((The second part of “Investigating The Secret World” will be tomorrow… Sorry! In the mean time, try another Free Play Review by Andras!))
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| / \ |___ | | |____ / \| I’m sure some of you may be wondering what this mangled creation of bits and bytes just might be. For those of you who aren’t wondering, you should really take more interest in things like that. And for those who have continued to read thus far, you will be rewarded with the knowledge that using slashes and straight lines to form the word “Achea” is not as simple as one would hope. Especially not in this format. But, why did I choose to attempt such an impossible feat in the first place? Because, my naive friend, Achea is a MUD. That’s right, it is a multi-user-dungeon. It’s a text game. Text. No pictures.
There is a certain liberating quality with that since I no longer feel obligated to include pictures in this blog.
Where Does Our Story Begin
Due to the unusual nature of this MMO, excuse me MUD, I feel I cannot review it in the usual fashion. So different, in fact, that I’m sure my accomplice Riknas made me review this game as some form of revenge for my being so awesome.
Aside from this, I don’t feel it necessary to include any form of background history to this game. It is styled after Dungeons and Dragons. If you don’t know what Dungeons and Dragons is, I have absolutely no clue as to what you might be doing on this site. Since the story is so simple, I think I might as well include the sign up process here in an attempt to save precious paragraph space. (As a warning, expect the following paragraph structure to grow increasingly convoluted). Sign up was almost unnervingly simple, to the point where it did not exist. You simple choose a user name and password, and the character creation starts. Granted, you must register an e-mail account if you want to keep your new faceless creation for more than a day, but it’s nice to be able to sample the game without fear of the spam-horde approaching on your precious inbox. Registering your email was also unnervingly simple, where it can all be done in-game. And since everything in the game was text anyways, I could register without missing a beat. Very nifty.
“Novelty has charms that our mind can hardly withstand. -William Makepeace Thackeray”
Regardless of your beliefs of the creation of life on Earth, most people understand the general concept of evolution. Evolution in video-games is agiven, we no longer operate 6 bit characters navigating a tri-color world, and most people would agree this is for the best aside from certain members of our society (*cough* Jack Thompson). But sometimes there is a certain novelty in seeing things before grinding and owning had any meaning outside of dance clubs and pimps. Sometimes we like to go back to simpler times.
Unfortunately, those times weren’t so simple. Anyone who has grown used to the ease with which current MMOs can be played (auto-run? pansies) may find a game like Achea disorienting. Fortunately the tutorial system in the game is very well done, making what would be an otherwise dry and abstract concepts simple and practical, since they held your hand a good portion of the way. And, in my opinion, the hand was rather nice. It wasn’t one of those overly firm hands you get when you come across a lawyer, nor the cold clammy hands of a doctor, nor that lose skin one might feel if you come into contact with the elderly. That analogy doesn’t make sense to me, but if it makes sense to you, please leave a comment explaining it.
Drifting back on topic, there is no dipping your toes into a text based game. You can either eye the water cautiously from the comfort of the sun-chair, or start to enter the water slowly only to be pulled in from an overly energetic 8 year old. From that point on, you either are filled with adrenaline at the realization that you are indeed swimming, or drown a horrible and painful death.
Let’s assume you swim.
Chuck Norris Doesn’t Get Wet, Water Gets Chuck Norris
So, you’ve made it through the very beginning of the tutorial without exiting from total boredom (the tutorial takes 10-30 minutes). As you could guess, the tutorial is very in depth and covers the majority of the game. So, really, if you play the tutorial and you don’t like it, don’t expect that the REAL game is actually any different. And if you do like the tutorial, you can look forward to a massive, totally free, and old-skool world. Playing the text game was surprisingly intuitive. The game drops hints constantly should you ever feel even slightly neglected, and handles intuitively. I found how to Take Map before I was actually supposed to. The delay in text appearances is a lot less imposing than other MUDs I’ve played that chuck a page of text at you and expect you to read it until (and after) your eyes bleed. There seemed to be a decent amount of depth to stat tracking and equipment setups. But, honestly, I have a hard time reviewing a game whose core concept could very well be foreign to most of you. To those of you familiar with MUDs, you probably already have one that eats away your precious time, but it is still a good MUD as far as MUDs go. MUD isn’t really a flattering term. But take my word for it. About the good game thing.
Once More, With Feeling
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I’m going to try a different approach and try to explain the joys and woes of text games as a whole. In the same way that the invention of the moving picture is not superior to the book (readers will note that the population of books is well in the healthy range) the “moving game” is not entirely superior to the text game. By reading text the player can never complain about graphics, since all that is within the confines of his own thoughts. For the role-player, a text based game is the last haven. You can truly feel you are at the head of your very own journey, with more particle effects than can be handled by even the most well endowed computers. Conversations feel more real as you actually Say “My name is Andras” to the npcs. There’s a large variety of classes available with ample description into the story of each (with combat and stat details sparse) further luring in the RPers. There was also an interesting House (read guild) system designed to group like minded players. It is well equipped to handle fantasizing players.
But, really, that’s about all the game can provide. The combat felt a bit disorienting as I typed Kick Rat, waited for the screen to tell my my body regained its balance, and then typed it again. During this little ritual, the enemy may attack in an unnecessarily long sentence, followed by another saying how much damage I was dealt. While typing and reading, I had no clue if I was winning or losing this epic struggle with my plague infested foe, but eventually the thing keeled over and had the good graces to die. I gave it another kick for good measure. But the whole experience was confusing, and I didn’t feel inclined to go fight anything else. Fortunately, there were a good amount of Tasks (read quests) for me to do that did not involve fighting. I did a few here and there, avoiding any that might involve fighting, only to realize I wasn’t actually having fun. Don’t get me wrong, the initial thrill of typing “North” to go north was great, but quickly wore off. Maybe at later levels mastering the art of fighting becomes easier and fighting epic enemies feels… epic, but from my time with the game I felt stupid and ashamed.
If you play, I recommend bringing a friend who can feel ashamed with you. Maybe you two can even role-play.
And That Means….
My simple recommendation is: If you’re remotely curious about a game played in text, try it out. There’s registration if you like it, and your character is wiped in 24 hours if you don’t. The beginning gives you a very good idea of how the rest of the game goes.
((This review was made in the year 2009 and may not remain faithful to the current state of the game))