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Looking at the First Expansion

Jeffery Hargrove Posted:
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Darkfall Online is an MMORPG developed by Aventurine. On July 10th 2009 they released their first expansion. As a result, I spent the last week and over 36 hours testing it out. Wondering what it’s all about? Just keep reading for the full highlights.

In this expansion, nearly all of the mobs in the game had damage or HP changes to put them more in line with intended difficulty. Considering the number of mob types in the game, this was a huge undertaking that included fixing player skill mechanics, game mechanics, and mob AI to prevent future exploits.

The developers taking a three tiered approach addressing the player skills, the game mechanics, and the AI of mobs was amazing. It also allowed them to address the underlying problem, of players exploiting because mobs were too hard to kill without doing so. A lot of companies take the easy way out, just fixing AI, nerfing skills, or taking away key elements of the game. Aventurine’s three pronged assault has made for a much more enjoyable PvE experience.

This game has always had challenging, competitive, and risky PvP. However, several game mechanics have been added to push players into both wider scale conflicts and to create opportunities for solo PvP. Overall, I’m pleased that Darkfall has added these ideas that work. Two key mechanics lead to this, The Village system and Chaos chests.

The Village System in Darkfall Online includes player housing. Players can find houses in the world from harder mobs, or chaos chests. These houses can then be placed in villages; they are not able to be lost unless you stop paying taxes. They are extremely rare, but this encourages players to explore the world. These houses then get placed in one of several dozen villages spread across the world. Players pay taxes and those taxes go to the village. The village can be attacked every six hours by guilds. Those who control them get cash every hour for the next six hours. Since dozens of villages exist, even a small guild has an opportunity to capture a village with larger guilds possibly going for larger scale domination. This is an effective system for implementing player housing in a PvP centric game.

Chaos chests are an example of looking at an un-realistic demand of players and finding a way to make it happen. Players have been requesting more opportunities for one on one PvP, and the developers need to find a way to make it happen. The Darkfall devs found chaos chests.

A chaos chest is a randomly spawning chest in the world that players find by simply wandering around. Usually players do this solo, as there is no increased chance of one spawning in an area in a larger group, and who wants to share the loot? The loot that is dropped consists of some of the best items in the game, including skills books, player housing deeds, 10k gold, potions, 100 gold, etc. It is random where they spawn and what they drop. However that has not stopped players from scouring the world looking for them. This search placed me into thirteen different one on one random world PvP encounters, and seven OMGWTFbbq moments in enemy territory.

Three new skill systems have been added. One, in the form of books that drop from mobs or come from chaos chests, specialization allowing players to diversify their character’s magic spells in several different ways. Second,there are title quests earning players a bonus to stats when wearing a title. Finally, the first advanced weapon skill was added in the form of Sithras, offering higher end players who can afford them to use some of the top melee weapons in game.

Darkfall Online already offers a wide variety of skills in this non-level based game. Players literally can choose from hundreds of possible combinations already. With the expansion, players can now choose between one of four specializations to add to their spells: Velocity, Range, Damage, and Jump Shooting. Though I was unable to test all of them, I have not heard of any major bugs with these skills at this time. This diversity should help set players apart from one another using magic and melee and archery specialization are two things that they have stated they will be working on getting into the game soon.

The skill books added to the game allow players with no prior training in a skill to learn powerful abilities right away, or gain up to a medium proficiency in a skill if they already have some training in it. This system in my mind offers a compromise to grinding skills. Players could spend two weeks leveling to learn some of the most powerful spells, or they could grind for money and buy an ultra rare book that trains that skill up to a medium proficiency. These items are consumable and permanently affect stats, but they are also fairly rare.

The title quest system, is a series of gathering and kill quests that when completed result in a character being able to wear a title. The titles adds a bonus to some stats, but although a player can do all of the quests, they can only wear one title at a time. Overall there is a large amount of PVE content, but it’s pretty boring to complete and is lacking originality or much entertainment. However, the rewards are very much worth it. The skill system was not added on as much as I would have liked. Though the specialization is great, I am unsure if it should have been added now, before they have specializations for melee and archery abilities. The skill books are a great alternative to grinding for weeks just to train one spell, but if a player has been playing a few months, I do not think they will be as big a deal to established characters. Finally though the title quests end up being a must complete, even if they are boring and lack originality.

The major highlights for the world include the weather system, nexus system, and home recall. These together really make the world better. The nexus systems and home recall add additional travel options that can make the world easier to get around for large groups, or individuals covering large amounts of ground. The weather system, however nice it is, just doesn’t seem to work as well as expected, with many players reporting seeing rain while others report sunny skies in the same area.

The nexus system is a system of player created portals. Players can create exit and entrance portals and they can be used by the player, or anyone else who stumbles upon them to travel across the world. They have a certain amount of time they last then they disappear. This restriction makes large group travel practical heading to distant targets, provided scouts emplace the portals in timely manner before the group travel is to begin. They are practical for many uses, but expensive to use extensively.

The home recall is a part of player housing, but it is also a travel option usable by the owner of a home or his allies. He can allow players to teleport inside his home with him from anywhere in the world. Though a good system, it is not without risks, as remember villages where homes are based, are under constant threat of attack.

The weather system is nice eye candy and makes the world pop. Seeing clouds moving in the sky really makes the world feel alive. The rain effects are somewhat poor, but the fog could be useful if you are running away from enemies and run into it. I did not get to test it extensively as it was only patched in July 12th. But what I saw was ok, but hardly seemed special.

The changes to the world though interesting, didn’t seem to have the same attention to detail as other elements. However they do enhance the game a fair amount. I think all players will appreciate the extra travel options in Darkfall Online however.

Darkfall Online’s first expansion is filled with great improvements to the game, and creative strategies for used to enhance game play. Darkfall Online has come a long way in the past four months. It actually looks, feels, and plays more like a professional MMO. Most importantly Darkfall Online really delivered a stunning expansion after just four months launch.


Jeffery Hargrove