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What Gaming Should Be

As an avid lifelong gamer, I try to describe what has worked well and poorly in games I've played, and in any given gaming scenario, to define how it could best be handled as a result.

Author: reillan

Darkfall Review

Posted by reillan Thursday February 19 2009 at 9:51AM
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I got into Darkfall around the end of January, so I haven't been playing as long as some, but some of you who haven't gotten in yet may still be jonesing for more news, so I'll provide what I can.


When I first got the e-mail link to the game, I was so excited I fired up my computer and tried to start the download, despite the fact that it was 11pm and I had to go to work the next day.  After a bit of frustration trying to log in properly to download the file, I finally was able to do it.  The initial download file is small and came across quickly.

I clicked on the icon, and watched in horror as my download speed appeared.  It was downloading occasionally at up to 100k/s, but this came in bursts, and would on the next burst drop to 0, or go back up to only 40, and so on.  After trying for a few minutes, I shut my computer off and went to bed.

The next day before I went to work, I fired it up and left it sitting all day. Download speeds appeared to be as bad as before.  Until I got everything downloaded and got into game, they remained that way.  However, to Adventurine's credit, patching speeds have improved significantly since then - my last patch downloaded at around 800k/s.

First Impressions

The game loading screen and such have fairly bad graphics, reminiscent of something from the days of Wolfenstein 3D or Doom.  This concerned me unnecessarily, so I hope they'll work a bit on improving these.  Once I finally got into the game, I thought the graphics looked a bit hokey as well - buildings had sharp black lines to tell you exactly where they were, ledges had the same.  And then there was the difficulty of learning the UI (which is why I wrote my other lengthy post about it) and trying to figure out what I should be doing.  There is absolutely nothing, at least in beta, to helpfully tell me "hey, come speak to me."

There was a NPC character standing fairly close to where I spawned, and since this was the only character around, it seemed like the one I should talk to.  I walked up and tried clicking and such, but because I didn't understand the UI, I failed miserably in my attempts at communication and walked away.

At this point, I started to become a little depressed about the game.

But I persisted, exploring to the west a bit (I started in the western-most Elven city), and after seeing several more NPCs, I realized that only my lack of knowledge had prevented me from successfully speaking, and I went back to the beginning.  Now I was able to communicate and accept two quests.  Yes, just as I thought, the NPC closest to your spawn is the one who is designed to help you get your start in the world.

It was about this point that I decided to run in windowed mode instead of full screen, and it made a huge difference.  The big black lines I had seen earlier, that made everything look hokey, are simply not noticeable in a tighter resolution.  On release, I'll play as high resolution as my computer will let me, as a result.

So my first impressions were that the UI is not user-friendly (it's not) and that the graphics sucked, but the first I found I could learn my way past, and the second really started seeming more natural as I went through the game (additionally, because of the fairly natural passage of daytime and nighttime, the graphics started looking even cooler as time progressed).

What's good about the game

There's a lot to say for the game in terms of what's good, the first and foremost being that it really is your own skill that determines whether you live or die - more or less.  I'll get into the bad parts of this later, but the good news is that if you're willing to apply yourself, it'll be much more up to you, and much less up to how buffed your character is with equipment and skill points, that determines whether you'll rock.

The graphics really do grow on you, and now I look at them and think they're amazing. 

If you're into these sorts of things, city building and crafting are very important to game play and great if you're the kind of player who can't get equipment any other way. 

You can hear enemies long before you see them, usually - this means that you can often sneak up on someone, or at the very least avoid them more easily. 

What's bad about the game

While skill is the largest factor in determining your success, there are little things that you may simply not know, things like the reach of your weapon, that have a very large impact into how well you do.  Those who were in the beta longer and studied them more intently completely owned me everywhere I went.  This caused a problem in that I simply didn't have a desire to go out and get beaten down every time I spawned.

The alignment system really isn't a deterrent.  Because there are chaos cities and vaults in the wilderness where you don't need to be stuck inside a city, no one really cares if you're red, gray, or blue in alignment.  Sure, if you're in one of the starting cities it's a bit important, but outside of that - nope, not in the least.  The best you can hope for out of it is that if you're in a starting city, you have slightly easier access to wood and herb farming nodes and thus you can farm these to your heart's delight without fear (generally) of losing your stuff.  If you stay close to the vault, too, you can drop your stuff in it before your opponent kills you.

There is no way to get away when you're attacked.  Your opponent moves just as quickly as you do (and, oddly, sometimes faster) and the person chasing has the advantage of aim and ranged attacks.  Running away is one of those key abilities that every game should have - because there are times when you simply are outgunned, outmaneuvered, etc. and need to regroup and try to get yourself back in the game.  That doesn't happen with Darkfall.

