Return Our Call: Turbine Bringing Back Asheron’s Call 2

By Nathan Grayson on December 14th, 2012 at 11:00 am.

Now, now, everyone. Form a neat, single-file line if you'd like to receive your dragon hug.

Well now, this came out of nowhere. Once upon a time, Turbine’s Asheron’s Call – which is still running to this day – had an apocalypse dropped on it. The result? A vastly re-shaped world that had “sequel” written all over it – but mainly on the box, because it was called Asheron’s Call 2. It was quite well-received back in 2002, but by 2005, subscriber numbers had dwindled to a mere 15,000. To put it in perspective using entirely made-up math, that’s one 11 trillionth of a World of Warcraft. So Turbine dropped another apocalypse on its flagship fantasy world, only this time, it was a bit more final. Except that, as it turns out, it actually wasn’t at all. Without even so much as a warning, Turbine’s plucked Asheron’s Call 2 from its early grave, breathed life back into its dusty lungs, and sent it on its way.

There is, however, a slight catch. While you might expect the revived AC2 to be another addition to Turbine’s proven F2P roster, it’s instead only available to current Asheron’s Call subscribers. (I’m also somewhat shocked that AC1 is still subscriber-based, but that’s a conversation for another day.) For now, though, it’s just a beta, so perhaps a wider release will occur further down the line.

“Although the server has passed our initial tests, we have a lot of monitoring and tweaking to do to the game environment and we want to ensure that our players understand that. This game service will be provided as a beta for all players with an active Asheron’s Call account. That said, the game server is currently up and running. So join us for a nostalgic trip back to a Dereth where the golden age was not interrupted.”

Still though, this is very good news. Plenty of MMOs have gone to the big server Valhalla in the sky, but I can’t think of too many that made the mighty viking leap back down to Earth. Admittedly, Asheron’s Call is far from the biggest name in the business these days, but it could help set a precedent. I mean, imagine if developers decided to bring back a server or two of, say, old-school Star Wars Galaxies (pre-NGE, naturally), City of Heroes, or Tabula Rasa, but as bonus features attached to other modern MMOs. That might provide companies with sufficient financial motivation to give long-deceased worlds another go.

For now, though, Asheron’s Call 2 is back! Are you interested? Evidently, people still play the original. Are you one of them?

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68 Comments »

  1. Desmolas says:

    Man, this game brings back so much nostalgia from 12 year old me. At the time I thought it was the best thing ever, chatting with other 12 year old russian kids (apparently) and killing da monstas together. My first proper ‘modern’ mmo experience. Then my dad cancelled my account because of the monthly sub :(

    I remember at the time, they promised monthly and sometimes weekly updates that changed the game world. Except, unlike some of todays mmo promises, they actually followed through. Buildings in the main game world started as skeletons of themselves, and were slowly built up as weeks went by. It was reaalllly cool to see and it felt like a proper evolving, living, breathing world. That’s how my rose-tinted specs see it anyway.

    I don’t know if its because im older now and understand games more, but all i can see it today’s mmo’s are the games inner cog workings right in your face. For example, GW2′s dynamic event system is supposed to feel fluid and dynamic, but i think it actually feels rigid and predictable. It feels like a game, and less a world. I almost prefer WoWs yellow exlamation point quest givers than the failed pretence of a dynamic world.

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  2. Pryde says:

    Sir, you unearthed that bottomless hole in my gaming soul by mentioning words “pre-NGE SWG” and “bring back” in the same sentence. Well, guess it’s petition time, mob!

    • buzzmong says:

      If you want pre-NGE SWG, then look no further than here: http://www.swgemu.com/forums/index.php

      The SWGEmu chaps have done a stirling amount of work rebuilding the server code from what I can tell, and there’s normally at least a few hundred players on.

  3. Fiatil says:

    This is kind of awesome. I just bought a copy of AC1 for $10 to be able to play on the beta server, and it brings back great memories. I’ve already started several drum circles with random people, it feels great. Apparently you can grab the 14 day free trial to AC1 to give it a spin if you’re uncertain. All you really need to know is that there’s a class entirely devoted to throwing bees at enemies.

