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Paragus Rants

Rants, reviews, and interviews from an MMO veteran and guild leader.

Author: Paragus1

Review: Darkfall Revisited

Posted by Paragus1 Thursday December 10 2009 at 8:03AM
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Review: Darkfall Revisited

It's been a few months since I last played or wrote about the status of Darkfall and recently a bunch of my guild decided to scout out how the game has progressed in the last few months. With news of the second expansion, we decided to jump back in about a week before Conquer the Seas went live to get an idea of how the game has matured since the NA launch.

What I am going to go here today is gloss over just some of my personal observations on some of the changes that have been added since my last time I played, which was before the first expansion and NA server.  I've noticed a lot of people on various forums and communities asking about what may be different now, so hopefully this will shed some light. I also have to mention that in my return to the game, I have opted to reroll and start a new character from scratch as a different race (Alfar).  This should help add some extra perspective since this will be from the vantage point of what many new players may experience.

 

Skill Gains

Quite possibly the biggest change I noticed in revisiting the game is the ease and speed at which players are able to advance their skills.  During my last tour of duty in Darkfall, the game was plagued with people who would use "blood walls" to gain skills while AFK. One of the most welcome changes is the fact that blood walls are pretty much a thing of the past or drastically diminished.  Aventurine not only changed the speed at which skills are gained, but made it so that many skills will increase up to six times faster in PvE.

As a freshly rolled new character, I was shocked to see how fast my melee, archery, and magic skills were advancing compared to what life was like months ago.  I had never macroed last time I played and I remain determined to never go down that road.  These new changes seemed to have reduced a lot of macro activity drastically because the game now has major incentive for players to go out and PvE instead of macroing inside their cities.
 

To help put this into perspective, I will give some examples of where some of my critical skills were at the end of the first week.  I spent most of my PvE time in the first week fighting goblins and skeletons, both who seem to drop arrows and go down pretty easily.  At the end of the first week, I was able to raise my primary melee skill to a 40, and my archery skill to a 50 just living off of the bows and arrows dropped by these mobs. My lesser magic shot to over 80, and my greater magic to around 50 with a bit of effort. Previously reaching these skill levels without macroing would have taken me upwards of a month or more depending how much time I spent focusing on them.

The only real hurdle I think for new players in terms of character advancement is raising their base stats.  Players who have been around the block a lot longer have a significant advantage here because higher base stats leads to having a higher max HP.  I think I'd like to see them make the stats increase at different speeds depending on how high they are.  As an example, maybe have stats raise much faster between 15-30, then maybe only slightly faster from 30-40, and keep it as is now beyond that.  This could help newer players catch up a bit, but this is just my personal suggestion.


Quests

Who would have thought anyone would have cared about doing quests in Darkfall?  Since the last time I played I have noticed a lot of new quests, especially in the early part of the game experience.  These quests seem to do a nice job at teaching new players some of the basics of the game's fighting, harvesting, and crafting.  They also help give the players some basic tools and cash to help get them going.  Each starter town has the same quests, but new players can travel to each of the towns and do them over again for an added gain.

The most substantial quest addition comes in the form of title quests that are available in every race's capital city.  These quests will have you out fighting literally hundreds of PvE mobs, and reward you with thousands of gold and titles that boost your base stats.  While there is a title for every one of the base stats, you may only have one equipped at a single time.  Upon completion of the basic title quests, players receive followup quests that chain together to get better titles that add even more stats with more cash rewards.

The icing on the cake in this area is that the Conquer the Seas expansion seems to have revamped the in-game quest journal.  The old slow journal was often clunky and awkward to navigate, while the new ones seems to load faster and has a much cleaner look to it.  While Darkfall still remains to be a game that is not heavily quest oriented, it's good to see the journal more user friendly because it a part of the game that new players will probably be interacting a fair amount.


Character Specialization

One of the new aspects of Darkfall that has popped up over the last few months involved new forms of character customization that allows you to tweak various aspects of your character.  While Darkfall has no skill cap, the new system in place still add an element of choice to what type of character you want to play without having to worry about hitting a skill cap.  The character specializations introduced seem to offer way for players to fine tune their magic, melee, and archery in ways that help set them apart from others and fight against certain play styles.

In terms of customizing magic, there is a system in place that lets you tweak the properties of many of the games spells.  Many spells have several different variations that can be purchased for 1000 gold per spell, but you will have to pick a choose because the game only will allow one modification per spell.  Spells can be modified to have their range increased, travel speed increased, or the ability to cast it while jumping.

Archery specializations allow players to pick one special ability from a list that have a variety of effects.  Players can now decide if they want to be able to jump shoot, shoot in water, have increased magic resistance, or do extra damage against casters.  All of these abilities have trade-offs as well such as mana penalties and limited spell access, but the option remains to switch should you want to change your mind.