One of the reasons it can't happen is because only when you're moving forward are you at your fastest.  If you try to run at an angle, or backwards, suddenly your speed drops off completely.  There's a reason why the Quake series of games had you moving in all directions at the same speed - because that gives you the greatest maneuverability and the greatest chance to fight on your terms rather than your enemy's.  Adventurine needs to learn that still for DF.

While crafting is cool, the resource requirements have at times been too high.  Adventurine has worked to fix this, but it's possible we could see them too high again in the future.  Just be aware.

What's wrong with slower movement?

First, as I already stated, there are times when you need to run away.  I'm going to assume that everyone accepts that as true.  In a game like Darkfall, where all movement other than straight forward is penalized in speed, that means that your only hope is running straight away.  However, your opponent can run just as fast and use weapons in the process, meaning that a straight line away is not exactly desirable either.

So you have to make a choice to try to turn right and left, to try to get away at an angle.  So, let's say that every second you can move distance X:





So every second, I cover this much ground.  Now if I turn to the right or left, my opponent can turn to pursue me without having to turn as much:

This means that if you try to turn, your pursuer will be able to catch up even more, regardless of how you turn.  Turning is basically suicide for anyone attempting to flee.

If you could strafe at the same speed as you run, then it would be no big deal - you suddenly break into an angular direction with no loss of speed and you can change that direction quickly and easily.  Perhaps more importantly, you give your attacker no indication of where you're going to go.  This means that he has to constantly react to you, and if you make multiple course changes quickly, this will give you an advantage.  But when your body actually has to turn in order to change direction, you're making a big wide circle, easy for the attacker to see and adjust to.

In Darkfall, at least, there should never be any reason why your prey should escape you.  And I posit this is bad, because sometimes when you're getting attacked, you need to get away.  There should always be a chance to escape.

Lastly: a note about realism.  The poster below said that you can't move at the same speed in real life, so it's more realistic this way.  Perhaps.  However, you also can't murder people at a whim without expecting some serious retribution.  Retribution in Darkfall is not serious, nor is it permanent.  If you chased me, I would head to some place crowded and well-lit, so that everyone could see, and that visibility would make you less likely to hurt me.  Darkfall doesn't care about such things.  Further, there are things I can do to you even while being chased that would slow you down, things that are not in Darkfall - such as trying to trip you, knock you or throw you to the ground, kick behind me, grab things and throw them over my head, and so on.  Finally, in real-life you have momentum, and that momentum is not easy to change.  If I am ready for it, I can use your momentum against you, to get you going the wrong direction, to trip you up, etc.  Since Darkfall has none of these things, it's not a reasonable argument to argue what is "realistic" - the game is just a game.

MicrobeX writes:

 What is wrong with having a drop in speed when you are zigzaging, or making a turn/running backward? Last time I check IRL that is what happen! This ain't Quake and I pray Adventurine keep it that way!

Thu Feb 19 2009 10:15AM Report
reillan writes:

I'll edit the post with my reply to that, so I can show in full graphic detail what's wrong...

Thu Feb 19 2009 11:02AM Report
Kram59 writes:

Very nice review

Thu Feb 19 2009 1:00PM Report
reillan writes:

Sargoth, I deleted your post because it was kinda rude.  Not that I don't agree with it slightly - I'll try to build some more content into it.  I just did this review at work entirely from memory.

Thu Feb 19 2009 8:36PM Report
reillan writes:

Also, if you want more substance - go check out my UI post, where I go into great detail about the UI and how to use it.

Thu Feb 19 2009 8:37PM Report
JLewthwaite writes:

MMm so you've discovered that when running away a straight line is best - its like that in RL  adn evry other game i've played - are you suggesting in your diagram that as you turn you should also accelerate enough to cover the extra distance, cos mate 'your' path is simply longer than the pursuers - so even at equal speeds he's gonna get you (its called cutting off the corners). Also from what you say everyone has equal speed, (presumably the odd speed buff lying around tho)- some people might say this means you can never be caught as much as you can never get away. Possibly your difficulty is this strange behaviour of trying to run away by effectively turning round towards your opponent.

Seriously m8 - lp2 b4 you write reviews

Thu Feb 19 2009 8:49PM Report
Tekkaman writes:

 Seriously "m8" L2Type "b4 you write" stupid comments or acronyms like "lp2".


In real life, if you look at a professional athlete, such as a wide receive for an American football team, they are able to "stop on a dime" and have bursting acceleration. If anything, these people in heavy armor should slow down after a while, not run the same speed forever excluding Sprinting, but that's just it... It's A GAME. If you are honestly thinking that every game follows realism with their movements, then you are sadly mistaken.

