Darkfall: Progression and Sieging
It's been a little over 2 months since I have rerolled fresh on Darkfall's NA server, and almost a year since the game's initial launch. Today I want to just give my thoughts on character progression, take a more in-depth look at how the new siege mechanics are playing out from the last expansion.
At the time of my last write-up, I was about 2 weeks into playing my new character. Now that I am past the 2 month mark, I want to talk about the progression my character has made to help give people a rough idea on rate of character development. Let me preface this by saying that everyone develops at different speeds, and even in my own guild there are wild differences in some of these areas between my friends. Since everything you do in Darkfall seems to raise something, results are bound to vary based how time was spent in game, as well as the amount of time played. I've played pretty actively, logging in pretty much daily for several hours at a time. Your results may vary depending on how much you play and how your time is spent in-game, this is just a snapshot of where I am personally at this stage to help give a general idea.
Let's start off by taking a look at where my stats are currently after about 10 weeks of playing, and compare it to where I was at my second week of playing. The 10 week stats factor in me having a +4 Vitality quest title enabled. I decided to focus on my archery skills and magic skills pretty heavily over my melee. This path combined with the fact that I did not spend nearly as much time harvesting as my guildmates shows why my Strength and Wisdom are dragging behind. Some of my friends who took a more melee oriented approach have much higher strength and vitality, and as a result more HP than me.
My heavy focus on Archery initially has made Dexterity one of my higher stats, and since shooting bows also seems to raise Vitality to a lesser degree, there is a substantial gap between my Vitality and Strength. Archery has been an extremely useful tool for PvE, and seems to be the fastest path to doing damage in PvP for a newer player. Compared to magic, archery is relatively cheap skill to work on with the cost of arrows being low, and many of the lower end monsters dropping arrows. All of these factors made me want to get maxed out here early on, and it has been a boon for my ability to farm cash from some harder monsters as well as being more useful on the battlefield.
I decided early on that magic was going to be another priority for me because of the utility of tools it gives you in terms of buffs, damage, and healing. The problem I had initially was trying to decide on which schools to focus on. This indecision on my part led to me leveling up some of the elemental schools to mid range while I tried to decide what exactly I wanted to do, and as a result my Intelligence climbed to being my highest stat. Ultimately I ended up focusing my efforts on Necromancy just because I wanted try a school of magic the rest of my friends hadn't really delved into.
The speed at which skills raise above 50 slows down a fair amount, and even more so at 75. This can make reaching some of your skills goals pretty grindy in some cases. The good news is that skills raise substantially faster when used on monsters, but for a magic school like spell chanting (focusing heavily buffs) you really aren't able to take advantage of this in a practical way since it makes little sense to buff a monster. I wouldn't mind seeing some of the skills get a slight increase in leveling speed in the 50+ range.
Overall in terms of feedback in this area, I think I'd still like to see stats raise a bit faster up until around 40 to help newer player catch up a little bit, although I recognize there are many who would argue that it is fine the way it is. One of the main concerns expressed from potential and newer players is the amount of time it takes to become "viable", and I think increasing the stat gain at the lower end will help curtail those concerns to a degree. That being said, my guild of mostly rerolled characters has our fair share of wins when we travel together as a group. I'd definitely recommend new players take the time to watch the "Accelerated Character Development" videos that outline a path to getting key skills as efficiently as possible.
Siege Mechanic Feedback
I glossed over the new siege mechanics in my previous article because at the time I had not experienced it enough first-hand to feel confident enough to be able to talk about it. During my time playing, I have had a front row seat in the Mercenary Wars that have been taking place on the NA server, which some would argue is the server's first world war.
In a lot of ways I think I like the overall direction of the new system compared to the old one. Specifically the new system doesn't allow for a siege to hinge on a single person's connection, an issue which was responsible for a lot of sieges being completely wasted under the old system. The new system also gives people enough time to make preparations inside and outside of the game to prevent a holding being ninja'ed in off-hours. As someone who used to own a hamlet when the game first released, I was constantly nervous that I could wake up on any given morning to find us not owning it anymore. These key changes are definitely a step in the right direction, but there is always room for improvement.
To help broaden my perspective on areas of the new system that could use improvement, I turned to players in the alliance leadership of the opposing sides in the recent world war. Since the bulk of the sieges under the new system have been in some way related to their conflict, and considering they have been hired to get involved in sieges outside of their own war, they seemed like a good source for extra feedback in this area.