    • Berzee says:

      Fantastic.
      *trial get*

      • Brise Bonbons says:

        I’m right behind you – I’ve been itching to play a proper olde-timey MMORPG for a bit just to kick around and experience the old style of virtual world, but I was having trouble finding one that suited me. This might just do the trick!

        Honestly I’d forgotten that AC1 was even around anymore. Good on Turbine for keeping it alive, and even better on them for bringing AC2 back.

        • Berzee says:

          If you play AC1, make sure to take time to find the, I forget what it’s called, but it’s a sort of “Quest Museum” place whose curators teleport you to the old historical quest sites (Green Mire Yari, Dagger of Tikola, etc) and then give you up-to-date and useful rewards (XP, items) for bringing back the historical item and showing it to them (you get to keep it, too).

          It’s a really clever way of helping people quickly level up through the drudgery (ha!) of low levels, while also ensuring that the original and lovely hand-crafted quests of yore aren’t lost in the flood of newer and more rewarding expansion quests…it is also like a built-in walkthrough to finding all the old obscure portals, so you don’t have to rely on out-of-game places like Maggie the Jackcat

          • deadly.by.design says:

            Nobody’s going to get that drudge pun, but I liked it. Also, that quest museum sounds like a terrific idea.

          • Berzee says:

            Thanks =P You’re the only one who understand me. *happy sniffle*
            *atoyot*

            This (http://ac.wikkii.net/wiki/Dereth_Museum) is not the quest museum thing I was talking about, but another thing I just read about, and something I would like to see! During my free trial, I might have a look-see at all the rare and wonderful artifacts.

          • Spider Jerusalem says:

            hahah. a+ for atoyot.

          • gritz says:

            It’s crazy the amount of nostalgia happening in this thread.

  4. frightlever says:

    I really liked AC2 but un-subbed after maybe six months (after my character got a massive nerf IIRC). Always meant to go back to it but then the end of the world came and went.

    If it was pure F2P I’d give it a whirl, but so much has changed since then… I just can’t see me paying for AC to play AC2. And I played all the AC I’m ever going to. Hell of a game the original, with so much content added over the years.

    EDIT: ^^ 14 day free trial? Sold!

  5. Beef says:

    If I remember correctly, this game had so many good concepts and ideas, but got screwed over by a forced early launch and other executive meddling by Microsoft.

    Its music system is still one of the best I’ve seen in MMOs.

    • aepervius says:

      That’s possible but I think what did AC2 mostly in, was the expectation that people would migrate from AC1 to Ac2, but that did not happen. People “held” onto their won-by-grinding-a-long-time power tightly and decided to stay in AC1. Thus AC2 got poor number (less than 100K) and dwindled rapidly to 1/3 or 1/4 number a year or two afterward. From what i can remember from AC2, it also asked a lot of juice from your graphic card. *shrug* I left relatively rapidly, maybe 6 month after the start. Never really regretted AC2.

      • Beef says:

        Lack of added content and all of my friends moving to WoW (which was released just after) did me in.

  6. Anders Wrist says:

    Weird to see this pop up all of a sudden. It was only yesterday that I was reminiscing the time when I played AC2.

    • Qazinsky says:

      I just feel that it is important to point out that no company are currently reading your mind.
      Nope, not a single one!

  7. spacedyemeerkat says:

    Now if only they’d update the original Asheron’s Call. Still my favourite MMO of all time.

  8. Timthos says:

    I own AC1, Dark Majesty and a launch day copy of AC2, but damn it, I don’t want to spend $15/month to play. I wouldn’t even do that for new MMOs. Why can’t more MMOs be like GW2?

    • malkav11 says:

      You’re in luck. Asheron’s Call only costs $13 a month. ;)

      • socrate says:

        :O…why would anyone pay that much for AC a month….some people have way to much money,all in all AC was their only “decent” game and other then this EQ and UO already did stuff much better and in a much more fun and well made way.

        and as for AC2…it was just a mess with beautiful graphic and with the same dumb recipe as the old one with nothing really interesting in the end….and like some people said…its just the fact that people spent so much time on their character in the first place that they wouldn’t leave to a dumb sequel same thing happened to EQ2 and is still happening in WoW…why would you leave your main MMO that you gained so much item and spent so much time leveling so much character and getting pvp rank and special item when all you get is the same recipe with better graphic…its a totally stupid way of making game and the worst is that company that are into MMO are company that fail over and over again and just feed off people that say WoW is crap and go in other MMO made by bad company hoping stuff will change when their production record show how bad they are and that they shouldnt make game in the first place.