As for this review, I think it's a decent one. I think that you perhaps do not have enough in-game experience to fully explain the game, but at the same time it should be an indication that since you haven't been further in the game it is most likely because you do not enjoy the game as much as it has been hyped up to be. Maybe it is another reason or multiple reasons, but that is how I feel about this review.


All in all, thank you for your words on your gaming experience in Darkfall.

Fri Feb 20 2009 1:30AM Report
JLewthwaite writes:

The point here is nothing at all to do with realism and nothing to do with whether you players have sprint abilities or anything else. I can assume if I have a sprint ability then so does my opponent - dependmng on the cd (sorry cooldown) i might get away or he might catch me. If i can go faster turnig or sideways then so can he. It has everything to do with very basic geometry - turning as shown allows the corner to be cut - therefore the path of the pursuer is shorter and all other things being equal he will be caught.

NOTHING to do with anyhting excpet that - so if you are beign pursued and dont have any speed boosts (ones that your opponent doersnt have) then run in a straight line until you find some terrain. If there was a wall or tree or other landscape at that corent then it makes sense to turn round it - and in equal speed situation using the initiative and terrian is the only way of increasing your gap. Unless your desired lack of realism extends to playing on seriously curved spaces - but even there the definition of s straight line just changes and the path length arguement remains true.

Basic geometry

Fri Feb 20 2009 11:57AM Report
reillan writes:

JLewthwaite, Why don't you try reading what I wrote instead of just getting angry about it?

I said that if you could run every direction at the same speed, then you could get away from an opponent because your opponent has no way to expect what you're going to do.

The fact that you can never get away from an opponent is a *flaw* in the game design.  Now, maybe I don't have a good way to get around that flaw, that's certainly a valid argument to make - but saying that it's not a flaw because that's how real life works (which is what you said) is not a valid argument.  I am positing that there is a flaw in the game design, and I've shown why it's a flaw.  You are not arguing that it's not a flaw.

Fri Feb 20 2009 1:13PM Report
JLewthwaite writes:

Ok mate, I'm not angry but I think there is a basic misunderstanding here. The situation you describe is basically the pusuit-evasion problem. If you want to analyse this problem then the place to start is the basic geometry. This as I said has nothing to do with reality at all - the basic geometric issues underly all game geometries that it seems likely we will ever encounter as viable games. The specifics of the game controls, effects such as getting slower are al best understood from the that starting point. This is the case regardless of any perceived realism in the game dynamics. The fact that this is entriely general is why i let myself have the 'l2p' dig at you - for which I do apologise, but it is a fact that it is a fundemental of pvp which many players dont seem to understand. If you can understand properly the equal ability (speed, turning etc) p/e problem then you understand something which will allow you to use your actual abilities and so forth in any particualr game better.

The geometry says turning is bad. Against this is the initiative. The pursued can turn and for s split second the pursuing is on the wrong path

weighing these things up you can come to a few conclusions like high angle turns at close distances, low angle turns at longer distances - at very close distance though, a 'critical' distance, there is the danger that a jink is anticipated or reacted to quickly enough that the pusuing player actual catches you - game over.

you can also work out that there is a in some circumstances a strategy that does actually increase the distance systematically. This needs certain size of terrain object depending on things like actual speed, reaction time and so forth - but I have found 'trees' serve the purpose usually so i think of it as the 'forest evasion theorem'

You can go omn and work out things like if you are the chasing player simply following the target is not a good strategy - typically if there is one door to a room run for the door first to block him - this is obvious to most players of course in that situation but often less understand in wider situations.

So my points are that the 'flaw' is really an inevitability - and actually an interesting problem. In fact its one of the things that can make the difference between 'good' and 'bad' players. If you take some time to think about it you will find that you get killed a bit less and do a little bit more of it yourself.

But good luck anyway - sorry about the 'l2p', and anyway your entitled to review anything you want regardless of your skill level so it was a silly comment

Fri Feb 20 2009 2:32PM Report
JLewthwaite writes:

Hehe sorry about the double post but I like arguing so much I'm going to argue with myself now. :)

I have suddenly thought of one counterexample to the 'inevitability' - in PoBS ship to ship combat is affected by the wind conditions - as far as i can see based on 5 minutes of thinking about it  - it doesnt change the geometrical argument so much as change the definition of a straight line. But anyway its one example of a slightly different geometry

Fri Feb 20 2009 2:44PM Report
b2i12 writes:

Very well written and I totally a agree about the need to be able to run away. Just about everygame has some kind of feature that allows you to either fight or flight. Keep up the good reviews!

Sat Feb 21 2009 4:29PM Report writes:
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