I started mudding on a DikuMUD some time ago; was on the build team, and a avid player. Since the playerbase there died, I'd been searching for a new, enjoyable one for around 8 years. Friend of mine introduced me to the Cleft in 2004, and I was hooked.
The play style, and code base were extremely similar, so I felt right at home. The staff is supportive, there are newbie-friendly areas that are simple to get to, even if you've never played before. The other players are willing to help you out, as long as you're willing to help yourself. And if you're just there to whine and complain that it's nothing like where you came from, you're promptly told where the door is, and how to get back there. This is a GOOD thing, in my book, as it keeps the community tight, but not in the 'no outsiders D<' way that other small communities sometimes do.
Gameplay itself is enjoyable. The theme is, it's an amalgamation of almost every RPG in existence, bunched together here in the Cleft. So, you get a nice wave of nostalgia in every area, if you're familiar with the game it was spawned from. And, if you're not, then it's a good excuse to play a good game to figure out where the reference is.
Races and classes are well balanced, and cover a wide variety. I'm partial towards thieves, but they are a dime a dozen. The original classes, like Summoners, and Geomancers are a nice draw to this MUD. Certain classes and races are better suited to each other, but if you don't want to be a cookie cutter character, any pairing is feasible and not impossible to play. Some combinations are extremely challenging to start with, and develop into very powerful entities by the time you hit high level.
8/10 rating, for sure. I'm very fond of the Cleft, and whenever anyone mentions mudding, or a liking for text-based games, I'm quick to recommend it. And I still do. Drop in, make a character, don't be a complete jerk, and you'll find a very rewarding gaming experience waiting on you.
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