I have been playing Darker Realms for about one year now, and although I have taken some long breaks, I eventually find myself back at it. My highest character is level 13 (not too good =p), but it would be probably nowhere if DR wasn't so newbie friendly.
The first thing I found lovely about the game was the character creation. You enter a name, a password, and your sex, then you start playing. I had only tried one MUD before DR (can't recall the name) which had a ridiculously long creation screen, especially if you have never mudded before and have no idea about what Race, Sub-race, Sub- sub race, class, sub-class, etc. to chose. You chose your guild ('class') as you play the game and become familiar with how to play it. There are two newbie areas in the game, as well as several puzzles that can be done for experience. High level players have also been friendly and willing to help get those first few levels.
I briefly mentioned guilds above. Guilds are basically what another RPG might call a 'class', your stats and abilities (even the way you talk in some) change when you join one. Other than the Alchemist's guild, which is actually on the Newland-town map, they all require you to find the hidden guild hall before joining it. Some guilds require a quest, others require a fee to join. There are 7 guilds, the Alchemist's, Cybertech's, Mage's, Paladin's, Shape-shifter's, Dragon's, and Barbarian's guild. This is much preferable to the 400+ classes that might be offered by other MUDs, who require you to chose before ever setting foot in the game.
Another thing about Darker Realms that I find attractive is that player advancement is not based solely on killing everything in sight, but also in taking time to solve heroic quests, such as slaying the Minotaur, saving an Explorer from a dragon, or playing Solitaire. These quests often involve role-play, puzzle solving, and exploration. Like guild hall locations, quest solutions are secret, and I have had to been reminded, by others and myself, that quests aren't meant to be solved in 5 minutes, but that just adds to the great satisfaction of solving a quest, and earning quest points.
The Realms consist of beautiful areas, some just begging to be explored. Many are based on literature, which has actually led to me learning of new things (Jabberwocky). There are consistent characters in DR, many of which have no purpose except to annoy people (The Tourist, may 1,000 curses inflict him in his afterlife...wait, he doesn't have one!!!), and others which are just funny (Jivemimic, or should I say JIBEmimic).
Overall, Darker Realms is a large area filled with amazing areas, interesting quests, and an all around friendly and great game which makes me regret every time I return from a ...break.
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