Meridian 59 is a tremendous value for any role-playing gamer looking to engage in a vast and ever-changing 3-D fantasy world populated almost exclusively by real human players. A small monthly fee allows for unlimited play within the nearly boundless land that is Meridian, and it's a land that becomes increasingly attractive with time as the role-playing gamer grows to appreciate its subtleties and to know its citizens.
Meridian 59 looks and sounds awful by the mighty standards of today. Yet while the high-resolution 3-D engine is rudely basic, it is effective: You can clearly distinguish a player character from a monster at 50 meters, and Internet latency will never hinder your movement. You can stare a fellow citizen closely in the eye, distinguishing his facial features and expression easily. Sound is scarce and repetitive but interesting enough, while the soundtrack is a mixed bag of MIDI tunes that sound slightly better from the CD.
Its gameplay and lasting value make Meridian 59 shine. Once past the painless registration, you must determine a handful of ability scores that will shape the course of your character's existence thereafter. A helpful tutorial then reveals many of features of the game system while helping earn you some much-needed experience at the same time. Fighting is as simple as pressing and holding the Control key and watching the on-screen text and graphics reveal the course of the battle, while more advanced features such as trading goods, setting hot keys, and changing facial expression at whim become second nature in time. When in doubt about a game feature, simply ask one of your fellow players, who will provide a cordial response more often than not.
Like most role-playing games, Meridian 59 is in large part all about beefing up your character both with enhanced abilities and fancy equipment. Advancement both in physical ability and magical prowess prove luxuriously slow - do not expect to become a master swordsman in two days' time, or even after several weeks' worth of monster mashing. Meridian 59 demands patience and commitment in order to be truly appreciated.
Meridian 59 is only as good as its population - and that population will assuredly prove an interesting one. Most veterans are very friendly to newcomers and will readily offer some useful goods at the newcomer's humble request. Others will be kind enough to protect your equipment should you be slain, waiting patiently for you to return to the site of the killing. Yet some will not prove as amicable: Though Meridian 59 takes many precautions against online crime, players who thrive on killing other player characters run amok occasionally. And while these individuals may seem terribly irritating at the time, in the long run they serve to enrich the experience even further - for they will come to justice more often than not.
Chances are you haven't played anything quite like Meridian 59 before. If you can swallow your pride and accept its meager aesthetics for what they are, and if you're willing to use your imagination with your games just like you did in the heyday of computer RPGs, then you will find the world of Meridian to be a most enriching place. The smart, sophisticated audience of this game makes for intriguing company, and in light of the small fee required to play, you can take all the time you wish to get to know it.