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What makes an MMORPG good?

Well certainly there are a number of characteristics that would allow me to classify any MMORPG as good, but of course, we must remind ourselves that this is mostly opinion and opinions are relative (as WoW constantly reminds us). With that done, let's go

Author: theguru22

EG's Review of Darkfall

Posted by theguru22 Wednesday May 13 2009 at 12:38AM
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I know you guys already think I'm a fanboy, but I'm really not at all. Darkfall certainly is not even close to the game it could have been (and still could be), and certainly still has a few glaring issues among many smaller ones. No MMORPG is perfect.

 

That being said I've recently come upon this story of EG's review of Darkfall and decided to review the review. Here it is:


"There are many games out there that I'd go ahead and call "special". Assassin's Creed was special, even if it wasn't great. Half-Life 2 was special, even though it very much was. Independently-run MMO Darkfall Online is certainly special - special in the way in which it so flagrantly ignores many of the rules of what makes a great, playable game. And no, this isn't a preamble to me saying that it's a rough gem, or made for the hardcore audience."


Alright, not a bad start. Not spectacular writing but it's just the first paragraph... let's read on.


"Sadly, every little thing Darkfall does is tragic, but without a personality that might make you feel sorry for its developers, Aventurine. From the grubby textures and grammatically incorrect quest text to the anarchic control system, any attempt to glean joy from this torrid husk of an entertainment product is met with disdain. It's almost as if Darkfall doesn't want you to play. But nevertheless, a job is a job, and play I must."


I have to say that I've yet to notice grammatically incorrect quest texts, although I don't read them much. The controls can be clunky at first, but don't take too long to get the hang of. Also, the game is very aesthetically pleasing to me, not like oblivion, but certainly better than the jagged ridges and bright colors that make WoW characters look like piñatas.


"As with many MMOs, you walk around using the WASD keys. However, to 'do' anything - talk to an NPC, bind yourself to a location, loot a corpse, and so on - you have to click the right mouse button to toggle between interaction or movement mode. Unbelievably, to do anything that involves any interaction at all, you have to stop still - this includes any and all inventory management, looting, chatting - anything interactive. It isn't totally clear whether this was a decision or a design oversight, as many other elements of Darkfall don't quite work."


Alright, here's where the review becomes tragic. I'd like to point out that everything after the first sentence is completely and utterly wrong. In order to talk to NPCs (which you won't be doing nearly as often as in other MMOs), bind yourself, loot a corpse, etc, you don't r-click. The only thing stopping you from doing any of those things is not holding still with your weapon sheathed (which you won't most of the time you're doing those things, except while looting corpses but sheathing your weapon not only makes sense, it prevents people from looting while still in combat so easily). Additionally, there is no "switch between interaction and movement mode" in the game whatsoever.

On the next sentence, you don't have to stand still to do two out of the three things he mentioned. You do have to stand still to loot (which, again, makes sense), but you can hit autorun (like in EVERY OTHER MMORPG) and chat and manage your inventory while traveling quite easily. The reviewer is just plain dead wrong on these points. It would surprise me if he didn't actually know any of these things. Moving on...


"For example, inventory management is done through dragging items from the corpses of enemies. I mean this literally - you open your bag, and physically drag the items from one pouch to the other. There are no inventory 'blocks,' and thus your inventory quickly becomes a horrid mess of vague icons left on top of each other. This gets particularly thrilling when you descend into the wonderful world of harvesting, or try to loot something from a corpse in a particularly dangerous area, and find yourself massacred while farting about with a tree for four minutes. Worse still, the entire economy is player-driven - meaning that anybody wanting to get involved in crafting has literally hours of harvesting wood, or rock, or any of the other generic resources."


The inventory system is handled just like he says, but it certainly isn't the hassle he makes it out to be. For the most part you won't be carrying more than 10 items around with you due to full loot. No one in their right mind carries anything other than what they absolutely need at the moment away from the bank, and you learn this very quickly. Inventory has never been cluttered to me. Additionally, you get color coded bags very early on for separating your stuff both within your inventory and in your bank if you desire. It is a semi-reasonable complaint, but not anywhere near as bad as the reviewer makes it out to be.

