Achaea, Dreams of Divine Lands
Reviewed by: Stephen N.
Posted on: 4/01/00
Achaea, Dreams of Divine Lands is a text only, Vortex-based Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game at achaea.com 23 and is by far the best and most challenging MUD I have ever had the pleasure of playing. It features an incredibly advanced combat system which is by far one of the most realistic and challenging I have ever seen. This is part of a skill-based system that emphasizes player interaction over simple numbers crunching. There is a well-developed socio-political framework, which presents interesting challenges and unique opportunities for roleplay. The game world itself has been meticulously detailed, and everything takes place against a backdrop of the most interesting, epic, and comprehensive history I have ever seen in a game. Additionally, the game administration has come up with a unique pay-optional system that is a skillful compromise between the need for revenue and unlimited access, allowing those with more disposable funds to pay more, while not requiring that anyone pay anything at all.
The skill-based system is one of the most advanced and varied seen; elevating the level of combat over and above the simple hack-and-slash number crunching to a true test of skill. The combat system is fast paced and offers great variety, challenging the most experienced of mudders. You can be a monk and use your knowledge of Tekura, the martial arts, to deliver lightning-fast combinations of kicks and punches to devastate your opponent. Alternatively, you can become a serpent and use Subterfuge, the deadly skills of silent and stealthy assassination, to surprise and poison your mark. You can also be a Paladin, Infernal Knight, Druid, Sentinel, Occultist or Priest, all of which have their own unique skills and abilities.
Combat is not turn based, therefore fighting is not an "I swing, you swing" affair. Instead the game designers have introduced the ideas of balance and equilibrium, which roughly translates into physical and mental readiness. You can, for example, slash at your target with your sword, and in the time it takes you to recover, your opponent could conceivably hit you with two jabs. To elevate combat to an even higher level, there are also a host of afflictions that can debilitate a fighter, from deadly venoms to telepathy to the spiritwracking torture of angels.
If Combat is not your cup of tea you can use your skills to possibly become a blacksmith or herbalist and maintain a shop and become a financial success story. Enforce and participate in trade embargoes to deny essential material to your opponents, or amass a secret fortune by selling illegal but highly coveted venoms. If you're interested in politics, you can join one of the cities: Ashtan, Hashan, or Shallam, or join the Oakstone Council and garner enough votes to become a member of the ruling council or earn an appointment to one of the ministries. Work to guarantee the security of the city or to protect the forests from depredations. Help lead troops to capture territory and amass tribute. Manage the treasury to ensure financial security for the city-state.
Alternatively, you can join the Order of one of the Divinities and work to further His goals. Participate in one of the nefarious plots of Twilight, God of Darkness. Join Aurora and the Order of Light and their allies in the Church in fighting evil. Amass essence, the source of divine power, for your patron. Perform your duties well and possibly earn their divine favour, granting extra abilities and experience. In one of the most unique facets of Achaea, Gods are not immortal in the traditional sense of divine immortality. They can be imprisoned, slain or usurped. In one remarkable event Hermes replaced Raclawice as God of Trickery through a simple game of chance.
Achaea boasts an advanced character class and guild system. Each guild represents a collection of players of the same class led by a guildmaster, who is assisted in his duties by the guild secretaries. Generally, a guild and its elders are responsible for recruitment and the training of its younger members and are given an extensive support system, including a private channel, a ranking system, and privileges based on rank. Every class (and guild) member gets access to three class-specific ability trees. There are also 5 general skill trees to which everyone is given access: Avoidance, Survival, Tattoos, Vision, and Weaponry. In addition, everyone also gets access to 7 miniskill trees: Constitution, Fitness, Frost, Galvanism, Philosophy, Thermology, and Venom. These miniskills are generally defensive in nature. The skills and miniskills a player chooses to learn is entirely up to personal choice, you can therefore have a wide difference in available skills in two players who are relatively equal in every other way.
One can also indulge their urge to explore in the many different areas the MUD offers, from the streets of Shallam, to the dungeons of Azdun, to the mines of Moghedu and many other areas. Complete one of the many quests to gain gold or experience; including helping to control the endemic rat population of every city or enrolling orphans at the sinister Loving Hearts Orphanage. If one is of a more scholarly nature, Achaea has a rich recorded history, with an official historian. This gives a great sense of depth and a promise of immortality of a sort, if you have the ability to distinguish yourself.
Admittedly, the sheer richness, diversity and originality of this MUD can be overwhelming to even the most experienced of mudders. However, the administration has come up with an impressive support system to help new players adjust. This starts with an optional (but highly recommended) introduction, a series of quests to help acclimate someone with basic commands and syntax. There are also two Guides, Romeo and Juliet, who are available to answer questions and to generally assist new players. There is a newbie channel available, usable only by new players and mentors, which are highly experienced players. Mentors can also offer to take a new player on as their protégé and become responsible for helping and training their ward on a one on one basis. There is also an extensive, well-organized and indexed help file that a player can access which goes into great detail in all facets of Achaean life. The Matsuhama Arena has also been established as a risk-free venue where one can practice their skills for a small fee. Additionally, this is also the site for many different events, including the ever-popular free-for-all, a no holds barred, last man standing event. The game also boasts its own internal alias system which can be used to greatly simplify your life.
Unlike other MUDs of this calibre, Achaea is pay-optional. The game administrators have come up with an original, copyrighted payment system. There are no monthly fees, no time-based billing, instead players have the option of purchasing credits, which can be converted into lessons to be used to acquire more skills. One is never obligated to pay or purchase anything at any time. Credits can also be earned through mentoring and they are also occasionally given out as prizes in various events including quizzes. In fact, several prominent and powerful characters exist that have not bought a single credit.
Overall, the originality, challenge, and variety of this mud make it the best that I have ever seen, and the large player base affirms this. After playing, testing, building and administering on several MUDs, I can safely say that this is definitely a 10 by any standard. There is literally something for everyone from the hard-core pkiller to the explorer, to the roleplayer, to the neophyte adventurer. Even better, the administration seems to be constantly at working adding new content and extending existing content. I highly recommend everyone try out Achaea. I know I'll be there!
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