        Why people still pay a absurd amount like that for AC is beyond me when EQ is free at this point….now an old UO server would be awesome id just keep the upgraded graphic really which are the only thing i think was actually improved and not utterly destroyed but id still just play F2p at this point….grinding is a gimmik that was removed for a reason…only asian people can actually tolerate that kind of stuff from what i can see.

        • Berzee says:

          Counterpoint: I quite liked AC, and would probably still like it if I decided I had time to give to an MMO again.

  9. malkav11 says:

    I wish I could see this propagating a wave of revival MMOs, but I think this is Turbine capitalizing on being the success story of F2P conversion, and that the other games mentioned are dead as the dodo. SWG, for example, runs into the issue of being a licensed property owned by a company that no longer has the license. NCSoft has already been very explicit about their disinterest in continuing City of Heroes in any form (sounds like that might also have been a license issue). I wouldn’t expect them to revive the much less popular Tabula Rasa, either (and Garriott might have to sign off on that, dunno for sure).

    • Shuck says:

      City of Heroes is an especially odd one as apparently the game was still profitable and the team was putting together a deal to buy it off NCSoft for a substantial wad of cash rather than have the game shut down. NCSoft decided they’d rather trash it and take a loss that quarter instead.
      Having worked with Korean MMO publishers in the past, it was clear that internal politics often won out over rational decision making. I wonder if that was the case with CoH.

      • Arglebargle says:

        I suspect there were matters of face involved. The decision was obviously not well planned out, and admitting that they’d misjudged the value of CoH might have been too much. It was pretty much a bean counter move. I intend to never give NCsoft another penny, myself.

  10. DK says:

    If only they relaunched Tabula Rasa and made it player-hosted or Free 2 Play. What a fantastic game that was.

    • Moraven says:

      Only played beta, only ran into few bugs, but the big thing was the atmosphere and environment. Creature “spawning” for aliens was great in that you saw dropships fly near you and drop off aliens. The world events of base defending and reclaiming were good concepts, as were other ideas, but they seemed rather unfinished along with the lack of content beyond the initial learning a new MMO.

    • dE says:

      Oh Tabula Rasa, what an oddity it was. I remember walking past a local retailer and there were two trash containers full of discarded, still sealed Tabula Rasa Boxes. A month or two ago (from that point of time) they were basically throwing it away at costs of 5€. I walked past thinking, well iI guess this era needs its ET. I have no idea why it turned out to be such a flop in the end though.
      Admittedly I have never played it either. I guess it never managed to grab my interest – and that of many others. Reading about it now, it seems like it might have been my kind of game.

    • Arglebargle says:

      Tabula Rasa was an MMO designed by a (fractious) committee, thus resembling camel more than horse. NCSoft made the mistake of letting Garriott (idea man, but terrible project manager) run the development, and piss away large amounts of money and time. They then sent in a couple of other managers to ‘fix it’, but you had too many chiefs, working at cross purposes. I’d imagine that some of these issues lead to the swift killing of the franchise, and the attempt to cheat Garriott.

      NCSoft’s management does not seem to be the most ept around.

  11. Berzee says:

    WHAT!!!!!!!
    This is the most exciting news story to me that I’ve read on RPS in the last…ha, ever!

    I feel like I need to be there to see this. Do you know if re-subscribing to AC1 now can still get me in the beta? (I stopped playing it because I got too busy with so many things to make it worth my time to be the lowest-level player on a FFA PvP server ^_^ but if there’s a brand new post-apocalyptic Dereth to explore…I think I can carve a few more hours out of my week!)

  12. Berzee says:

    edit: redacted (I forgot that the world does have some NPCs in)

  13. johnki says:

    Is anyone else having issues downloading AC2? Mine keeps getting to 2.0 GB out of 2.2 GB and stopping. It’s happened twice now and it won’t run correctly when attempted, so it’s obviously not getting the whole file. :/

    • Fiatil says:

      Alternate mirrors right here. There’s also a torrent a couple more pages further along if you’re into that. I used the primary mirror fairly successfully.

