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Platform

PC

 

Genre

MMORPG

 

Publisher

Microsoft

 

Developer

Turbine

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

Q4 2001

 

 

- Excellent price for what you get

- Lots and lots to do

- New land, Marae Lassel

- Fixes a few things with

Dark Majesty

- Things constantly change in the game world

 

 

- You have to kill a lot of stuff before achieving wealth

- Doesn’t offer much different than all the other MMORPG’s out there

- Logging onto the Zone

can be a pain

- Interface could have been honed

 

 

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Asheron’s Call: Dark Majesty

Score: 7.0 / 10

 

I have nothing against Microsoft.  Sure, they bought up Bungie to secure Halo as an XBox launch title and they’re always bringing out operating systems that are supposedly bug free, but my biggest gripe is with the Zone (which is essential to play Asheron’s Call: Dark Majesty).  If you’re not using the latest version of Internet Explorer, you’re basically hooped.

 

dark-majesty-1.jpg (46266 bytes)   dark-majesty-2.jpg (46294 bytes)   dark-majesty-5.jpg (32113 bytes)

 

The Netscape version of the Zone is apparently “under construction” – it conjures up a picture of five guys standing around scratching themselves at the side of the road while another guy is working his ass off (unfortunately he’s not certified to use heavy machinery so he’s stuck using a shovel and hammer) so nothing really gets done.  Even after (reluctantly) installing IE 6.0, getting things to work properly was a hassle.  The time it took for installation from start to finish was roughly 3 ½ hours.  At the end of it, you can probably imagine what I was thinking: “This f$@&ing game better be #$@! fantastic!”

 

After finally getting into Asheron’s Call expansion, Dark Majesty (DM), I was somewhat mollified.  In a nutshell, DM is all about romping through an online world that it continually tweaked and modified with ongoing stories and quests.  And there are a lot of quests.  Of course, like so many other MMORPG’s, AC doesn’t force you to do anything – which is a reason it doesn’t escape being average.  Every other MMORPG out there does the same thing.  Basically, you hunt things down and kill them, collecting gold, etc. and eventually gain enough wealth to purchase some kind of housing and all sorts of nifty gadgets.

 

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In real life, I own a house.  Or rather, I’m paying the bank back for the next 30 years so I can own a house.  The housing option is a good reward, but it reminded me too often that mortgage payments have to be made in my real life and my wife might have a point that paying $10 a month to keep playing DM isn’t such a great idea.  But then she can’t fault the bargain price: $20, which includes the complete Asheron's Call (AC) and some elements that have been honed from the original. (And a rebate offer for players who already bought AC.)

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Though one element that continues to lack is audio.  The audio that is present is good, but you should expect to hear a lot of twittering birds and other sparse ambient sounds.

 

Even though I played AC, I had to completely relearn the control interface, so I can imagine what the learning curve will be for the new player.  Fortunately there’s a newbie area to get your skills up to speed.  Mastering the combat interface – a huge part of the game – walks the line between difficult and clunky.  The menus needed to be cleaned up, but once you get used to them, they’re not all bad.

 

Graphics are showing their age but they do a good job of keeping ping times to a minimum and everything rolls along at a smooth pace.  There were a few clipping problems here and there – but show me a PC game that doesn’t.

 

But the most important aspect of DM is how many people are actually playing it.  While some reported being able to avoid other players for days, I was always tripping over someone – even in the new land.  Either the servers are crowded or they just followed me – waiting for me to die and pillage my gold.  As an MMORPG, AC lives up to the definition of “persistent online world populated by thousands of players and NPCs.”  There is always something going on to keep you coming back.  The developers are constantly implementing new quests and an overarching story.  It’s good fun all round but with no viable alternative to killing things to climb the economic ladder, sometimes monotony can creep in.

 

MMORPG’s are always in danger of being replaced by sequels or other, more successful, MMORPG’s.  It’s hard to say how long Asheron’s Call: Dark Majesty will be around, but even if it was discontinued four months from now (unlikely as Microsoft is the money behind AC:DM) it offers lots of gaming and you’d most likely be happy with the money/enjoyment ratio.  However, if you’re deep into any other MMORPG, there’s not much reason to switch.

 

- Omni

 

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