After playing Darkfall for two weeks, I think it’s time to share my first impressions about the game. I’ve actually received quite a few emails about it and instead of replying short response to each of them, I’ll just write an entire resumer of my two weeks.
Before I start, it’s important to know that I love games where not everything is easy. I’m an avid EVE-Online player and have played games such as Mankind Online, SWG, EQ2, Vanguard, Ryzom, Neocron and the list goes on. I’ve played games like WOW and other linear MMOs but in the end, they are not my cup of tea. Community driven games are in my opinion the best, specially when the economie is player driven and that everything in the game is crafted by players. So with that in mind, let’s have a look at Darkfall, shall we?
When you glimpse at Darkfall from the outside, it actually looks like crap. The videos are terrible, the screenshots are borderline bad and their website wasn’t really that appealing for a long time. To top it off, Darkfall has attracted some of the most retarded people in the MMO community so the forums are pretty stained with kids. However, when you do take the time to filter out all the crap, you’ll find some interesting posts and begin to have a good feel of how the game really is. It’s a little bit like EVE, where it looks like an extremely boring game at first and then picks up to epic proportions in the long run. No matter what you think, 500 versus 500 battles will always be impressive. Hopefully, Aventurine will mature and polish their outside image in order to attract more players in the long run. Hummm… maybe I should send them my resumer in design and marketing.
It’s also very important to understand that AV is an indie company, it’s not SOE, Blizzard or EA. This means, you cannot expect the same level of polish that is expected from a triple A title. However, for AV, this actually works a lot in their favor. The game rivals and stands tall over most MMORPGs on the market.
The launch pad is pretty much like any MMO around. A simple box with some HTML, auto patcher and a few options to play with. When you launch the game, there’s a 10% chance that your client won’t connect to the server, which can bother a few customer but it only takes a few seconds to retry and get a connection, so it’s really not a big issue in my opinion.
Character creation is very simple and unfortunately, I was expecting more from it. You get to pick your race and change a few things on your character, such as the haircut, scars, decorations, skin color and such. You can’t make your character smaller or taller nor can you even decide the body type. If character customization is what you like, then I suggest games like Champions Online or Aion.
First time loading into the game…
Just before the loading screen ends, I heard a big “squishy/juicy/grotesque” sound effect. A bit like when you slash a sword into flesh. It’s very akward and doesn’t seem to serve any actual purpose except telling that your game is now loaded. Just be ready to jump the first time you hear that sound. If you have a high end kit like mine, then you’re in for quite a surprise because the first thing you notice, is how beautiful the game is. The entire environment feels alive with a dense vegetation all around contrasted by a little road decorated with trees slowly following the flow of wind, volumetric clouds sailing to the east and a very huge moon or planet slowly falling in the horizon. In the distant background, I could see tall mountains with roads, towers, little camps and very old trees. The viewing distance is excellent in Darkfall, people do not vanish in thin air here. There was a bunch of players running around me, going about their own lives. The graphics are obviously not on pare with Crysis, Huxley or Earthrise but the game really does fell alive and I was pretty eager to explore this strange new world. However, before doing that, I had to learn the basics.
Now, if you’re an EVE player, you’ll like the interface of Darkfall but you will also smirk at it’s simplicity and often wonder about AV’s motive behind it’s actual functionality. The UI really takes a long time to master and even after two weeks, I still have a hard time with it. The entire UI is fully customizable but it’s also very awkward to use and when you’re in the middle of the wood cutting down trees, if someone jumps you, you’ll be dancing on your keyboard, opening your inventory, closing the wrong windows, pulling out your fishing rod instead of your sword and then dying with your skinning knife equiped instead of your sword. However, once you’ve properly binded your keys, placed your windows in convenient spots and have everything customized to your needs, it’s a pretty good interface! If I had to compare it with other past MMOs, I would say it’s a cross between today’s modern interfaces such as WOW (Hotbars), Planetside (combat mode/Interaction Mode) and a tiny little glimpse of EVE (Chat system and HTML browser?!?).
After taking a good 30 minutes configuring the interface to my needs, it was time to pull out my sword and take on a starter quest.
