication server problems did affect me, but didn't really cause interference with my gameplay.

I loved all the features AC2 had that AC1 lacked, like the ability to look through an allegiance heirarchy. Plus all the added chat features including allegaince chat, regional chat, and global chat.

The graphics were and still are the best. The water, fog, tile detail, grass, light sources, charachter models, and smoothness were all amazing.

The music was great. Especially with player music and being able to setup a shortcut bar for all 10 of the beats.

The variety of roles was amazing too. Especially with the pet classes. With hivekeepers, invokers, tacticians, and elementalists players had a great variety.

I liked how fellowships actually had meaning. In AC1 when you were hunting for XP you could spend hours in a fellow without even seeing or interacting with the other members. In AC2 the different roles compliment each other. The group buffs were great.

I liked the quest timers, but it was annoying that each week you had to go out a little later to redo the quest. Maybe the redo timer should have been based off the start time of the quest and not the finish. Some weeks the Mage Armor quest were at 3 am and we would still consider doing it the following week at 3:30 or 4 am. If you skipped the late session you might not be able to get the same people you used to do the quest with, or anybody at all.

I loved KvK. I loved the battles. It sounds like KvK and all PK is being ignored. KvK points were certainly ruined when the mining changes were made. They really should have had an Elo style ratings system. I suspect this is influenced by the fact that one of Turbine's most prominent employees is against PK. This is a main reason I don't plan on trying it again even with the new content.

The reason my allegaince broke up was that, in the end, I was the only member who had been the allegaince from the start. All of the other founding members quit. It got sickening making friends just to lose them when they ran out of content.

Personnally I leveled a bit slower then some. I played about 25 hours a week and did not exploit. Exploiting was why I was happy to leave AC1, which got me very disgusted with AC2. I think exploits need to be removed quickly and exploiters should be punished.

The main reason I left was that upon hitting 50 there really was nothing more to do. Sure, I could start another character and level to 50 again, but even though the vehicle would be different the road would have been the same. This was a few months before the "100 levels" were added. While I knew changes were coming at the time they were advertised as more tools in the toolbox. I was not willing to pay and wait for the changes so I quit.

I still think the low monthly cost is why the game was a failure for me. Had they charged $50 a month, like Ken Troop has proposed for the genre, they would have been able to add enough content before I quit to keep me playing. They were to slow to react and they may never recover the product now. You can't even find AC2 in stores anymore, yet it got a game of the year award!

Player Information:
Bean of Snowreap
Legume of Snowreap
Shadow Alliance of Grey (beta)
Yoshi of Red and Blue (beta)

Planetside
Sony Online Entertainment
Best FPS ever, not so good MMP November 26, 2003 PlanetSide is the best FPS I have ever played. It has good graphics, better then Halo but worse then Quake III. It has great action and gameplay. I can easily spend hours defending a base, attacking bases, or ninja hacking. The sound is excellent. In fact sometimes I listen to the mp3 files when I'm not playing.

It has a ton of equipment. Several vehicles, some of which fly. They also have several roles that any players can take.

Battle Rank only effects how much equipment you can use, which I think is a good thing.

My big issue with the game is the cost. I think it should be $5 a month. As it is now it is far too expensive, especially with expansion packs.

The main reason I disagree with the monthly cost is the lack of added content in a month. Sure, it costs money to keep the servers running, but not that much. Blizzard keeps RTS and RPG servers running for free and they both store more data then PlanetSide.

I give it a 4 out of 10.

Player Information:

Legume of Emerald (Pre and Post beta)

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