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Desert Nomad Studios | Official Site
MMORPG | Setting:Historical | Status:Final  (rel 08/30/19)  | Pub:Desert Nomad Studios
Distribution:Download | Retail Price:Free | Pay Type:Subscription
System Req: PC Mac Linux | Out of date info? Let us know!

Another day in Egypt

The ultimate online crafting game, with hundreds of unique crafting skills, great community, and a vast interactive gameworld.
Disclaimer: The following article is the sole opinion of its author and does not represent MMORPG.com in its thoughts or opinions. This is not an official MMORPG.com editorial article.

I wake up in the chariot stop, in the shade of a huge striped tent.  It’s noon in Egypt and the sun is blazing high up in the sky. I have work to do. I take the road up north, toward my meager dwelling. The roadside is covered by intricate artwork and puzzles designed by other denizens of the region.  In the distance, I see another person. I know he is checking her wine cellar for the hookah party tonight.

Art and puzzles created by players.

 

A Tale in the Desert (www.atitd.com) is a game by Pluribus Games that depicts life in Ancient Egypt. Technically it is an MMORPG, yet at the same time, it is very different from the majority of games in the genre.

  • There is nothing to kill, and there are even no NPCs. You don’t get a weapon at all. If you meet a sheep or a bird, it won’t immediately charge at your vitals. You CAN level up, if you want to – but levels are obtained in a completely different manner. More on this later.
  • The game progresses at a leisurely pace. On the one hand, everyone can take their time, spend time socializing or just running around, and doing whatever they want. On the other hand, the slow progression is not for everyone.
  • The gameworld is HUGE – you can literally spend a week running around and exploring, each time reaching a different location, and meeting only a handful of other people. Pretty much anything in game can be interacted with and is used for something. For a new player, this can be very overwhelming. For a more established player, exploring can be a fun thing to do while gathering herbs for cooking or looking for cicadas hidden by other players.
  • The entire game progresses as a game of Civilization would, from beginning to end. If you love Civilization, you have a high chance of loving it in Egypt. The game begins with everyone trying to unlock/research new technologies, looking for their first sheep, and trying to map out ore veins. Fast forward 18 months, and there will be large settlements packed with publicly available equipment and elaborate pieces of art. About that time, everyone also tends to run out of things to do. And that’s where the other aspect of Civilization kicks in – this game has winning conditions, and an end. Once one Telling ends, another begins from scratch – the world is wiped clean, and new features are implemented for the next one. Currently Tale 6 will end soon, Tale 7 is about to begin (September 11), and all players will be on the same level – old and new alike. The length of a Telling is 18+ months.

Despite (and because of) all this, A Tale of the Desert has been my go-to MMORPG for the past decade.

Once you get past the initial steep learning curve (hint: other players are a tremendous help here, both ingame and via the wiki), the game has a very large variety of things to invest your time in. Want to become a famous blacksmith? Get an anvil, a set of hammers, and some metal.  You’ll start with a lump of metal that changes its shape depending on where you hit it with the hammer. Want to create the greatest piece of art anyone has ever seen? Sure, go ahead. Want to go to a pub, drink, and smoke weed with your friends? The pub, the wine, the beer, and the hookah for smoking weed are all the result of the hard work of players such as yourself.

If you didn’t already guess it, then ATITD has its focus mainly on three aspects – crafting, socializing, and creativity. It does this by giving you access to tools of the trade, but you won’t be able to modify landscape to suit your needs, and you won’t be flying around in a spaceship you designed. Instead, you get a massive amount of crafting skills, each of which with its own mechanics, crafting tricks, and so on.

The goal of the developers has been simple – to create a gameworld that would be as similar to life in Ancient Egypt as possible. When brewing wine, you get to choose where to grow your grapes and how long you’ll let it age. When growing papyrus, you throw the seeds into a river and then run to reach a place where the seeds sprung. Just another day in Egypt.

Now for a more technical description.

  • The graphics in A Tale in the Desert are somewhat outdated, although they do have their charm. However, if you are on the lookout for something that would push your latest GTX card to its limits – this may not be the game for you.
  • There is not much character customization, and you are limited to one character per account. You can use only a set of models for bodies, clothes, etc (there’s some variety in it though). You won’t be able to adjust the shape of your jaw, the color of your hair, or the size of your biceps. However, you can re-customize your character using the existing options any time you want.
  • The first 24 hours of gametime are free. You can split the time anyway you want – if you play one hour a day, your free trial will last 24 days. After that, the game will become pay-to-play – $11.95 per month. Payment can be done via credit card, PayPal, or even bitcoins.
  • The community is very friendly, helpful, and cooperative. The game has a very steep learning curve, but the playerbase has spent a decade on creating an extremely in-depth wiki at www.atitd.org that remedies the issue. In game there are entire guilds dedicated to helping new players grow.
  • The feature that most helps with the “huge empty gameworld” issue is that you can join any number of guilds with the same character at the same time. You can be in 10+ guilds, each with their own chat tab. Some guilds work as a chatroom, others have people building and sharing together, and some guilds have only discussions about a specific skill. If you’ve ever been on Facebook, the group and chat features may seem familiar.
  • There is an abundance of very well thought out skills. Nearly all of them relate to what is traditionally considered “crafting”. A skill will give you simply the ability to use the necessary tools, mastering the tools is another story. The skills are in two categories – “technologies” and “skills”. Skills can be learnt by anyone by paying a school some required items – for example, 10 fish. In comparison, a technology could require 5000 fish and 3000 bricks to open. Anyone can contribute by donating some of the items for opening the technology, but once it’s done – the technology will become freely available for everyone until the end of Telling.

In addition to skills, the game has seven categories of Tests that provide even more content. Art tests give you access to new tools of creation, Body tests will provide you goals for when running around, and so on. Tests have checklists of tasks, providing some ingame goals; working on tests is the main way of gaining levels.

With an abundance of skills and features , each different from the rest, everyone can find their niche. There are people who specialize in producing silk or wine, and others who are great blacksmiths or renowned glassmakers. I have played off-and-on since 2006. I have yet to master half the skills of this game, yet I know I will have a good time whenever I log in even without them.

Final Score

7.8

Pros
 
 No combat; hundreds of unique crafting skills and features
 Great and helpful community
 Vast interactive gameworld to discover and explore
 Not possible to pay to win
 Players can suggest and vote on
Cons
 
 No combat or goals provided by NPCs
 Steep learning curve
 Outdated graphics
 Monthly cost $11.95
 
 
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7.8
Avg. User Rating: 7.4
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