Aventurine’s Darkfall: Unholy Wars is a tough nut to crack. People either love it or absolutely hate it. The concept of a full-loot, fully open world, hardcore PvP sandbox, is incredibly daunting to some and highly unforgiving. I’ve spent a almost a month in Darkfall: Unholy Wars, giving you my experiences in the form of our weekly review-in-progress. Throughout this month I’ve experienced close to what being a dedicated player is like in the world of Agon, and let me tell you, it been a blast. Before you read any further on the final scoring review, make sure to check out our first, second and third weekly reviews. They’ll give you a good glimpse at what I got up to each week.
Aesthetics - 7/10
Graphically, Darkfall isn’t any TERA or Guild Wars 2. It doesn’t quite match up to the caliber of the aforementioned titles, but it does have a certain charm of its own. The world of Agon is one of the biggest game worlds I’ve ever seen, I’m sure most of you would agree with this. Aventurine have done a very good job crafting this huge world, giving each zone its own character and personality.
But a lot of the beautiful design work, is overshadowed by a fair bit of bad optimization and what seems to be a lack of unique item design.
Throughout launch week, there were several performance issues. The engine didn’t run very well, crashes were normal and it also sent my PC into absolute overdrive. Over the next few weeks, patches were put out to resolve these issues and for the most part, Darkfall started to run a lot better, crashes were less frequent, but the overuse of resources such as memory, CPU and GPU are still there. If you’re planning on playing Darkfall, make sure you have a setup which can handle intensive resource allocation.
In terms of character design, I feel Aventurine need to inject a bit of personality into this. When crafting gear you’re stuck to certain sets, so there are just a few set looks that your character will have, leaving you looking like everybody else. It doesn’t take away from the experience so much, but it’s always nice to set yourself apart from everyone else.
Gameplay - 9/10
Darkfall: Unholy Wars isn’t your average MMO. It’s certainly nothing like I’ve ever played. The premise of an open world PvP sandbox is exciting and daunting as I mentioned before. After character creation, you’re taken through a tutorial which tells you next to nothing about the game other than the basic controls and how to fight.
After this, that’s it, you’re dropped straight into the huge world of Agon. For a some time I felt like I needed some direction. But once I set myself some personal goals, I found myself immersed in this brilliant game.
Character progression in Darkfall is very unique. The prowess system serves as the main tool of progression. Completing feats (Small goals given to you, I.e. killing a certain amount of creatures), these feats give you a range of prowess points. From here you can put these points into combat skills, basic attack with certain types of weapons and harvesting skills among others. It’s definitely one of the best advancement systems I have seen in an MMO in a long while. Every activity you carry out, will more than likely count towards some feats, even when you’re doing these tasks prowess points are gained and with the completion of feats, more than often a constant stream of prowess points is given. Allowing for constant growth and character progression.
Crafting in Darkfall is one of the main aspects of the game. Everything your character needs, is crafted. It takes up a lot of your time, and took out a big chunk of my play time too. It’s not anything too complicated. You gather resources from sources, whether it be chunks of ore, herbs or wood. From there you go to the relevant crafting station, and craft away. One thing I would say about the progression through crafting. It is incredibly slow, and if you’re going to be a solo player, it’s going to take a heck of a lot of time to progress to the next ranks.
The combat is targeted towards a more action focused style, rather than the traditional tab-targeting hotbar system that most MMOs tend to take. Camera control is taken up with the mouse and targeting is up to how good you are at aiming. It’s fast, frenetic, chaotic and huge amounts of fun.
With Darkfall being a full-loot, full-PvP focused MMO, you’ve got to watch your steps. Safe zones have been implemented to make sure you can get to grips with the basics of the game, before venturing out into the more hardcore parts of the game. These safe zones serve as your starting point. Within these you cannot be killed by another player, allowing for some kind of security. With this in mind, these safe zones are not big. They span an incredibly small area, and resources within these are thin, just enough to craft your gear. So venturing outside of these safe zones is actively encouraged.
