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Choose My Adventure: Saying goodbye to A Tale in the Desert

Karen Bryan

Last week, you advised me to branch out and explore, and that turned out to be the perfect choice, particularly because this is my final article on A Tale in the Desert for Choose My Adventure. I admit that it caught me off guard, and my six-week stint went a lot more quickly than I expected.

But before I say goodbye, I have some final highlights from my travels, and I have some overall impressions to share before I turn things over to Eliot next week.


I have been saving travel time thanks to the offline chore system, so I had plenty to spend for one last tour through Egypt before my adventure ended. The offline chore system is a nice way to make tedious tasks less so, and while you start off with only the ability to collect travel time at chariot hubs, you can add chores to your list by reaching milestones in game. If you rip 500 grass or collect 2500 wood, for example, you can select one of these chores as your offline skill, and you'll accumulate that resource while you're logged off.

I wanted to see as many areas as I could without wasting too much time running aimlessly through empty deserts. Based on what I could recall about Ancient Egypt, I just had to see Old Egypt and the Valley of the Kings. I just skimmed the tip of the iceberg, but what I have come to appreciate are the impressive settlements that have been constructed by players. I liked the layout of the well-populated settlement in River Plains where I built my home, but the ones I saw outside of town show an eye for city planning, while others show a sense of humor. I was drawn to one in particular in the Valley of the Kings because on the map it resembled a Pharaoh holding up a giant hand. Players apparently altered the terrain so that it appeared that way on the map, similar to the lines of Nazca. I wish I had been able to work on increasing my speed more for the trip, but in the end it was worth it.

A new Demi-Pharaoh is crowned

Each month in game, there's an election that's tied to the Test of the Demi-Pharaoh. Players can petition to have their names included on a ballot, and a Demi-Pharaoh Jury will conduct multiple rounds of voting until they reduce the pool down to a final group, and then the general public votes on one overall winner. According to the announcement this past week, the vote participation was the highest yet in this telling.

Choose My Adventure  Saying goodbye to A Tale in the Desert
From what I've learned, if a player wins an election, he's given the title Oracle of One and becomes a Demi-Pharaoh. He's responsible for helping to watch over Egypt, and with that responsibility comes the power to dole out player bans. He can exile up to seven players from the game, which means they cannot log back in until the next telling. However, if he abuses his power and exiles innocent people, he will probably pay a price when the next Demi-Pharaoh is chosen, who can turn around and exile him. There are no hard rules on what a Demi-Pharaoh has to do, but the social rules seem to indicate that the he should make sure to rule fairly and look out for the well-being of the community.

Out of curiosity, I looked up the last time someone was exiled in game, and there actually were a handful of players in this telling. But just as I began to worry about the game containing more griefers than I thought, I discovered all of them seemed to be friends or alts of one notorious griefer who was abusive in chat and was building on top of people's property. In fact, this one player even spelled out sexually offensive words in two players' camps. The Demi-Pharaoh at the time decided to open votes to exile the main culprit as well as his ring of co-conspirators, and removed all of them from this calling. On the bright side, this took place over a year ago, and the incidents were recorded on the wiki in order to preserve full transparency. As an aside, I love the fact that the wiki isn't just a game resource; it's actually a historical document of the game.

Overall, I don't get the sense that the political system is full of intrigue and power plays -- on the contrary, I sense that those elected to the position of power take it seriously and do it out of a sense of loyalty to the other players, not because they want to rule with an iron fist and eradicate enemies. So long live our newly elected Demi-Pharaoh, Renard!

Choose My Adventure  Saying goodbye to A Tale in the Desert
A mature sandbox

Based on the time I have spent in game, I've long since realized ATITD doesn't have the most cutting edge graphics, but I feel that they still have a style to them that grows on you. At times, though, the UI was clunky and not always clear, so if you don't like leaning heavily on the wiki, you might get frustrated. It's an older game, so you have to take that into consideration when looking at it in a sea of new releases and high-tech design.

On the other hand, if you're looking for a game with a fantastic community, this would be at the top of the list. In fact, I wouldn't recommend the game unless you're someone who's looking to socialize and interact with others because if you try to stay solo in this game, you're really missing out. The best way I can describe it is that MMOs have two main parts to them: the game and the people. Some of the recent, larger MMOs look gorgeous but often feel like a big city, and it's not always easy to connect and make ties with others as a result. They have amazing graphics and complex gameplay, but they lack the small-town community feel.

A Tale in the Desert has a healthy population from what I saw, but what makes it shine isn't the volume of players (you won't often run into a crowd of more than a handful or so unless it's an organized event or player-run activity). What sets it apart is the world that's there, and the ability to interact and make connections with some helpful and friendly players. In a way, I preferred the quiet clusters of players I came across because even though they are fewer in number than those mega herds that you see at central hubs in larger MMOs, I know that they're not bots or lingering AFKers. During my stay for CMA, I actually met two distinct communities in ATITD: the active player community in-game and the veterans who no longer play but still connect with each other daily in the chat channel on the official site. It says a lot that a game can foster a community that transcends the game while still forging on to include an active community that's as devoted as ever to playing.

One reader asked me a few weeks ago for my overall impression, and while I normally hesitate to do reviews, I would say it's well worth checking out if you're looking for a sandbox with a great community and don't mind that the game shows its age. I felt I got my money's worth from the monthly subscription, and I plan on extending it after the column wraps up because there's still more I want to see, but more importantly, because I want to continue to connect with the players I've met along the way.

Thanks again for selecting A Tale in the Desert, and thank you for helping to choose my adventure!

Join Karen on an adventure of your choosing! She's used to calling the shots, but in this Choose My Adventure, she's putty in your hands and ready to follow your whim. It's up to you to chart her course and join in on the fun! Follow Karen on Twitter for playtimes and updates, and come back each week to decide her fate.

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