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A unique game with a lot more to offer than most MUDs

Reviewed by: Kurt Hardeman
Rated:
Posted on: 8/30/99

Introduction -

First off, for all those people out there who aren't familiar with MUDs, let me first explain what they are. A MUD stands for a multi-user dungeon, though most aren't based in dungeons anymore. MUDs usually tend to be text based role-playing games, but some aren't text based anymore, and some aren't role-playing either. Achaea, Dreams of Divine Lands is text-based, but that is where the similarity ends. Most MUDs are based on the idea of you vs. the computer, with only indirect competition against other players. Most MUDs are also literal copies, or close derivatives of certain "stock" MUDs that anyone can download and get running in a few hours. Achaea, on the other hand, is a completely original game, focused on player vs. player and group vs group competition within a rich, full world of mythical beasts, ancient settlements, and entire communities of alien races.

How can gaming without graphics possibly be fun, you might ask. The simplest comparison is this: text MUDs are to graphical games what a good book is to a movie. No matter how good a movie is, it simply cannot compare to a good book in terms of the depth of experience.

Races / Guilds / Skills / Skill Trees

There are a few races that one can choose when creating their character. These races come with certain advantages/disadvantages and you'll have to use your own opinion on which one is preferable for you. You can find help files on these races to tell you exactly what their advantages and disadvantages are. Once you pick your race and go through the quest tutorial (a relatively fun, automated introduction to Achaea, which I'll speak more about later), you'll want to choose a guild. There are currently nine guilds, five being considered good-aligned guilds, and four being considered evil-aligned guilds. I believe at least six more guilds are planned. These guilds are: the Sentaari, Sentinels, Kharon, Druids, Paladins, Serpentlords, Occultists, Priests, and Shadowsnakes. You can bring up help files on each of the guilds and you can find out which skills that guild gets. Each guild gets three unique guild skills. For example, the Kharon (evil monks) get Kaido (defensive abilities), Tekura (martial arts), and Telepathy. To raise these skills, you must use your lessons towards them. The more lessons you put into one skill, the more sub-skills you get in that one skill. For example, let's say I put 100 lessons towards Telepathy, I might gain three or four abilities within telepathy such as command, lock, or sense. How does a person get lessons you ask? Well, there are a couple of ways. You could be a mentor to people and get 25% of the lessons your proteges purchase, you also gain 5 lessons per level, or you can hop onto their website and purchase lessons. This is good or bad depending on how you look at it. This allows you to advance at almost any rate you like, which is the upside. But on the downside, people without a lot of money to spend won't be able to advance as much as the person who has the funds. Nevertheless, there are many players who have played literally over a thousand hours who have never spent a dime.

Fighting/Battling

Fighting in Achaea is like nothing you've ever seen before. Achaea doesn't have the traditional fighting system like the majority of MUDs have. The majority of MUDs have a simple fighting system. You would type kill , and the battle would begin. You would sit back and hope that you're damage and number of attacks outweighs your opponents. Achaea is nothing like this. In Achaea, there are hundreds of different ways to attack an opponent. There is telepathy, the ability to use shrines for offensive and defensive purposes, flying in the skies (and dropping victims), the use of trees and beehives to attack your opponents (for druids), martial arts, weapons, tarot cards, entities, and so much more. There is also body-part damage. You can get concussions from getting hit in the head too much, you can get internal bleeding from getting hit in the torso a lot, and you can get broken or mangled limbs. Not only does fighting consist of damage to your body, but it also involves afflictions. There are approximately 50-75 different afflictions you can have. You could have stupidity, epilepsy, dizziness, confusion, etc. To cure these afflictions, you need to use herbs, which I will talk about a bit later. If this all sounds a little daunting, the thing to remember is that the combat system grows with you - early on it is relatively simple, involving few abilities, while later on a much more complex array of strategies becomes available.

Along with the battles comes curing. There are a bunch of different ways to cure afflictions and wounds. There are mending salves to heal your broken limbs, there are elixirs to regenerate your health and mana, there are herbs you can eat to cure certain afflictions, and you can smoke them too. All of these cures aren't ALWAYS used for curing. Salves, elixirs, and herbs are used for defensive purposes also.

Although it is too long to include in this review, the lead designer and programmer of Achaea has written an overview of the combat system. The document also contains a brief description of all the guild-skills in the game.

City Defenses, Wars, and Politics -

The city-states are becoming one of the most important aspects of Achaea. Each city-state has a ruling council, whom the citizens vote for, and then a sovereign, whom the ruling council votes for. The sovereign then appoints players to seven different Ministries: Ambassador, War, Security, Treasury, Steward, Trade, and Chancellor. Each Ministry is responsible for different areas of city administration, and may appoint other citizens as his or her aides. As an example, I will talk about the Ministry of War.

The Ministry of War is responsible for all city-state military matters. He is responsible for overseeing the enlistment of idle young men in the city, the managing of the military, and the capturing and defending of territory. Those who work in the Ministry of War are able to form divisions of troops and march them out to claim territory for their city. Of course, other city-states may not be too happy with their enemies' plans for world domination, and, inevitably, border disputes, and sometimes wars, are the result.