Finally melee specializations offer players a variety of options to make melee viable as combat method. Players can chose from some mobility related options that allow them to double jump or double tap dodge FPS style, as well as a second group of choices that increase effectiveness against mages or defensive boosts. Melee offers 2 different groups and players are allowed to chose only one from each forcing them to decide which route they want to take.


PvE

PvE seems to has had some changes made to it as well. The recent patch has introduced a system where monsters have varying strengths and weaknesses with different types of damage. The new system reminds me of old Asheron's Call where lugians would take extra damage from lightning and so on. This adds another layer to the PvE side of the game that should hopefully make certain mobs easier to kill once their weaknesses are discovered.

The other interesting and I think needed PvE change is an overall boost to the rewards.  There were many mobs last time I played that simply were not worth killing due to the rewards they dropped.  Monsters overall seem to be dropping more cash and items making it worth the time and trouble to tackle some of the harder monsters in the game.  It's not perfect yet, but adjustments continue to be made in this area so I remain optimistic.  I think my only beef with the PvE at this point is I would like to see more camps of some of the easier monsters in places outside of the starter areas.


Conquer the Seas

One aspect of Darkfall's world that sets it apart from most of the other MMOs is the fact that the water areas of the map are viable playfields.  The new expansion seems to have introduced a variety of new elements to these watery areas by adding the Sea Towers, villages, and even a kraken.  I thought of doing write-ups and taking pictures of these to try to describe them, but instead I will direct you to watch some of player made videos floating around showing some of these features off, as well as some of the game's first real naval battles.

Kraken Video

Sea Tower Video

Naval Combat Video

The patch seems to really opened up a new aspect to the game as you can see in some of the videos here, and I would argue makes the game offer something that you really won't find in any other game.  I think I speak for most players when I say that I hope this aspect of the game really takes off.  They seems to have reduced the cost to make the ships which helps foster this sort of activity.  I think I would like to see the astrolabes become easier to obtain as they are required to build most of the game's ships, but I think most players find this aspect of the game very exciting.


Minor Changes

Given it has been 2 expansions since I last played, there tons of little things that have been changed for the better.  I couldn't possibly list them all here as this is getting a little long as it is, so again I'm going to gloss over some of the minor things that I have noticed at this early stage.

In the recent expansion, one feature added that made everyone in my guild sigh collectively was the ability to name and label your bags.  It may sound trivial, especially if you have never played Darkfall, but this is one of my favorite new features.  No more trying to fumble through my bags trying to remember where my tools or armor is located, a task which can be even harder when you have bags within bags.  It makes sorting your bank much easier and it also makes it easy to tell what belongs to who in the guild bank.

The map was also updated to show where the capturable villages are, but more importantly when each of them is vulnerable for capture.  This is critical because now the players can keep track of when they should make their move to try and grab one.  With the information right there for all to see, it also helps to spur more PvP.

Mounts have also changed in a few ways. For starters, mounts now have a weight of 100 kg. Under the old system it was not uncommon for players to travel with upwards of 3 or more mounts on them at a time. Consider that a new player can only carry 300 kg, when you factor in armor and other gear, the days of people riding around with an entire stable in their pack are over. One change I am not too fond of however is the fact that mounts no longer seem to regenerate their life. Players are forced to use the heal mount spell, which can be an annoyance especially if your near a place where someone can steal it. If I can regen my life, I see no reason why my animal can't even if it is very slow. A new mount was also added that costs more to make but also has improved stats.

Crafting also seems to have received one improvement I suggested in an older article.  Crafting a lot of items, such as arrows, was annoying because you had to sit there and click the craft button every time you wanted to make 20 arrows.  Upon my return I was very happy to see a new functionality added that allows you to set the quantity to craft and make it happen with only a single click.

 

Summary

From all accounts, Darkfall has improved drastically since my last time playing.  There are a ton of features I didn't touch on for the sake of time, such as the new siege system (I haven't experienced it first-hand yet), and auto-stacking of items in your backpack, but needless to say this game has come a long way in just the few months I've been gone, let alone launch.

If you are a former player, you may want to consider taking advantage of the free transfers and checking the game out again for only subscription cost.  If you are considering the game, I would say that now would probably be a good time to jump in as I have seen a lot of new players in the starter towns after the expansion went live.  New players may want to think about joining a clan called NEW that is dedicated for teaching new people the ropes for up to 30 days.  If your like me and getting sick of watching the same MMO being released over and over with a different name on the box, taking the leap into Darkfall may be worth serious consideration.

 

Paragus Rant (Alfar)
Co-Leader of Inquisition
http://www.inqguild.com

Interview: Darkfall's Tasos Flambouras

Posted by Paragus1 Wednesday December 2 2009 at 4:58PM
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Interview: Darkfall's Tasos Flambouras

With the upcoming Darkfall expansion "Conquer the Seas" coming, I decided to touch base with Darkfall's Tasos Flambouras to see if he would be willing to field some questions regarding the expansion and other recent events with the game.  Let me preface this by saying that at the time I sent the questions, I was unaware of the fact that the staff of MMORPG.com had submitted their own Q&A.  Despite all of this, Tasos was willing to take time out of his busy schedule (and being up for 48 hours straight) do another round of questions here with me on the eve of the expansion's launch.

