Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Sandbox Challenge: A Tale in The Desert Scored

You know the saying ‘if you can’t say anything good, don’t say anything at all’? If that was really the case the news industry, and perhaps the blogging world, might be out of things to say on a regular basis. If we could only say or read good things maybe we’d be generally happier but as it stands we love to hear and read gloomy news and dire predictions. Today’s review will not disappoint.

I’m actually not going to be too harsh on A Tale- I don’t have the heart. I am going to be fair because I realize it is an older niche game, with a small-following and that it just wasn’t the game for me. With that wonderful introduction then, lets get to it!

Learning Curve: 3/5


There is an introductory tutorial which will get you on your way and let you get accustomed to the UI and the game concepts. It only lasts 15 minutes but there is also a beginning test (quest) which will start you off on the basic crafting elements in the game.

Online Community: 4/5

Above Average

I only had a few interactions with the community but they were all positive. When I first logged in a player came over to say hello and welcome me to the game. I also had a few pm’s from players willing to help, and noted that general chat was pleasant and welcoming to new players.

Crafting: 4/5

Above Average

What can I say? This is a crafting game. The crafting is complex in that there are several stages involved before you get your final product. The problem is that the process of collecting the materials required is fairly dull and that does take away from the enjoyment and progression of the crafting system. 

Economy: 2/5

Below Average

I couldn’t actually find an economy but I’m putting that down to the fact that I didn’t play the game for very long, and that the player population is quite low. I’m hoping there is an economy present because why the heck else would you bother crafting all that stuff? There are no npc traders or auction house type of player-based trading which I think lets the game down. If you could easily purchase the materials you need for crafting, or at least trade for them, the game might be less tedious.

Setting: 3/5


Its Egypt. It’s sandy. It has a river. I’m giving this an average score because of the games age, which is to say I’m being kind. Egypt is Egypt- what more can I say? It’s not an elaborately done world but you do realize you’re not in Kansas anymore.

Immersion: 2.5/5

Average -

I found that I became immersed in what I was doing (crafting, gathering, etc) but that doesn’t necessarily mean I was immersed in the game as a whole. I found myself wondering: what’s the point of all this? Who am I, and why am I here. There is no character background and no role-playing elements so in the end I was just ‘playing the game’.

Freedom: 3.5/5

Average +

Within the limits of the game (of which I was aware of when I started) there is a decent amount of freedom. You can choose where you wish to settle, how to design your compound, what to craft, and what tests to take and complete. There isn’t the freedom to start trade routes (something I think the game is missing), shops (player numbers are too low), or to do much outside of crafting. That said, it is a crafting game with no combat and that shouldn’t be a surprise when starting.

Combat: 3/5


Yes, I know there is no combat in this game but (so far) it is unique in this respect so for the sake of scoring I just gave it an ‘average’. You could consider the political aspect of the game (making laws, getting players to vote for you, etc) to be a form of combat (or pvp) but I didn’t get into any of that so I can’t comment.

Interface: 3.5/5

Average +

I had no problems with using the interface and I really did like the way the mouse and keyboard combined to make things easier. You could point to your flax crop and right click to get the options, or just hover and press ‘h’ to harvest. Simple but effective- something a lot of newer games can’t say for themselves (Xsyon, again, are you listening).

Fun: 1.5/5

Below Average

It is likely pretty obvious from my posts that I didn’t have a whole lot of fun playing this game. You could consider this score a reverse measure of my disappointment. I had high hopes for a crafting only game and jumped into it ready and willing to try something new. Unfortunately this game gets bogged down in the ‘mini-game’ which is boring as hell. Syncaine mentioned how ‘mini-games’ can be pointless and I agree. I’d rather actually play a mini-game like Tetris or something while my grass was being picked. There is nothing remotely interesting, challenging, or fulfilling about picking grass or gathering sand. It all boils down to simple mouse clicks and where’s the fun in that?

I wanted to like this game. I had planned to get into clay mining and pottery production, and I was excited to build my own little workshop in some forgotten corner and enjoy life in Egypt. The lack of an apparent economy is another drawback. Why bother with all of this crafting? What’s the point? The game played like a RTS game rather than an MMO and to be honest I had more fun with the crafting/trade in a game like Caesar III, or Dawn of Discovery: Anno 1404 I did here.

The game conspires to make itself boring for no good reason and I think that’s a real shame because they surely had a great idea, good intentions, and whole lot of guts to make a game without questing or combat.

Final Score: 61%


  1. If only they had called it Tale in the Sand we could call it TITS and giggle a bit and take some pleasure from that.


  2. Gankalicious, he plays the games so we don't have to. :)