The mechanic for "bind kicking" players bound at a holding has been a heated topic of conversations lately. The current mechanic for kicking a clan member off your holding bindstone can be used as a fast means of transportation. A clan leader can kick a member off of one holding, and retroactively bind them at another holding owned by their clan across the world. I believe this to go against one of the game's basic principals in regards to the difficulty of travel, and it also allows clans with multiple holdings to have a massive advantage that I am not sure was intended. As a result of this, some of the more active clans are able to meddle in the affairs of others across the world with relative ease and without the risk and time of traveling. Instead of being able to be kicked from one holding to another, players who are kicked from a clan's bindstone should instead be retroactively bound to the closest chaos stone in order to prevent it being used as a means of super transportation. This will also help conflicts stay more localized and regional in my opinion.
On the topic of localized conflict, one of the changes in the new siege system is that notifications regarding attack windows are broadcasted server-wide. This tends to turn sieges into a magnet for third-party forces to come interfere knowing that they will likely find lots of geared people on the battlefield. It could easily be argued that this may not necessarily be a bad thing, and it may be the intention of the broadcast, but combined with the bindkicking abuse, it can really empower certain clans to get involved in literally everything with minimal risk and time invested. If the bind kick gets fixed this probably wouldn't be as much of an issue, but right now it makes the stronger clans with multiple holdings across the world able to cause gridlock in the conquest system by constantly being able to easily interfere in everything no matter how far from home it is.
One of the features of the new system is that one of the methods for declaring a siege involves dropping a stone on the ground within a certain radius of the holding being contested. These stones replace the previous mechanic that had sieges hinging on a single person's connection, and in addition they can act as bindstones for the attackers to set up a forward base of operations. The problem is that if an attacking player opts to bind at these stones and is killed in the field, they are pretty much screwed when they respawn at these stones because there is no bank for them to be able to regear. Respawning near the battle naked doesn't really do a lot of good considering the odds are that your body is unrecoverable or looted. I would suggest adding some sort of mobile siege bank that could be destroyed to make these more viable as binds (maybe can only be dropped within a few meters of a siege stone, but not right outside of the holding). Since these are often time viewed useless as a bind, it can make it overly tough for an attacking force to overwhelm a massive defending force who has the luxury of a bank to regear. Allowing allies of the attacking guild to bind at these stones would add some value as well, especially considering all of the defender's allies are able to bind in the city.
This leads me to the next issue. One beef relayed to me by the alliance leaders was the fact that once a siege has been declared, the defender can ally up anyone they want to jam pack their holdings bindstone with upwards of 200 people. Combined with the above current siegestone mechanic, this can put the attackers in an almost impossible position when trying to take a city. If that holding all of a sudden has 200 active people bound there because the owners allied half the server, it can be near impossible to fight against such a large number of newly bound outsiders who can regear and respawn on site. A suggestion to curtail this would be to not allow a clans to ally up while under a siege. This enables them to still use diplomacy to get assistance without giving an unfair advantage to a defender who already has innate benefits in a siege situation.
Another minor issued brought up to me was the in regards to the usefulness of cannons given the cost it takes to construct them. Cannons only have a very limited number of shots before they become rendered useless, and once they are dropped they are effectively gone forever. Given the cost of making cannons, the alliance leaders suggest that the amount of ammo in the cannons be considered for an increase (doubled or tripled) to make their value more in line with the cost to build them.
The final suggestion from the alliance leaders would be to implement some sort of mechanic for a clan to transfer ownership of a holding to another without having to go through a fake siege. With all the wheeling and dealing in Darkfall, it has become a common for clans to want to pass ownership or sell one of their holdings. It would be nice for everyone involved if there was some kind of mechanic in place for a clan leader to transfer ownership to another without going through the hassle of the current system.
The increased rate of character development make Darkfall much more appealing now than it was back when it launched almost a year ago. Aventurine seems to be making strides to improve the new player experience, and seems to have a lot planned for it's second year. The character advancement speed could be a bit better in some areas, but a unique and rewarding experience awaits the new players who have the courage to take the plunge. The new siege system is a step in the right direction, and recent patches has squashed a lot of the virtual memory errors that plagued some users during the more epic battles. As long as Aventurine listens to feedback from its players, I see no reason why Darkfall won't continue to grow as it is continues to offer a unique gaming experience that has been lost in a sea of copycat theme park titles.
Co-Leader of Inquisition