Take the world of an MMORPG, multiply it by a hundred and add complete freedom of movement and a fluid day/night cycle with changing seasons and weather. This is Dark and Light. The world of Dark and Light is so huge that you can actually get lost in it. You can spend hours just exploring and enjoying the wonderful views of bright deserts, snowy mountain peeks and dark caverns. Unfortunately, this big beautiful world is pretty much empty.
The environment may never stop impressing, but the character models certainly do. They do not make good use of the current technology and their animations are at times silly. In fights your character sometimes swings his sword in circles above his head before hitting the enemy. The characters do a disservice to the environments they populate.
The quest of installing the game
I came into this with little knowledge about the game and a 3.5 rating on mmorpg.com game list (lowest rated game) in the back of my head. After getting my client I spent well over an hour installing and reinstalling trying to get it patched. Once I got into the game it was very unstable and for the first week. It was not unusual to have a party member drop out because his client crashed. Thankfully, as more time passed, this changed and the game is more enjoyable now.
Dark and... Dark? Character generation.
There are 12 races, two of which are gender specific. The half-troll is male only, and the fairy is only selectable by females. There is a fair selection of different looks for each character where you can change hair, height, eyes, earrings and more. Although you don't select your class in the character generator you can select starting outfits for different types of character, such as robes, swords, bows etc. Inexplicably though, character creation actually follows the world's day/night cycle. If you happen to try and make one at night, it is virtually impossible to do detailed customization. It's just too dark!
The character advancement is surprisingly flexible. All characters start off as a citizen and gain their first title at level 10 where you can choose your path. There are four paths you can follow: Fighter, Hunter, Healer and Spellcaster. Each has three paths you can choose at a higher level. For example the Fighter can choose Paladin, a mix between a fighter and a healer or the Warrior, which is the main fighter or the Shadow Knight (think evil paladin). This combined with the fact that you can use skills of other classes gives a diverse selection of characters. Dark and Lights skill system is divided in three skill pools: Fighting, Crafting and Social. The social experience is used for nobility ranks and other perks and is gained through quests, guilds and events among other things. The game was supposed to have large scale politics which would involve the social skill, but this is not yet in the game, which obviously makes the social skill side of things less interesting.
Why take the bus when you have dragons!
To get around in the world there are several means of transportation. One of the more interesting is the Deltaglider, a hand glider that you can use to soar freely around the world. It takes some time to master, but once you get a hang of it you will really get to appreciate it. You can at any given time jump from an elevated position and use it. It is great for getting quickly away from a tough fight or to get from one place to another fast. For longer travel, you can rent a dragon or use a mana tower. Dragons are relatively cheap and the mana tower is a free teleporter to certain destinations. Public transportation is also available in form of some kind of modified air balloons.
The sound is diverse, but it is well below the standard of modern MMORPGs and is not as believable and immersive as it could have been. By contrast, the music is very subtle and actually draws you in.
Did that Cow of Destruction just own my level 20 warrior?
The game is relative hard, especially in the beginning. The first few levels you can only kill things of your own level. The problem is that level one mobs are mixed in with level five mobs that will kill you if you are not careful. Generally, mobs are placed in groups of up to 20 or more which makes solo hunting very difficult at first. Once you are past citizen level (10), a well-equipped character can kill creatures twice his level. The difficulty of the mobs themselves is very diverse as well. One level 10 mob might be easy to kill while another level 10 might be almost impossible to kill. This can be either good or bad, depending on how you look at it. On one hand, there is a sense of discovery. On the other hand, a hunting experience can be entirely unpredictable and have dire results.
The naming of monsters themselves is dull. There are cows of destruction, of blunt, of death, etc. It seems that the dev team ran out of inspiration when naming them.
Get out those binoculars, it's time to find a group.
The grouping is very well done. Because of how the group system is made, a level 10 can easily group with a level 30 if they like. The average level of the group decides what the group can hit and get experience from, so a level 10 and a level 30 would make a level average of 20. Unfortunately, it is usually hard to get a group together at low levels. There just are not enough players to populate such a huge world and with more and more players canceling their subscription the population will become a larger problem as time passes. The promised features that the developers failed to deliver - such as politics and housing - have hurt the population to such a degree that perfectly sound parts of the game are suffering from the fallout.
The community left in game seems to be very mature. Everyone I have met has been friendly and helpful, which makes the relatively steep learning curve less painful. Whenever you start a new character you get some tool tips that tell you the basics of the game, but there are a lot of things you have to either find out for yourself or read the manual to learn.
An important part of the game is events managed by GMs. They are well written and usually gather large amounts of players because you can be teleported to it by the click of a button. Even with many players on the same location you hardly feel any lag or noticeable drop in performance. Unfortunately, these too have fallen victim to the game's overall fortunes, with Alchemic Dream scaling back the number of people working on live events.