Well, if you’re a big avid fan of questing, Darkfall is not the game for you. The starter quests are basically an elaborated tutorial that glimpse you through various features of the game. The rewards are actually good but don’t expect a big storyline here or any epic plot about a golden dragon terrorizing the lands of Agon. Most quests resolve around killing X amount of mobs while others will require you to craft a certain item. While some might find them boring, I actually enjoyed doing them and I’ve been slowly working my way up through various outposts and cities. There is a story but I guess, at the point I am at, I’m only scratching it’s surface. In the capitals, I’ve found some quests where you can gain titles but in order to accomplish them, you need to kill 200 or more monsters and some even require you to PVP a little. Unfortunately, even after two weeks of playing, I’m only half way through some of them. However, I think they are well worth it as some will give you a title and stat upgrades such as +2 strength. The quests also allows you to explore various parts of the world and as I said earlier, the world is really nice and alive. TIP: get a mount as early as possible!
Speaking of the world, the more I explore, the more I love Agon. As mentionned by the developers of the game, the entire world was created by hand and it really shows. The entire landscape is believable and the land is filled with trees, rocks, debris, ruins, random chests and the occasional monster spawn. If there’s one thing missing in Agon is the actual random creature spawns. While not really necessary, it’s a bit weird to explore a land where all you see are butterflies and birds flying around. You won’t find a deer randomly walking around here, instead when you find monsters or npcs to kill, they will either be around a village, cave or a hut. For some, that might be a turn off but for many, it means that exploring Agon is not something exclusively reserved for the high end players. Obviously, you might want to be careful for the larger creatures such as gigantic dragons and dark knights. I didn’t have the chance to explore every single regions of the game but so far, I’ve been on high mountains with snow, in swamps, deserts, around various lakes, rivers and some jungles. Each environment has it’s own unique features and dangers. I haven’t visited a dungeon yet and at the moment, I have no idea if they are worth it or not but I know that there’s plenty to visit.
The core of the game is based on skills and that in my book, rocks! Darkfall allows you to play the game the way you want and doesn’t actively force you to do something you do not like. (gatheing quests) The more you run, the more skill points you get, eventually enabling you to run faster. This example applies to every single action you take in the game. This system is very similar to Runescape, Ultima Online and SWG. While it is a great system, it is also very easy to exploit and gain abnormal amount of skill points. While frowned upon by many, AV doesn’t seem to care about the issue all that much. Instead, they are introducing a higher gain of skill point in PVE which means, the higher the risk, the bigger the rewards. If you decide to beat up your friend for 5 hours in a row, you’ll get a decent amount of points towards the weapon you have used but after the next patch, if you decide to do it the hard way and simply grind your skills on creatures, you’ll gain 3 times the amount of points per kill. Beating up a sandbag is safer, therefore slower. Beating a bunch of zombies is much more dangerous and you’ll probably die a lot but each kill, will reward you with decent loot and skill points. It’s a sandbox, so you decide how to play this game.
The combat is pretty cool, although a bit repetitive at times, it’s a lot better then most MMOs out there. In Darkfall, combat requires a lot of practice and attention. There is no auto attack, auto aim or any other auto crap that can be found in pretty much every single games in our era. When you want you to hit something, you have to press the left mouse button. If an arrow flies your way, then you need to dodge it or press your bind to block the incoming projectile. To top it off, npcs are intelligent and will also block, dodge, attempt to attack you from the sides, flank, lure you into a trap, call for backup and zig zag around your projectiles. Hitting your target from the back or sides will greatly improve your damage. These rules also apply in PVP so, when you’re fighting a group of goblins alone, watch your back.
Despite the awesome melee combat, every top PVPers appears to specialize in magic and quite frankly, compared to any other weapons in the game, magic is probably the most powerful skill to train. So, don’t be surprise if you run into a bunch of fireballs and mana missiles during a fight. Until AV fixes the issue, you’ll see a lot of mages in this game and they will probably completely destroy you within a few seconds. Magic is probably the most discussed subject on the forums at the very moment, some people think it’s ok, other think it’s not. Don’t let it bother you, AV is aware of the situation and the devs are actively trying to balance it. However, this will require some patience as it will take a long time before everything is balanced out properly. As for me, well I fell in love with bows and arrows. They’re fast and with enough practice, you can snipe people from a ridiculously long range. As for my backup weapon, the great sword and daggers are what I want to specialize in. While in my experience, combat is fun and intense, my ping is within acceptable range. This means, I’m always around 80 to 100ms. However, if you live further from the server, your experience might not be as smooth as mine. If you have a 300+ms ping, I think you’re in for a very harsh game play experience, so be ready for this possibility.