1) Your upcoming expansion update is titled "Conquer the Seas" seems to have a lot of focus on adding to content to the naval aspect of the game including sea towers and villages, new boats, a kraken, and making boats more accessible. Tell us a little bit about each of these and the effect they should have on gameplay.

It’s not so much about the individual additions to the naval aspect of the game; it’s actually the bigger picture we’re looking at here.  A so far untapped resource of the game is now being activated in a variety of ways.  Ships add a completely new layer of gameplay. It’s a lot of fun for a group playing on a ship and it’s also very challenging. Naval strategy and tactics need to be considered, created, drilled and executed.  Teamwork within a ship and running a fleet of ships suddenly become very important given the worthwhile objective. A whole other element of the economy will unfold with ship related trading and building going on.

We’ll keep working on the sea element we’re introducing in this upcoming expansion.  There’s so much untapped potential there and it’s very exciting contemplating and exploring the possibilities.

 


2) One of the major balance issue players have is the dominant role magic plays currently in combat. You have stated that players can expect to see some balancing done in the upcoming expansion to help bring melee and archery up to par with skill specializations and extensions. Could you elaborate on some of these changes players can expect to see coming up to help bring more balance to combat?

We started off by correcting some things that were causing imbalances, most of which were never meant to be this way.  The global cooldowns we’re introducing stop the cycling of area of effect spell casting.  After the new expansion you’ll get a cooldown across magic schools so you won’t be able to blast away like before.  AOE spells were not meant for small scale situations, they were meant to be used to soften up large numbers during massive battles.  AOE spells will still be very useful in large battles but they won’t be the main attraction anymore.  Another fix is that the AOE spells will no longer go through objects.

The skill extensions and specializations are meant to help players with little interest in magic become viable using melee and archery.  Some of the balancing aspects vs. magic allow these players to get bonus resistances against magic, do extra damage against spell casters, while suffering some penalties to their max mana and some of the more powerful extensions can completely block elemental schools, arcane magic, or necromancy.

Melee fighters and archers will also receive special attacks that can stop people from blocking, others where some of the damage they take is taken away from mana rather than their hitpoints, and there will be several other enhancements which are designed to help players fight against magic without having to use magic.

These changes came about from our own observation of what works and what doesn’t and from listening to a lot of good player feedback.  There’s extensive testing being done and we’ll keep evaluating and making all necessary changes to keep the game balanced.


3) A recent update on from your twitter page talks about the addition of 2 new trade skills to the game to enhance items, Bloodcraft and Shadecraft. Could you talk about each of these tradeskills and give us some examples of what sort of enhancements players will be able to craft.

Shadecraft adds a permanent mana bonus at the expense of hitpoints.  Bloodcraft adds hitpoints at the expense of mana.  They’re new crafting skills which provide another way for players to specialize even further by making choices and compromises in the general spirit of specialization.  There’s much more to come on that front, we’ll keep at it and there are some pretty exciting changes ahead to look forward to.

4) One of the longest requested features has been the inclusion of racial traits, which looks to finally becoming a reality in the near future. Will all races be getting their skills in this update, and could you elaborate some what the various races will be getting?

All races are getting traits which are small enhancements connected to the background story of each race.  Alfar for example lean towards magic, orks towards melee, etc. we’ll keep working on differentiating the races even further.  These are not huge differences at this stage but they will help give the races more individuality and these differences will be felt in the game.  We’re taking small steps to keep everything well balanced and we’ll not stop at this.  We’ll evaluate every change and build on it.

 

 

5) Your recently announced "Community Publishing Program" has sparked a lot of talk in various communities by rewarding players for helping to advertise. Tell us a bit about this program and if there are any other forms of advertising in the works?

The community publishing is our way of thanking our players for spreading the word but it’s also a marketing initiative. It gives a substantial payout for every Darkfall sale and several players are already doing quite well with it. We’ll be contacting the best community publishers about a more formal cooperation and this could give some people a real opportunity in the gaming industry. We’ve limited this program to our active players because they’re the ones who are most knowledgeable and most interested in Darkfall and we wanted to give them a piece of Darkfall’s success. We’re going to expand on the Community Publishing Program and we’re of course also engaging in more traditional forms of advertising in print and online media.

6) A lot of potential players have long asked about a free trial offering found in many other MMOs. Any plans on putting something together to give potential customers a chance to try before they buy?

We’ve been distributing some sponsored trial cards in local markets and it’s something we’re looking at but there’s no immediate plan to offer an open free trial yet.

 

Thanks!

Paragus
Co-Leader of Inquisition
www.inqguild.com