Asheron's Call: Dark Majesty
Asheron's Call: Dark Majesty, a stand-alone expansion, features a new land, the island of Marae Lassel, new monsters, a huge map board to explore, and other changes that enhance the social climate of the homeworld of Dereth. The title includes the original game as a bonus for first-time players, and a monthly fee is imposed after a free month of play.
The premise is built around the great wizard Asheron, who made a mistake by opening portals that led to the influx of ferocious monsters that promptly took over the land. Trying to rectify his error, he then opened even more portals to allow his people to escape, and remained behind to right the damage. Players can choose a pre-cast character or customize their own, with all characters being human in appearance, though the face (including nose and mouth), skin, hair and eye color can be changed.
Marae Lassel contains a large number of quests and dungeons to explore, but the major problem occurs when your character dies -- it happens often and recovering your body can be difficult. Unlike online worlds like Dark Age of Camelot, there are no portals to bind to as you advance. With no life stones or other means offered for recovery, the only way to return to the island is through portals located in various towns throughout the hometown of Dereth. Progress must continually be recovered, preventing new players from a smooth exploration of the land. No matter how often new monsters and items are added, questing and hunting from the same spot repeatedly becomes boring.
The new creatures found on the island make interesting sounds when killed and some drop rare items. Plenty of new quests and hunting are offered, along with a new storyline that has the Olthoi trying to rule the world, again. A few quests center on the young Olthoi queen, but are reserved for characters at high levels. While questing to kill the myriad of nasty bugs, experience points are awarded for completing quests, along with the occasional award of a trophy item, which can be used to enhance skills.
Despite all the quests, the game isn't hard to play, even though the interface is cluttered. Among the vast array of things to track, the most important are your character statistics. The expansion, though, adds the extremely interesting facet of player-owned housing, with different types of houses based on various factors. For example, a villa requires five writs, a trophy item salvaged from a higher-level creature, a character level of at least 35, and plenty of gold.
Houses can be a lot of trouble to attain, but offer incentive, as well as a degree of safety and a secure place to store items. Each house contains chests and hooks throughout. The former can be used by anyone to whom you give permission but the hooks are for your use alone. You can customize the interior of the house by buying furnishings from vendors, and larger homes have House Portals that lead to private dungeons.
Fighting, which is the heart of the game, is slowed down a touch by pauses when you draw a weapon, sheath it, or raise your hands to cast a spell, thus running from a fight or chasing down a monster can be a bit tough. Since you need to put items away before you can do anything else, you might end up dead or miss the chance to kill your enemy. Combat, though, is fairly high tech, as you must choose the speed and height of your swing -- the harder and higher the swing, the more stamina it takes to pull it off. If your character is tired, he or she may not be successful in smiting the enemy, adding some realism.
The enemy AI is somewhat unpredictable. At times you can attack and run with no problem, but some monsters will act like they're going to pursue you to the ends of the earth, though eventually the chase ends if you run a vast distance. Also, when a monster with a ranged weapon gets you in his crosshairs, there's no way to shake him until you get up close to take a swing or cast a spell.
Asheron's Call: Dark Majesty is a good value for players new to the online genre since they get the expansion and the original game. The game is inexpensive off the shelf and the purchase includes a free month of play, so the curious can check out gameplay for a reasonable price. ~ Jason White, All Game Guide
Graphics have been optimized for high resolution and blend nicely with environments, such as sunsets, even from far away. Close up, though, some things tend to get blocky and pixilated, especially when near other characters or monsters. Characters move stiffly and recognition of a particular individual from afar isn't possible. ~ Jason White, All Game Guide
There isn't any music and almost no sound. Monsters have some interesting death cries, spells make some noise, and you hear an occasional war cry, but otherwise it's a fairly silent game. ~ Jason White, All Game Guide
Lag time can put you into weird and dangerous situations, but the storyline is good and first time players should be able to grasp the idea fairly quickly. ~ Jason White, All Game Guide
The land constantly changes, with new patches enhancing gameplay, environments and items continuously. ~ Jason White, All Game Guide
Most gameplay is learned while in the game, though the manual is a good starting point with important explanations of character building and online play. ~ Jason White, All Game Guide