If you lack general patience or cannot stand being ganked, then seriously, don’t play this game. I’ve been ganked twice within the first 10 minutes of play. Then again, I’ve also spent entire nights next to enemy cities mining ore without anyone bothering me, so it aint that bad. EVE is a lot more hardcore then little Darkfall here. The only difference is that in EVE, you can actually escape from gate camps. In Darkfall, if a big high skilled red comes at you, you’re pretty much dead. However, if you’re social bird like me, you’ll make a bunch of friends fairly early in the game, helping you keep the noob spawn clear of silly gankers. As a result, saving those newbies from total death will generate more friends and before you’ve known it, you’ll be stuck sorting out 20 chat boxes per night.
Now one of the aspect I like about Darkfall is the actual crafting system. It’s not as complicated as Vanguard or SWG but it’s not as stupid as WOW. In Darkfall, pretty much everything you see can be crafted and that seriously rocks! You have players gathering and selling resources, others buying, crafting and selling items, merchants and the maniacs like me that harvest, craft and sell everything on their own. Again, because this is a skilled based game, you can become a pure crafter and craft everything you want. Right now, I’m an armor smith, tailor and bower. So whenever I don’t feel like killing things, I just go out and gather some materials for a few hours, then come back and craft like a madman. As time went by, I’ve come to realize that even if anyone can craft, most don’t and instead, they send me a tell and ask for a specific item. In return, I’m actually starting to make a small profit out of crafting. It’s not really easy to have a market and you’ll meet a lot of competition but AV just announced that in the next expansion (October), we will get vendors! That should make things a lot more interesting.
Darkfall also has a system that allows you to control villages, cities and I guess, entire regions. I haven’t visited any of those and I don’t really know how it all works for now but from my understanding, you can have your own house along with it’s own crafting station and npcs, such as an npc merchant. Though, I don’t even think half of the population on the game will ever get a house. It seems to be reserved for the larger guilds and alliances. I could be wrong and I hope I am.
Which brings me to talk about what I like a bit less. The game constantly pushes you to be in a large guild and large alliance. Zergs seems to be what works best in Darkfall and in the long run, that might hurt the game. Not everyone wants to be in a large guild or even in a big alliances but if you’re not, life in Darkfall is somewhat hard, meaning that you will die a lot. If you’re a solo player, you’re open to all sorts of ganking and griefing by other players. If you’re in a small guild, be ready to constantly be wardec for nothing and griefed by a bunch of super high levels, if you own a small hamlet, get ready to be pillaged and completely destroyed by overwhelming forces and if you’re in a big alliance, get ready to be griefed by your own people. Darkfall does that, it brings out the worse of a lot of people. There is no logical reason to go kill a 2 hour old player in his starter town, there is no reason to go and destroy the village of a small guild on the other side of your continent, there is no reason to use neutrals as shields to fight a war and worse of all, using exploits to win a battle is game breaking. There’s a lot of things used by the “hardcore” players that are just downright abusive. Now who am I to judge you’ll say… Again, if you cannot stand the stupidity of mankind, then don’t play Darkfall, because people here are not nice people. The community itself is not a nice and mature bunch like EVE or Ryzom. It’s the exact opposite, it’s pretty retarded at times and if you do play Darkfall, then do yourself a favor; avoid forums like a plague and simply use the search function when you need specific information. Of course, there’s a bunch of awesome players and when you need some help, it’s really easy to find someone that is willing to give a hand so it’s a mixed bag but the retards are beyond anything I’ve ever seen. It’s the old CS community times 50. Keep in mind that one rotten orange will out smell 20 fresh ones.
In my opinion, Darkfall is not for everyone but if you’re into that type of games, it’s a pretty good one. I’m gona probably stick around the game for a few months and see how it goes. A few days ago, I’ve joined a little guild and we’ve been fighting random wars left and right. A pretty fun experience if you want my opinion. I’ve made a lot of friends and I feel somewhat pretty important to my guild as I bring in some ranged weapons and crafting assistance. Next week, I’m planning on building my first boat and sailing the vast oceans for a few nights in hope to discover a mysterious island or treasure! I think this game deserves a lot more praises then it received and that in the long run, Darkfall will have so many features that it’s gona take months and years to explore them all. Darkfall is the most complete MMO to come out since EVE-Online. If you compare EVE 2003/2009 to Darkfall 2009, well imagine how the game will look in 2015.
Well, that’s it for now and I hope you enjoyed this review!
If you wish to say hi in-game, I’m the human known as Zag Stratos.