Making looting a task works FOR the game. It shouldn't be easy to strip a corpse of all it's valuables. Ask the community to support an "auto loot" button and people will tell you to fuck off, and for good reason. The ability to instantly loot everything makes ninja-looting easier, and removes any and all risk from looting someone after a kill. Not being able to jump someone while their looting a corpse removes a massive appeal of the game to its players.

I don't know what he's talking about at all when he says "farting about with a tree"...

And it's a bad thing that the economy is player driven? How the hell do you figure? Let's look at another MMORPGs with player driven economy and full crafting: EVE. The economy is nearly flawless in EVE and it's one of the big drawing points for the game. His complaint about having to harvest basic materials in order to craft is just asinine. In what game do you not have to harvest materials to craft? How could you have a game in which you don't harvest materials, and yet can craft items? Did the editors even read this? This part of the review doesn't make sense on the most basic level. Even without playing the game you can know that this is a completely invalid complaint.


"Adding further insult to injury is combat - usually the only saving grace of a bad MMO. Darkfall's system is totally twitch-based, in that you click your mouse and you swing a sword, or fire a bow, or shoot some magic. You have a crosshair, and your hits are dependent on whether or not this crosses the enemy at any given time - like an FPS, except with little to no reference point. Enemies' AI boils down to running in circles, which is actually surprisingly effective, considering how slow and floaty the controls tend to be. The difference in feedback between a sword hitting or missing is negligible, and thus much of your melee combat becomes a ridiculous ring-around-the-roses of chasing an enemy frantically clicking the left mouse button."


Alright, although he ends on a semi-valid point about L-click spamfests (which are in the game). However, moving on...


"As much as this might sound like Diablo II, Darkfall's combat is rather more similar to a Quake mod circa 1997. The lack of hit detection saps the combat of any weight or skill, and makes it incredibly frustrating to fight enemies during PVE or PVP combat. Judging the distance that one needs to be at to fight a foe is largely guesswork, and, worse still, your combat skills affect how often you actually connect. It isn't even an issue of timing your clicks based on the connection with your sword - it's nigh-on random. Using spells or arrows is somewhat less exhausting, but usually ends messily when an enemy decides to run at you, leaving you with the choice of changing weapon (a ten-second operation - five if you're particularly nimble) or running backwards in the vain hope of not dying."


Hit detection is completely fine, and I think all players agree on this issue (barring minor disputes about weapon range differences between different weapons). Any player would agree that combat in Darkfall is largely based on skill, and skilled players can easily defeat players with superior equipment/stats. Again, the reviewer is just plain dead wrong when he says "and, worse still, your combat skills affect how often you actually connect." This is a COMPLETELY libalous statement (unless he somehow didn't know, as all players know, that this is incorrect). Weapon swings that are properly aimed and in range always hit regardless of skill level. He's also being completely ridiculous when he says that changing weapons requires 10 seconds average, and 5 at best. Place weapons in your hotbar and you'll switch weapons in under a second, guaranteed. How could he get away with a review with so many startling inaccuracies? If he were a news anchor anywhere but Fox, he would have been fired as soon as he was off the air.


"You see, everything in Darkfall is based on attrition. You slowly but surely gain stats in everything as you do it, ranging from running to wood-chopping to sword-fighting to spell-casting. This sounds as if it would make for an incredibly individual and adaptable experience, but the lacklustre presentation of the game melds with the tortoise-slow skill-up speed to make the experience quintessentially painful. Not even old-school EverQuest - which was actually graphically superior- felt quite as stiflingly slow and ponderous in its levelling curve."


Alright, he has a decent point here again in that it takes time to level your skills... lots of time. This is something some players are clamoring for change to, but personally, I don't like the idea of everyone maxing out characters in 2 months, so I'm more than happy with the levelling curve (which, having played both games, isn't nearly as bad as EQs). Additionally, the statement that old-school EQ had better graphics than Darkfall does is complete and utter bullshit.