      • johnki says:

        I didn’t even know about the second Turbine mirror. I was using the one in the main post that downloaded the 7zip program.

  14. Fiatil says:

    FREE TRIAL
    FREE TRIAL

    http://trial.ac.turbine.com/

    Just in case that got lost in my last post, and links are always nice. I haven’t tried the trial myself, but I’ve heard it works just fine if you want to give AC2 a spin. I’m a Tumerok drum playing fool named Fiatil if anyone else wants to kill things together.

  15. Premium User Badge

    Chaz says:

    Looking at that screen shot, I thought for a second that some one was making Horizons 2 or Istaria 2 or what ever it calls itself these days.

    Is anyone still playing Horizons/Istaria ??

  16. Moraven says:

    I would love to see Earth & Beyond come back. But seeing it is EA, that is very doubtful to happen.

    • johnki says:

      Much like SWG mentioned earlier, E&B does have an emulator out there, though I cannot remember where.

  17. Spider Jerusalem says:

    oh asheron’s call.

    the best game that ever was or ever will be.

  18. deadly.by.design says:

    I really loved Asheron’s Call, but the original beta for AC2 left me kind of wanting. Also, college.

    We have to remember that this is an MMO world that has no NPC vendors. It’s all player-based. That’s a neat idea, but it’s also a big part of why a small player base hurts this game. So, if Turbine is smart, they’ll keep the server number limited in hopes of high density.

    I still get nostalgic thinking about AC. If too many players were in a concentrated area, it would cause “portal storms” that would wisk them away to a nearby area. In reality, it was just a way to keep the servers from choking, but it still fit in pretty neatly with the portal lore.

    Long live Thistledown server, defender of the Shard.

    • Berzee says:

      *smile of recollection*
      Didn’t your server get a special plaque or something for your stalwart defense?

      Also — I sort of hope the reboot will see some NPCs added back in (they don’t even have to be vendors, I just like some lore-ish dialogue to read =), but I suppose that’s unlikely. Hmm…or is my memory failing me and were there non-vendor NPCs already? I didn’t play beyond the free trial of the second game because when it came out, I didn’t have a computer that could really run it.

      • Fiatil says:

        There are definitely quest NPCs in the game already. I’m hoping for a decent sized player base to fix most of the problems with the lack of vendors; the game was really fun when there were people running around and really depressing when I resubscribed a few months before the shutdown.

      • deadly.by.design says:

        Yes, I think there was a plaque. Our server also had other important milestones. Tim the Enchantor being the first to hit the initial level cap, Vidorian becoming a Dark Master, and Maggie the Jackcat who wrote the popular game guides, etc.

        http://ac.wikkii.net/wiki/Thistledown

        Other than having small bits of contact with two out of three of those notables, my only relevance for Thistledown’s tale was my monarch, Wren the Blurry. She got interviewed by some gaming site as she was, at least at one time, the monarch with the most followers. (>3,000) It might’ve been Gamespy, and I think my character name even got referenced as being on her guild council. Total nerd stuff as I look back on it, but it was pretty sweet ten years ago.

    • Spider Jerusalem says:

      one of my favorite bits re: overcrowding is how the dev team nuked arwic because it had turned into a giant trading hub.

      • deadly.by.design says:

        Yeah, that was great! I left AC before the town had been properly rebuilt as Newic…or whatever it ended up being called. It was a great town, though! Olthoi caves not too far away, and the actual portal hub just up the hill. AC had such a neat little continent.

        If the original AC went F2P, I’d probably mess around with it. It’d be interesting to see if my character still existed after ten years.

        • ouroburos says:

          i had my decade dead character from ac1 recovered earlier this year, quick and painlessly. the customer service was superb.

        • Spider Jerusalem says:

          i’ve popped in from time to time when nostalgia’s gotten the best of me. i lost a fair amount of things when my house ownership lapsed though, sadly.

    • gritz says:

      I really loved that about AC1 and Turbine: they took great pains to reconcile almost every game mechanic with an in-lore, in-world explanation, and the writing was top notch.

