1. Shard Website: This is one of the best layouts that I have seen, and I
have seen many layouts. It is clear, easily traversed without lots of confusing links. The
rules have a separate section and are well written and easily understood. It even has
separate sections on applying and on guilds. There are only two sections missing from this
site that I have seen on some other sites.
I would love to have seen some discussion of
the differences between this site and that of OSI shards other than weapon and armor
differences. For example, Bardic skills don't work there, yet nowhere is anything
published to this effect. There are some other major differences that also are unpublished
such as greatly speeded up monsters, attribute caps that go to 130 for strength, dexterity
and intelligence etc. The site doesn't need to be exhaustive, but there are a lot of
unpublished differences that materially affect performance and play style.
The second section that I would have loved to see that would make this site
"ideal" would be a strategy section. There was some good discussion on armor but
they need more on this as well as on mining statistics and ore, blacksmith levels and
items, tinkering levels and items etc. A more thorough discussion of strategies would have
also been nice. Overall, however, this site is reasonably thorough and very clear and easy
to use. I rate it a 9.
2. Shard Application Process: I liked the ease of finding where to
download all required files. They even had a downloadable login.cfg file. Many shards
require that you edit your login.cfg, which is somewhat more unwieldy that simply
downloading the file as is done here.
Although it was very easy to find which files should be downloaded, the password given
was hard to understand. They use a variety of letters and numbers that sometimes are
easily confused with other figures. They should allow players to name their own password
and login name at the beginning. To their credit, however, a player may change the
password after logging in. They also have a way to play on either this shard or to
continue on OSI shards without having to recopy the client or login files, which was a
very nice addition. Overall, I give them a 9.
3. Shard Itself: Although I have not been everywhere on the shard,
each area that I visited seemed especially complete. Shops are fully staffed, and most
areas have monsters that are spawned. All areas that I visited were accessible making this
a complete world.
One notable aspect of this shard is the unique scripts involved. The GM and Owner,
Zulu, is one of the best scripters around. There are whopping 37 different armors! There
are numerous weapons and even poison bows that allow poison arrows. In fact, there are
more and varied types of weapons and armor than on any other shard that I have visited.
They even have new spells such as necromantic spells. There are even more types of
monsters than I have seen on most shards. Boredom due to lack of variety is not a problem
here. To the credit of the GMs, they are also constantly improving the shard and adding
new items and changes. For example, fishing can now bring up magic items if you have a
high fishing skill. There are many other unique differences about this shard that you will
not see in most other shards that are too numerous to mention in this review. Suffice it
to say that as a reviewer, I was very impressed.
Importantly, this shard has numerous quests, both player run and shard wide that also
add to the allure. Although I would have preferred daily quests or events. Since it is a
mature shard, being over one-year old, there are numerous guilds that inhabit the land.
Players should easily find one to their liking.
Macroing is allowed although only from 2AM to 10AM Est. Skill development equals that
of OSI shards and maybe a bit faster. Be warned that many areas allow player killing. The
only exceptions are in towns, and in newbie dungeon. Thus, this shard is like OSI before
they split into two facets. New players (newbies) should be especially careful since there
is no special protection for them. If you are very against player killing, this may not be
There is no skill cap limits. All skills can reach 100 regardless of class or
profession and the total attribute limits for each of strength, dexterity, and
intelligence is a whopping 130.
Training only goes to about 30, which is the same as OSI. I personally would have liked
all training to go to at least 50. This would slow down some of the tedium of building
skills. I also personally like faster skill development rates. Not enough to GM everything
in a week, but a little faster than OSI.
Problems with Shard: With all these wonderful things going for Zuluhotel, you would
think that as a reviewer, I would give it a 10. However, in my opinion, they have a major
problem and have two major design flaws.
The problem is that they are a victim of their own success. They are among the largest
of the player run shards having over several thousand accounts. They also don't limit new
accounts. Upon reading their message boards, the top complaints are severe lag and
crashes. Although I haven't experienced the lag problems that most players had, the shard
does lag. This is especially true if you don't live near the server, which is in Calgary
Canada. It also crashes more than I am comfortable with. They really need to stop the
inflow of new accounts until some players leave.
The first major design flaw is that to make up for the higher attribute limits, the GMs
wanted to make the monsters harder. This is fine except that the way that they did it was
to greatly speed up the monsters, and I'm not kidding when I say this. Zombies and Ettins
who are normally slow and lumbering move very quickly. Other monsters move like lightning.
I had a cow that could keep up with me even when I was on horseback. When injured, the
monsters move even faster. An injured cow actually outran my horse! This makes it very
difficult for archers and mages. In fact, with high dexterity (80s), I couldn't get off
one arrow without the monsters being on me! In my opinion, this is unacceptable! Archers
at this level should always be able to get off at least one shot and preferably two. Mages
also have a tough time, but not as tough as archers. Thus, this shard is great if you want
to be primarily a melee fighter only! Players have resorted to artificial means such as
casting wall to cage the monsters in and other "non-natural" tactics that should
not have been necessary if the shard only kept the speed at which OSI has. This was a very
stupid design flaw and should be remedied.
The second flaw is that the shard disconnected the ability to use bardic skills. In
most shards, Bardic skills don't work, which is too bad because they add a lot of variety
and spice to the shard. Here they could work but were taken offline because players were
enticing NPCs to areas where they could be killed. Somehow a better way should have been
found to handle this problem, such as banning players who commit such acts.
Overall, I give the shard an 8.5 because of these problems.
4. Shard Staff: The staff was top notch. They were available when
pages at various hours, helpful and friendly. I was stuck as a result of a bug and a staff
member helped me quickly. I also tried to get extra items and skills in order to see what
they would do; and to their credit, did not grant me anything that I didn't deserve. My
only complaints is that on some shards, the GMs have literally daily quests such as
monster invasions, hunts etc. They had fewer here probably because of having to control so
many players. Overall, I give the staff a 9.
5. Shard Players: When I entered the shard, I was basically ignored by
almost everyone. I guess that with all the new players, there are too many newbies to
worry about or even to take notice of. However, after a while, I found the players, for
the most part, friendly and helpful. However, as in most shards that allow player killing,
there are some percentage of people who shouldn't be here. There are constant complaints
on the message boards of players being killed and looted or being repeatedly killed. I
guess that the players here are no different from that of other PK shards.
Role-playing is encouraged, but sadly is not undertaken by most players or even
enforced. I didn't, however, notice a lot of profanity, which is one main benefit of this
shard. Not that they enforce it ruthlessly as other shards have done, but the players
don't use that much profanity. Overall, I give the players a 7.
The bottom line: This is a very interesting shard that is constantly trying to be
improved. It has good GMs, but need more of them for the problem players and for the large
number of newbies. I only wish that they allowed training to a higher level, limited
enrollment and slowed down the monsters considerably and allowed barding. It would then be
one of the best, if not the best, free shards around.
The author, Sandy Botkin is a syndicated writer for many home-based business magazines,
a national lecturer in the field of tax planning for home-based business and appears on
numerous syndicated radio shows. He also has written numerous articles, as his hobby, on
games and on gaming strategies.