"This may be attributed to the lack of rhyme or reason to the world, which verges on random placement of flora with little in the way of lore to tie it together. It may also be tied to the fact that there's very little to see. On many occasions I'd turn and wander in a particular direction, leaving the auto-run key on and navigating past things in the hope that I'd run into a town, or a dungeon, or possibly an angry pack of lions to save me from my torment. Not even the occasional flash of a badly-worded skill-up could serve to bring joy to my heart."


Oh! He found the autorun key. Perhaps he should have edited his article...


"Sadly, this is only the tip of the iceberg of Darkfall's problems. The developers have taken the classic stance when faced with the echoing cries of "you barely have any content", and claim that the "core" of Darkfall is clan warfare. Players can build "camps" and "towns", and fight each other in "epic" wars. This is, as you can probably imagine from the screenshots, rather more underwhelming and frustrating than the hyperbole would have you believe."


Is it not obvious to EVERYONE that he, who claimed to have played the game a total of 9 hours, has never even come close to participating in clan warfare? He should have said "I didn't get a chance to do it," and left it at that. -major credibility.


"You see, anyone can kill anyone. For the most part, your first ten or so hours in Darkfall are spent dying, repeatedly, at the hands of either the AI or a cyber-bully in a wolf-suit. In fact, past that mark, it feels impossible to avoid the clammy hands and bloodied sword of somebody who has specially allocated part of their day to griefing."


Again, he said he only played 9 hours. Where's his take on 10 hours coming from? He's right here; griefing is rampant... around the starter locations! Move to any city outside of the starters and you'll be prey to griefing parties once in a blue moon. This is telling evidence that he never left the newb zones.


"Even when you become semi-capable of operation without constant death, there's little to enjoy. The quests are repetitive kill-X-of-Y monstrosities written with a six-year-old's understanding of English. There are none of the intricacies of World of Warcraft or Warhammer Online, and there's none of the charm of old-world EverQuest. The world is bland in the extreme, with no definition in areas except those where you spawn as a newbie - and even they echo with a distinct lack of life. It doesn't even have the basic features that make up even the most lackluster and dull cookie-cutter MMOs, such as a simple experience system, or some form of tutorial."


He's right, the game is extremely unfriendly to newbs, especially those looking for anything like WoW or WAR. There may as well be no quests, because that's not what the game is about. I did some starter quests to get some basic gear when I had just started, and never even wanted to quest since then (except the "kill-x-of-y" because those just augment my income when hunting specific mobs). The game never boasting a robust questing system, and it's clearly not meant to have one. In it's place, you get the freedom to do whatever you want, and that's what we're here for.


"Darkfall even lacks the basic lore that even the worst games have. There are wolf people, orks, humans, elves, and dark elves. There hasn't even been an attempt to construct a faux-story - you pick a character, and you're dropped in a drab town with a leaf-blade and 20 fewer Euros in your pocket."


Even though there IS lore on the official website, the fact that there's nearly none in game goes hand in hand with there being no questing system. It's not a themepark, it's a sandbox.


"Many avid fanboys defend Darkfall by saying that it's 'just not made for the average or casual player'. In reality, this is just an excuse for Aventurine's inability to create a balanced, playable game. When I swing a sword, I want to be able to hit something. When I start my first quest, I don't want a three-minute run to kill goblins, only to get killed by a six-foot wolf called BarBArIaX WooFKilLer. If you give me a sandbox, by God, give me something to play with in it."


Ok here's another (1 of 3) legitimate complaint. There isn't quite enough content. How old is the game? Just over 2 months. Did any MMO get released with massive amounts of content that we now expect from comparisons to games that were released years ago? No. Give it time, there may be more content added. If not, we'll all leave.

 

I guess that's it. I do believe Eurogamer should retract the review, but not necessarily apologize for it. I think the reviewer should apologize for lying about knowing anything about the game, or else apologize for writing a dishonest review.

 

PS: If anyone knows how to email someone at EuroGamer, please let me know. I looked on their website briefly for a way to do it, but couldn't find one. Feel free to email this to them if you credit me.

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