Clans are an integral part of the game too. In fact it is probably my favorite aspect of the game. I had the joy of playing with fellow MMORPG.com staff member, RipperX and his band of navy seals, as they branded themselves. Although I only spent a few hours with them, what we did was the most fun I had in this month of playing Darkfall. Within minutes of meeting the guys in SiN, we ambushed some players, chased a couple of notorious players on the servers and captured towns. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to experiences the full on sieges and organized clan wars. It is the most interesting aspect about the game, and makes for a hell of a lot of fun.
Darkfall: Unholy Wars has incredibly unique and fun gameplay. If you’re thinking about playing this game, join a clan and meet some new people. The gameplay before joining a clan, is not even scratching the surface of what this MMO is all about.
Innovation - 8/10
Being a sandbox MMO is innovative in itself. It’s very rare we see a title which brings such a unique gameplay experience. In addition to this, the advent of the feat and prowess system, allowing for a constant stream of progression, is something which I haven’t seen outside a traditional leveling system.
With these mechanics, I feel that Darkfall: Unholy Wars, achieves some form of Innovation and manages to bring in the new while keeping some of the norm in the game.
Polish - 7/10
For the most part Darkfall has been relatively stress free. Launch week was the biggest problem of all, but when isn’t an MMO launch a pain? Aventurine have made a great effort at keeping the game constantly updated and serviced, all the while communicating with the community as to what’s happening.
I do feel that the engine does need optimization. The engine itself, demands a huge amount of resources from my system, which it shouldn’t. It’s no AAA title that’s for sure.
Social - 9/10
The social aspects of the game, as mentioned before, is probably one of my favorite parts of the game. Clan support is right there, it’s been implemented very well, allowing clans to own towns and areas of the map. Darkfall is very much a team game, working together, late game, is integral to taking control of the map and waging wars over enemy clans.
The game comes off as a very mature game and the community gives this off too. People are willing to help, but if they catch you off guard in the wilderness, don’t expect them to be so forgiving.
Longevity - 8/10
Darkfall has had a pretty loyal following since its first inception. With it being as different as it from other titles on the market, it’s bound to sweep some people off of their feet. The pricing model is on the expensive side, but you get what you pay for. With its unique progression system, and its basic mechanics. I’m sure Darkfall: Unholy Wars, will have no trouble keeping afloat for months or years to come.
Value - 7/10
As it stands, Darkfall is priced at, 39.95 EUR (or $39.95 US) for the game itself, and then another 14.95 EUR ($15) for 30 days game-time. It’s pretty pricey, you’re not paying for graphics, you’re paying for gameplay and to support the developers.
Although the pricing structure may seem very expensive, the experience you will receive out of this game, is second to none. In addition to this, content is always being added and the developers are always striving to make their game better.
Darkfall: Unholy Wars is a unique title. Full-loot, full-PvP, in a huge sandbox is a daunting and gruelling mechanic for an MMO. But it makes for an experience like no other MMO. The combat is fast paced, crafting is integral and character progression is constant. In addition to this, clan warfare is highly encouraged, allowing for full on clan battles, which is where the fun starts. Aventurine have made a good go of polishing up their game from the first iteration of Darkfall. Unholy Wars truly shows off what a hardcore MMORPG really is and can be.
George Dimmock / George Dimmock is a Freelance Gaming Journalist and has been writing for MMORPG.com since 2012. Lover of all things gaming, George has been playing MMOs since 2005 and has been hooked ever since. You can also find him lurking on Twitter, @G_Dimmock
Take a look at our coverage of Darkfall: Unholy Wars:
| Great combat mechanics
Great communication with the community
Innovative progression system
Rewarding and gruelling PvP
Vast open world
| Cheaters are an issue
Difficult for newbies or un-clanned
Game engine still feels unstable