The Ministry of Security, on the other hand, is responsible for maintaining city defences, such as archers on the roofs, and telepaths hired to defend against hostile intruders. The Ministry of the Treasury is responsible for allocating budgets (money is gained from tributes from territory captured, donations from citizens, or the withdrawl fees that the city-run banks impose on their depositors).

Politics in Achaea is another world entirely. While often people are biased towards those who are more powerful and better warriors, it takes a lot more than just the ability to fight to keep a place on either of the ruling councils. The internal news system is often filled with the powerful political players engaged in debates over the direction of their guild or city.

Divine Interaction

Gods play an important part in Achaea. Aside from each guild and city having an official divine patron, who essentially looks over the guild and is chosen by the guildmaster or city sovereign, each player can have his or her own personal patron. Some players devote their entire lives to strictly following the ethos of their chosen God.

To explain the gods, one has to first explain essence. Essence is the source of divine power. Everything gods do, from hurtling a divine thunderbolt to curing a mortal's afflictions, uses essence. They get this essence by just being around when their followers are around, and the better ranked the follower, the more essence their god gets. Another way to get essence is through offerings. When players are on a spot marked by their god, they can offer gold or corpses to increase the essence of the god based on the 'worth' of the corpse or amount of gold. Thus, it behooves the God to help his or her followers, and make them feel as if they are part of a family.

When players choose to follow a god, they are brought into that god's divine order. Because the death of followers cause their god to lose essence, it is very rare to see two members of the same divine order fighting each other, so orders tend to be like guilds, but based on people's beliefs instead of skills. Some orders have marks to show their allegiance to a god, while some prefer to keep their patronage a secret.

For those players who don't want to base themselves off killing, perhaps being followers of Oneiros, the god of peace, there are a myriad of profitable quests, from turning in dead rats for small amounts of gold, to releasing the Spawn of the Unnamable Horror, in respect to the experiment that let a legendary mortal occultist combine with a being of elemental chaos, and Ascend into Eris, the Goddess of Chaos. There are several high-ranking players who have never lifted a finger to harm anyone, and have gotten to their place solely through quest completion.

Aside from running their Divine Orders, Gods can also start a variety of events. These games usually take place in the arena, and can involve either being the last man alive in a melee battle, like in a free-for-all or avoiding being eaten by a giant frog while you toss a dead fly at other players, luring the frogs attention away from you, such as in Bait the Frog. There's also the traditional freeze tag, with the not-so-traditional ice fairy, and quizzes based on everything from Achaean history, to comics, to Norse mythology and TV trivia. These games usually take place during peak hours when a good amount of people is on.

"Newbie Friendliness"

With the complexity of the fighting system and the politics involved with day-to-day life, one must think that it would be extremely hard to learn how to play the game. It is not [For long time mudders. Otherwise the learning curve is about 100 hours - Ed.]. There are many things built into the game that allow a person to learn the game as quickly and painlessly as possible. When you first start out, it gives you an option to go through a tutorial. This tutorial consists of four quests that you must complete before you are considered an actual citizen of Achaea. These quests will get you acquainted with some of the most widely used commands in the game, and will give you an understanding of where you could go to get money and experience. While the quests aren't as fun as the game itself, they are not boring, and do teach you a lot.

Once you finish the quests, there is a newbie channel built into the game in which you can ask any question you might have. Aside from a comprehensive help system, it seems that nearly everyone in the game is willing to assist a new player if he just asks politely. There are also two players in the game that are labeled as guides. These guides live for one purpose and one purpose only: to help all newbies with any problems they might have. The guides are given certain powers to enable them to help these newbies at all times. There is also a mentoring system. A mentor can meet a new player and offer to mentor them. If the new player accepts, he or she then becomes a protégé of their mentor. This mentor is then supposed to answer any questions his or her protégé might have, and help him or her out in anyway possible. There is an incentive for people with mentor status to help out their proteges. They receive 25% of the credits bought by their protégé. For example, if their protégé bought 200 credits, the protégé would receive 200, and the mentor would receive 50. This way the protégé doesn't lose any credits, and the mentor has an incentive to help out the newbies.

Conclusion

Achaea is one of the most complex and detailed MUDs I have ever played. With its extensive fighting system, complex political model and unique game structure, I'd have to say it's one of the best MUDs I have ever played. And even though it's that good now, Achaea is continually becoming an ever richer and more diverse world. Along with an expansion of the economic and political systems, a full-fledged ocean and seafaring system is in the works. Players will soon be able to explore the seas in the hope discovering far-flung continents, or to prey upon the unwary as unscrupulous pirates.

Unlike most MUDs, which force you into bashing monsters constantly, Achaea offers the opportunity to do anything from bashing monsters, to completing quests, to running for political office, to running a city-state, to opening a private business, to battling other players either via single combat or armies.

With contributions by Justin Simon.

Comments? Post them at forum.mpog.com!

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