      Back in the days before Morrowind, AC was the game for explorers. I’d love to see a modern remake, though I never gave AC2 a try.

  19. JohnH says:

    Asheron’s Call 2 was shit in beta, shit when it launched and still shit when it was canned. So tell me again why this is a good idea?

  20. Berzee says:

    I still remember when I heard an interview with a developer of AC2 recorded at some conference somewhere (I downloaded the interview from GameSpy, I think) and he caused me to question many things by the way he pronounced “Lugian” as “Loo-zhin” rather than “Loo-ghee-in”

    • Spider Jerusalem says:

      heresy!

      • Berzee says:

        iknowrite!?
        (It still freaks me out that tumeroks are sort of lizardy, too; the original models had me thinking for years that they were some sort of cat)

        • deadly.by.design says:

          Same here. Purple furries.

        • Spider Jerusalem says:

          yeah it’s odd. i guess officially (according to lore) they’re related to both drudges /and/ mosswarts, so the catlizard thing makes sense. still freaks me out, though.

    • gritz says:

      I’ll always remember my first day in the AC1 beta, accidentally running into a pack of Lugians in the hills between Nanto and, I think, Hebian-To? I booked it as fast as I could with those pounding footsteps behind me, until one of them finally beaned me in the back of the head with a boulder.

      I knew that I wanted to see more of a world with monsters like that.

  21. ScubaMonster says:

    Being a big fan of the original, I thought the sequel was a complete travesty (along with many other people). It pretty much threw everything that made AC1 great out the window entirely. I would love to see AC3 done similar in fashion to the first one, only updated and modernized a bit. But alas, I doubt that will ever happen.

    • Berzee says:

      I was never able to articulate anything about the sequel…it just seemed to have slightly missed the mark in every way and added up to something that didn’t keep me playing (especially at the choppy framerates my old computer got with it). Whatever was lost was indefinable, at least to me…but in part I think just getting a more polished engine and a more directed experience did it. Slide-casting at 35 miles per hour, and memorizing coordinates of good hunting spots and all that, was a big part of the original.

      That being said, the lore of Dereth is lovely and refreshing in most any form, and hopefully they’ve learned a few things and made some tweaks? =) Excited to try it tonight.

  22. Enkinan says:

    Subscription? Really?

    When UO is properly remade I’ll get nostalgic about an MMO.

    • Berzee says:

      Subscription is less painful when every month a new world-changing event really does roll out, like clockwork. They kept it up for a good long while — not sure if they’re still going strong with it or not.

      But yeah, it also demands a certain degree of dedication I’m not sure I still have in me. This seems like a good time for me to try it again and see, though =P

      I’d like to play a fresh reboot of UO though (mainly so I could be with other newbies). I missed it first time ’round

      • Spider Jerusalem says:

        i’ve never felt better paying a monthly sub than when i played ac1. it really is a completely different feeling when the world fundamentally expands every month with new quests/locations/items/monsters that take days and weeks to uncover/figure out.

  23. Kaffka says:

    I wonder if anyone would pick up on this concept (not sure if Turbine is aware of this themselfs):

    *Pay one subscription fee, have instant access to all of our MMOs*

    I know, that subs are (except for a few exceptions, eg. EvE, WoW) declining, but I think paying one subscriptions, but having access to multiple games would be a nice idea to investigate…

  24. Matter says:

    I did most of the maps for the strategy guide for this game, and had a ton of fun running around those zones (admittedly invincible, but still fun). Was just thinking about the game last week, oddly enough, and wondering if it would still hold up. Maybe I’ll try it out!

  25. Citrus says:

    Yeah after sitting through a billion generic quests in LOTRO.. I am going to just wait for a F2P release for this game as well.

    Thank the satan for F2P. I don’t have to pay for shitty gameplay, I can enjoy the “good part” (not “parts”.. no MMO had good “parts”) for free while people with too much money waste it on buying more DYE for black clothes.

  26. Grayman says:

    I spent some great time with Asheron’s Call but never tried 2. In the beta for it I couldn’t run and then I never tried it later.

    The first game was so good, I would love a spiritual successor that wasn’t quite so haphazardly balance patched for 12 years.