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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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