A Tale In The Desert 2
If you suddenly dropped off the face of the earth, what would be your legacy? A pile of dirty clothes? Some kids, maybe? A pencil holder in the shape of a crocodile that you made when you were five and your mum never had the heart to throw out? That's the thing about being a 21 st century consumer - we don't really contribute a whole lot to the world, instead concentrating on destroying it bit by bit.
The beauty about a game like A Tale In The Desert is that it's all about creation - the creation of a civilisation in fact - using little more than what you see in the world around you.
Long, Long Ago
The premise is simple: you live in the world of ancient Egypt, learning the ways of the land, co-operating with your fellow inhabitants in order to achieve financial, spiritual and bodily advancement. You fish, you farm, you spin flax, you make
bricks, you build pyramids, you go on pilgrimages, you raise sheep and chickens and you play games of luck with other players. In fact, you do everything you'd expect to do in an emerging civilisation, apart from fight. It's a bit like an interactive episode of The Good Life but on an epic scale. It's one that works incredibly well and is every bit as addictive as twatting things with a big sword, as we've become used to doing in just about every other MMOG out there.
From the outset, Egypt is quite daunting, especially its size, and it's estimated that it'd take at least 12 hours to cross it on foot, although you do get to set waypoints later. Once you get into the game, however, it's fairly easy to find a mentor (another experienced player) who'll teach you the basics and help you understand how the game works. They aid you in establishing a base, make you feel less of a single grain in an entire sandpit, and help you make the most of your free 24 hours of pre-subscription gameplay time. There are also regular chat channels to allow constant contact with other players and guilds, as well as to view in-game announcements.
What drives ATITD is the dependence on other players. Joining and helping to build a community is a must, and allows you access to guild-owned buildings and materials. Players also vote for their own laws and can banish those who break them. Consequently, ATITD has a very helpful and friendly atmosphere. The community aspect, plus the focus on creativity rather than destruction is maybe the reason the game has gained many female participants, as well as explaining the fact that the average player is in their mid-20s.
Much of the game's theme revolves around the ancient Seven Disciplines of Man: Leadership, Architecture, Thought, the Human Body, Worship, Conflict and Art. It was widely believed throughout ancient Egypt that if man could achieve perfection in all seven disciplines, then he would achieve immortality.
Each of the disciplines ingame has associated universities where you can obtain new skills and equipment. There are also discipline schools where you can learn and master a variety of abilities after passing a specified test - usually requiring different objects to be brought to the school. For example, to be initiated into the discipline of Leadership you have to get 20 people to sign a petition saying you are a jolly good chap or chappess. Or if you feel like venturing down the road of the Body you must first run an assault course.
That's only at the basic level. Once you start advancing through the disciplines the tasks get harder and you have to band together with your guild-mates to achieve them. Building your own pyramid, for instance, sees you prospecting for limestone using special glass rods, and then assembling a team of people (there are no slaves of course - this is a family game) to help you get the damn thing put up.
The gameplay mechanics of ATITD are incredibly well thought-out. Constant attention from the developers means the game is continually evolving, making for a very dynamic world. Where it does fall down somewhat is in the graphics. Currently, it's only fully optimised for GeForce cards, although this is being addressed by eGenesis. The game would also benefit from more animation in the various buildings, especially farms. A few, like the beetle terrarium and the chicken coop, have constant animation, but others remain as lifeless as a taxidermist's window display.
Sound is also something that hasn't been used too well. There are general sounds for the day to night cycle, but you can't help wishing that the furnaces crackled when you fired them, your fishing line plopped as it went into the water and the chickens clucked contentedly when you checked on them at night.
A Tale In The Desert is a unique online experience and the non-combat gameplay won't be for everyone. But I for one have subscribed already, and you won't get more of a recommendation from a games journalist than actually paying for a game. There's something very exhilarating about running around in a world that humans haven't managed to bugger-up yet. Maybe they will, in time, but for now it's a utopian, hippy paradise.
Download A Tale In The Desert 2
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
The World Of MMOGs dominated by the same few big names, stoically doing their thing and backed by big money. So when one comes along that's a complete breath of fresh air and is self-published (and surviving that way), it makes a refreshing change. That's just what happened with the original A Tale In The Desert, the non-combat online adventure based entirely in ancient Egypt.
As a premise, I admit it sounds slightly insane - and if I hadn't spent many nights happily experimenting with scarab beetle breeding, weaving flax and worrying whether my camels were getting enough to eat, I'd be concerned that this was some kind of Myst-Style adventure with a few pyramids thrown in. But instead, it turned out to be an incredibly original experience, with many innovative ideas - not to mention being an interesting experiment in virtual social anthropology.
Unlike other online games, ATITD was never meant to go on and on. Right from the start, it was thought that the game was a proper game', with a very definite beginning, middle and end, perpetuated by the challenges that eGenesis would reveal to its players. A year-and-a-half later, the original game is wrapping up and players are preparing to face new challenges in the Second Telling, ATITD2.
Same But Different
Although you're still in the same game world, with many of the same building materials around and basic creation systems, the main difference in Tale 2 is that there's much more of a town-and-country feel. This is achieved in two remarkably simple but hugely effective ways. The first is by making players build their various implements for doing things (like flax weaving, brick-making or carpentry) inside compounds, which you can also customise.
The second way is by creating a new travel system for the game, done by allowing players to run twice as fast on roads and locations called chariot stops. These depart every ten minutes or so and mean you can instantaneously travel to other parts of Egypt for free. You can see compounds springing up all around these chariot stops already in the beta, creating a more town-like feel, which is just what eGenesis intended.
Of course, there's still going to be the vast wide open areas that characterised the first game, where you could run through the quiet depths of an ancient land with the setting sun on your back, a pocket full of mushrooms and not see a soul. And when you did see someone, you'd greet each other cheerfully, exchange acrobatic moves and petition signatures and carry on running. No elves, no goblins. It was incredibly peaceful.
The developer has implemented a new vegetation system in the game too, which gives players 200,000 unique trees and plants to experiment with. You can chop them up, use them to build with or make interesting lotions, potions and tasty stews. What's more, as well as new colours and textures that help bring the landscape to life, ATITD2 also boasts new sound elements, which means that this time around, all your actions have accompanying sound. This is a real bonus and enlivens the game no end.
One of the most interesting challenges in this new incarnation is the new mining system. Previously, you had to earn the skills that would allow you to dowse for certain types of ores - iron being the easiest to find and ores like zinc being much harder. Once you'd located some ore, you had to build a mine and start digging the ore up.
This time around, there are no ore seams and you can build mines wherever you want. Instead of digging up ore, you dig up ore stones, which are covered in coloured and patterned crystals. When melted down, different combinations of these crystals give you metal. After that, you have the dubious experimental fun of finding out which combinations produce what. It may sound rather complicated, but ATITD players tend to relish challenges - you can bet that corners of the Web will be filling up with tables and charts in no time.
Any Old Iron
What you do with the metal itself is determined by your skill and experience. First there's the anvil skill, which basically involves dropping a hunk of metal onto an anvil and bashing it with a couple of hammers until you get the shape you want. The closer you get it to the desired shape, the better quality the item will be -and yes, it is as tricky as it sounds.
Finally, ATITD2 boasts additions such as an events manager and team to schedule in-game events for players, such as festivals and trade fairs (which proved popular in the first game). Couple this with new tests and challenges, and the Second Telling is shaping up to be every bit as absorbing as the first.