For the last month I have been addicted to it.
It has swallowed hours of my life and left me exhausted and blurry eyed. My phone bills have gone through the roof. My skin has turned an even whiter shade of pale.
It is? Asheron's Call...
My official excuse for playing it so much is that I'm supposed to be reviewing Asheron's Call for EuroGamer. Unfortunately this excuse is rapidly wearing thin with my bosses.
You see, Asheron's Call isn't actually due for release in Europe for a few weeks yet, and the pusher who gave me this digital drug at a press event in London didn't want me to post a review of it until closer to the time it is released on to the unsuspecting public of this green and pleasant land.
And so to give me a new excuse to tide me over until it is time to review the game properly, here is my Dereth Diary, a look at what goes on in the world of Asheron's Call from the eyes of a newbie player.
"Part One : In which Gestalt arrives in the world of Dereth and pursues his love of nature"
Any similarities to real events or persons living or dead is purely coincidental, yadda yadda yadda...
So was born Gestalt into the world of Dereth...
And on the first day it was cold, and it was raining. Vast sheets of water descended from the heavens, and it seemed as though the whole world were drowning. Even the rabbits looked downcast as they sat nibbling on the sodden grass.
"Hey, this is just like Britain!", Gestalt thought. "But with more rabbits."
Rabbits, as Gestalt soon discovered, are a vital part of Asheron's Call. Why? Because they are the only thing which can not kill you when you first enter the world, armed as you are with a "practice" weapon which has all the offensive capabilities of a blunt teaspoon.
And so it was that Gestalt became known as Gestalt The Rabbit Slayer, as he fearlessly smited (smote?) his way through the rodent population of Dereth. He hunted Black Rabbits in the Aluvian forests. He decimated the Brown Rabbits of the Sho plains. And he slew the fearsome Desert Rabbits of the Gharu'ndim wastelands.
And eventually in this fashion he reached Level Two, and there was much rejoicing.
Unfortunately, although rabbits are an easy source of experience and relatively harmless combat practice for budding warriors, they are lacking in one respect. Rabbits are not known for their vast treasures...
And so it was time to move on to larger prey.
The next step up the evolutionary ladder of Asheron's Call is the Drudge, Dereth's answer to the common or garden goblin. Drudges are short pale-skinned creatures, with pointed ears and big eyes, and the most feeble of them (known as Drudge Skulkers) are little threat to life or limb for even the most inexperienced of players.
Sadly when killed they usually drop only food - bread, cheese, eggs, and sometimes cabbages, or even mushrooms if you are really lucky. None of which are particularly valuable on the wider scale of things, although they do make a nice healthy between-battles snack if you are feeling a bit peckish.
But Gestalt persisted, and before long his Drudge slaying exploits had helped him to reach the lofty heights of Level Three.
And there was much rejoicing.
The Dereth Cookbook
Luckily Gestalt's rabbit hunting was not to be disturbed by the need for cold hard currency (known as "pyreals" in these parts) for long.
Walking into a shop to sell his meager rewards from slaughtering a number of Drudges, Gestalt was amazed to find 1000 pyreals sitting in a tidy little pile on the floor near the shopkeeper.
Since there was nobody around to claim the coins, and neither was there a lost property office in the vicinity, Gestalt fearlessly filched the money.
Now he could afford a real weapon, a man's weapon .. well, a short sword anyway. Still, a vast improvement over the practice weapon which he had been lumbered with thus far. His new found wealth even stretched to a fetching matched set of leather armour and .. a cooking pot.
For Gestalt was much skilled in the art of home cooking, having earlier purchased an Aluvian Cookbook from a friendly barkeeper he had met along his travels. And so it was that he sat down in the woods and cooked himself a mushroom stew and some apple pie.
And there was much rejoicing.
Until he realised that his new found culinary excellence was sadly worthless, as the results of his cooking were barely more valuable than the raw food that had gone into the pot in the first place.
"Curse you!" he cried, and ran through the woods to the sound of squeaking rabbits.
John "Gestalt" Bye