Combat and Skills
This is Darkfall though, not "Sort Through Inventory Online." When it comes down to it, you want to know how combat feels and what it is like to build up your character. Short answer: it wasn't terrible. Actually, I had more fun in combat than I have had in most MMOs in some ways. I genuinely liked having control of my character's swings, even if sometimes it felt like little more than spamming my attack button while I wailed on someone. Ranged combat was pretty fun though, and sort of FPS-like.
PvE wasn't even all that bad once you actually discovered some mobs. No doubt some people will take issue that you can't easily tell the strength of a creature before you attack it, but really, you'll find out quick enough anyway. Unless you're attacking something seriously strong, you might even have a decent chance to get away anyway. There were some enjoyable aspects to PvE. Mobs could spot you from pretty far out if you make yourself visible enough, and depending on what you're fighting, they might even cooperate in groups to attack you. That said, hunting in PvE can be a pretty slow affair with few mobs in the world, and a sizable enough grind to get your skills up. You'll be fighting the same things for long stretches of time.
PvP is, of course, more impressive. It is, after all, the bread and butter of Darkfall and exactly what the game is centered around. It is perfectly open PvP. You can attack anyone and everyone you see. If you attack someone who is part of your race, or your race's alliance, then you will turn "gray" briefly. That will allow the person you attack to attack you without any sort of a penalty. If you start killing your 'allies' too often, you'll end up red. At that point, anyone can kill you without any sort of a penalty. If you attack someone who isn't part of your racial alignment, then that's just fine. No penalty.
However, just because not all of the races are aligned doesn't mean that they can't team up in guilds anyway. Guilds are totally separate entities from any sort of a "faction war," not that one really exists, and PvP is mostly centered around them. Anyone can join any guild, as long as they accept you. Guilds can build cities, start wars with other guilds, and take over their cities. That means that, like EVE Online, there is a certain metagame of territory control in Darkfall that has the potential to be very interesting.
With all this talk of combat, I should note that Darkfall has no levels. It doesn't have any classes either. It just has a large amount of skills that increase through use. You skill up sprinting by, well, sprinting. You skill up your sword skill by beating things with your sword. You don't even have to actually kill the target: the simple act of using the weapon in combat is all that matters. Killing the target just nets you loot if you can get to grave. I, personally, like that sort of a system. However, it also means you don't have any real "ding!" moments of leveling up. You won't suddenly start stomping on a goblin that use to give you trouble, but instead you'll notice that it is becoming slightly easier every time you fight it, until eventually it isn't much of a problem anymore. It's more organic, but some people might find it less rewarding.
Really, Darkfall has a lot of neat ideas. They certainly won't appeal to everyone, and as I said in the introduction to this review: if you are a casual gamer in any way, avoid this like the plague itself. However, if you have an awful lot of free time, don't mind spending the time to skill up and travel over the world, and harsh penalties in an open PvP environment sound fun, then Darkfall has the potential to be a game you would be interested in.
Potential. Sadly unrealized potential. This is the sad truth of the matter: Darkfall is a game that is filled with great ideas and good intentions. Darkfall is a game that seems to fall short on just about everything it has, too. For having been in development for so very long, the game simply felt like an early beta build when I played. While I crashed slightly less than I did when Vanguard was first released, I actually felt that even that game had received more polish.
There's a lot of downtime, there's painfully few quests - although the gameplay is about straight PvP anyway - the interface is horrific, the animations are sub par and not well varied. Combat, as nice as it might sound, even felt pretty clunky.
As much as I wanted to like Darkfall when I had first heard about it, I simply have to be honest: it isn't a polished game. In fact, I just couldn't find it playable in any enjoyable way. A pretty world and some good ideas only go so far, and when you're targeting a niche audience, you can't afford to lose them because of a complete lack of polish. It starts out strong enough if this type of a game is your thing, but the illusion quickly vanishes.
| Good concepts
Well designed world
| Clunky controls
Huge lack of polish
Very niche audience
Very poor interface