A Tale in the Desert V is a non-combat crafting paradise. That might sound a little strange, but the developers encourage players to work together to accomplish bigger and better things, making them feel as though they are part of a community. I have tried the game at different times over the years but never really became more than a visitor. I was glad to be given the opportunity to check it out, but even after a week I still feel like I have barely scratched the surface. I have emerged from the tutorial a smarter citizen, but I know that around the corner, greater challenges wait.
The game is not without its flaws, however, although many of the issues might fade as systems and controls become more apparent. Still, I found myself a little frustrated when the game asked me to sit and literally watch grass grow. I did it, though, and found an odd game, filled with mysteries. In a good way, of course.
There is an interesting concept behind A Tale in the Desert V: You are dropped into the middle of a desert, with nothing but a basic guide to help you. I decided to follow the process that was laid out for me and soon found myself marking items off of a long checklist. To be honest, I wasn't sure I would ever finish. Soon, though, I was planting flax seeds, picking up grass, and making bricks. I noticed world items that I do not remember from the last time I played the game (a year or more earlier?) such as fencing. There were buildings as well, taunting me and my measly brick racks. I wondered how soon it would be until I would own a mighty home also! A neighbor of mine even flaunted a pair of camels! I felt like such an amateur.
While I was on, however, I rarely saw that neighbor, or other players as well. It is very possible that they were away during my daytime play sessions. Even then, the few people I saw were either running in the distance or, in the case of one strange player, inviting me to view some sort of document. Once I closed the document (which seemed to "compare" our accomplishments), she sent me a private message asking me why I "did not feel like voting." Unfortunately, I had no idea how to respond.
The game is great at making you feel lost, in both good and bad ways. I admit to feeling a sense of wonder, alongside a sense of dread, as I looked over the landscape to see the plots belonging to other players. Obviously there would be great things to achieve in the game, but at a cost. I couldn't help but wonder if most of the players had returned from previous "chapters" of the game, which would explain their advanced knowledge. I felt excited by the mystery of what lies ahead but a little down about the fact that it would require a great, great deal of work.
But, I kept my chin up and kept working. When it got down to it, the "become a citizen" quest was not as much work as I had thought, and I had fun seeing my little camp grow. The tasks were also simpler than I thought they would be, and assembly was fun. Some crating tools were a little strange, such as a distaff that was made up of rope and parts that I didn't have before assembling it, but the animations were neat.
I would love to see the new player experience more involved with the rest of the playerbase. I saw hardly anyone most of the time I played -- it felt like everyone else was participating in the party while I was stuck in the kitchen cleaning up. Granted, I did take a few random teleports until I found a nice little area to set up camp in, so I might have missed out on busier or more populated areas.
So, to sum up my newbie experience: I learned how to make the basic items needed for survival, met a neighbor of mine, and quickly became very jealous of her achievements. Don't get me wrong; I enjoyed my time in the game, but I would just like to tweak a few small things to improve it. The UI could definitely use some love, particularly the text-based inventory. Despite feeling authentic, the game will win no awards for graphics. I'm hoping that I get a chance to participate in more community-based projects soon, since I will be leaving it on my hard drive. A Tale in the Desert V is a very unique game, and it should be applauded for that. Just be aware that if you are not a crafter at heart then you might not enjoy it. Of course, even then you should try it -- after all, if we don't take chances on unique games, unique games fade away.
Next week, to celebrate Alganon going free-to-play-ish, we will be taking a look at it. I've already been enjoying it for a while and have covered the re-release, but I think it deserves a second (or third?) look. After all, the developers are claiming that the game can be played "without having to spend a single penny," so what have you got to lose? Join me on the Adrios server; my name is Beaugh.
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Each week Rise and Shiny asks you to download and try a different free-to-play, indie or unusual game, chosen by me, Beau Hindman. Some of the games will be far out of your gaming comfort zone, and some will pleasantly surprise you. We will meet each Tuesday and Friday night at 9 p.m. EDT (8 p.m. CDT), followed by this column the Sunday after. I welcome any suggestions for games, either in the comments or at firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter me @Beau_Hindman or follow me on Raptr!