The Game Archaeologist and the Asheron Recall: Fond memories

Has October blown by already in a rush of leaves, wind and high-fructose corn syrup candies? Are we already staring down the grim specter of November, AKA "The Middle Child of Holidays"? I suppose so -- and because of that, it must mean that we are in the final week of our Asheron's Call retrospective.

I know I say this every month, but I've really gained a whole new level of respect for Asheron's Call. It may have not been a massive blockbuster, but it persevered, it built up a solid playerbase, and it helped Turbine become one of the best-known MMO development houses in the world. Plus, I totally love the fact that the devs placed such a priority on developing an ongoing and ever-changing story, which is something that more MMOs could certainly use these days.

So after counting down the top eight highlights of the game, talking to a couple AC vets, and interviewing Turbine's Andy Cataldo, all that's left is to open the floor to the rest of the AC crowd. We asked readers to pipe up and share their favorite experiences, as well as some of their best screenshots that have been lurking on the dustier parts of hard drives. Let's finish this month in style, as AC rides once more!
Kiersten "Ellen Ripley" Samwell (Wizard101 Community Manager)

For many, Asheron's Call was our first virtual world. Its wonder and scale were a source of awe. The world of Dereth felt infinitely expansive and at over 500 square miles of wide open, explorable landscape, it's massive compared to the instanced and segmented worlds of subsequent MMOs.

I remember a time when a Mattekar Robe was the most prized possession, a Mote was a coveted loot drop and it took entire guilds to get that Smoldering Atlan Stone in the dreaded Jahannan Vault.

Asheron's Call has always had a very strong, invested community. I'm the community manager for a successful MMO by KingsIsle Entertainment, and being a part of Asheron's Call all these years, at various levels, has taught me a great deal about the delicate dynamics of MMO communities.

Turbine never ceases to impress. The fact that they are able to get out an update every single month is staggering, particularly to those of us behind the scenes in the gaming industry. Each month the subscription fee is well earned, and that cannot be said of many other existing MMOs today. I started in beta and I still play to this day, almost a dozen years later. The players love the game because the developers love making the game. It shows in every detail, every beautiful vista, every intricate mystery and every one of those monthly updates.

For those of us who laughed as the white rabbit slaughtered us, or who ran naked Aerlinthe quests, Asheron's Call will always hold a special place in our hearts. Who can forget things like the Wi Flag and the floating vase in Nanto? Who didn't rely heavily on fansites like Maggie the Jackcat, Crossroads of Dereth and Kwip? While the days of 100-player dungeon raids are gone, there's still a magic there -- an ineffable call drawing us back to familiar areas, with the knowledge that there still remain areas unseen and undiscovered by even the most veteran player.

Asheron is still calling... I hear it... don't you?

"Hotblack Desiato"

At the End of Beta event, we were all called upon to return to our home town and defend it. I returned to Rithwic as the Tumeroks and Fire Elementals attacked.

We didn't stand a chance.

After that first wave of attacks I counted over one hundred corpses on and around the Rithwic bridge. It was utterly devastating. There was a pyramid of corpses stacked around the lifestone, with two Tumeroks killing everyone who respawned. A Fire Elemental chased someone into the armory, and before long the floor was so littered with corpses that one could no longer see the floor.

"Larhanya"

First off, thanks for the inspiration to look back through my old AC screenies. What a nostalgia trip! I wasn't sure what kind of screenshots you were looking for, and because of the antique graphics, some of them look pretty sad after playing a game like LotRO, but I've attached a couple, including a screenshot of my in-game wedding to my real world husband.

Our characters were Larhanya and Tharen and we are seen sporting our wedding finery and our Emblems of Marriage, which are clear shields rimmed in green that can be equipped to show off your marital status. Items in AC can be inscribed with messages, and so ours had our vows on them. When another player wanted to inspect the item (which they could do simply by clicking on it when they saw us about town and hitting their examine key), they could read our messages to each other.

I also attached a screenie of one of the most annoying, but cool looking, mobs in the game: the hollow minion. Resistant to just about every kind of elemental damage, these things were the bane of mages everywhere.

Anyway, we played from 2004 until 2007, so late to the game (as it were). We played for a while, mostly just the two of us, although we roped my sister into playing when we moved to a different province and wanted a way to connect regularly. She has stuck with us as we migrated to DDO and then to LotRO.

"Blood Wind"

Asheron's Call was my second graphical MMO, and still one of my top three gaming experiences ever. I had been playing EverQuest for quite some time when I started AC, and the freedom of design and the action of combat was a totally new experience to me.

One thing that isn't often mentioned in reviews is you could actually dodge spells and missiles if you were quick enough. This not only made PvP very tactile but made even fighting monsters feel much more realistic. And it kept the pace fast -- I do not remember ever once feeling like I was "grinding" in AC. The loot tables were also semi random: I got one of my best pieces of armor ever off a bunny! You never knew what experience you were going to have when you logged on from one day to the next.

God I miss it actually...

A screenshot is worth a thousand words, but alas, those words don't count toward my column total

It's one thing to hear about a game and another to actually see it! Please take the time to peruse the gallery below, as players from all over sent in their favorite AC screenshots to share with you.

I want to thank everyone this month who participated in our Asheron's Call nostalgia roundtable -- it's obvious that this was, and is, a well-loved game that spawned many mobs and many memories. If you're interested in giving it a spin, Turbine is offering a 14-day free trial for the taking.

Tune in to the Game Archaeologist next week, as we begin a new month and a different MMO. What will it be? The mystery grips you! See you then!

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When not clawing his eyes out at the atrocious state of general chat channels, Justin "Syp" Olivetti pulls out his history textbook for a lecture or two on the good ol' days of MMOs in The Game Archaeologist. You can contact him via email at justin@massively.com or through his gaming blog, Bio Break.

This article was originally published on Massively.