Starting out in Darkfall Online is a bit like staring at a blank page. The palpable potential and nearly infinite possibilities are quite overwhelming. Because of this, it will take some time for the general MMO community to warm up to it, but once the initial culture shock wears off this game's greatest weakness will ultimately end up being its greatest strength. To alleviate some of these fears I'd like to now share some of my personal experiences and opinions from a newbie's perspective. Here is a bit about my background: I didn't play nearly as many first-person shooters or skill-based games as some say I should've done to prepare myself for Darkfall, and so I came into the world of Agon (like many of you) as a proverbial blank slate. I have been an enthusiastic MMORPG player since the good old days of Everquest, going on to play Final Fantasy XI, Everquest 2, Vanguard (PvE), and Age of Conan (PvE) among other things. As you can see, I have been known as somewhat of a 'carebear' in my time, but you will soon see why I have changed my ways.
Warning: Here comes a generic, very subjective (but still true) statement about the game. If you can't handle it skip over the first few lines, keep your rage bottled up for a moment, and please hear me out.
Darkfall is fun! It has been a while since an MMO has caused this many endorphins and adrenaline to be pumped into my brain. What I loved about the game on paper, I still love in practice. The world of Agon is absolutely gorgeous! Rays of light and shadow dance atop colorful fields of flowers; the scorched sky is beautified by the commanding presence of the multiple planets and moons; the transition from one environment to the next is eerily realistic, and the "zone/chunk lines" are nonexistent. The only way to tell if you have switched "zones" is to look at the place name on your minimap. The harvesting nodes truly look part of the landscape, and on the whole the world seems "real." In my travels I have discovered many camps, ruins, and forts that are not marked on the map. The map itself works like a satellite photo. If you zoom all the way (and you can zoom very close) you can make out odd-looking marks, buildings, and discolored areas in the landscape that probably hold some interest (mobs, treasure, clan stone, etc). Aventurine has done their job, because I can't wait to explore more of their nicely-crafted world. One thing is for sure, you better take a few trusted companions or you'll loose all your gear and not remember where you died! No, there aren't mobs every five feet (I've heard this complaint a thousand times), but if you wandered in the wilderness would you expect bears, lions, hawks, wolves, goblins, etc to be standing around or walking along paths? No, of course not! They would be with their pack, or stealthily stalking in the grass, or perhaps (in the case of the goblins) banded together in a camp for protection. There are a great number of creatures in Agon, but, just as in real life, you have to be smart about where to look! Sometimes the monsters find you (and believe me you don't want to be found in these cases.) I managed to trip into the domain of a huge (and I do mean huge) red dragon who promptly began launching comet-sized fireballs at me. Only when I and a few other terrified adventurers slipped under the roots of a giant gnarly tree for sanctuary did it get bored and fly away. Another interesting incident occurred on one particularly ominous-looking evening. I ran across a rather menacing undead gentleman standing amid a field of burnt crops. Upon my hesitant greeting he summoned several zombies as a welcoming party. Needless to say I left them for more agreeable company.
As far as game play itself, it is very challenging (not the boring clickfest others are claiming). Yes you have to click to perform actions, but this is a FPS-MMO guys! If you don't like to click, you are playing the wrong type of game! Combat feels like Oblivion, in my opinion. You can never scroll out to be able to see far behind you like in most MMORPGs, which adds suspense and danger to everything you do. In melee mode, you can see maybe a foot or two behind your character, but in ranged mode (spells and archery) you have to be in first person. It provides a lot more opportunities for strategy. It takes patience and real skill to actually hit anything. The mob AI is frustrating, but this is because it's realistic! They weave, dodge, strafe, and jump just like any player. They do bug out at times because of leashing issues and the fact that they cannot swim, but this can be used to your advantage. Player motivation is also a bit different in Darkfall. Raising skills and leveling is secondary to political matters and clan sovereignty. Everyone is striving to make their mark on the world.
The sheer number of skills is staggering. I highly recommend you plan out exactly what you want to do, or you will be left with several skills that don't quite compliment each other. I have chosen to be a druid-type caster, Everquest-style. But being a newbie caster has been a bit frustrating at the beginning. Right now melee players have the advantage, but I believe magic will far outperform melee in PvP eventually. And as far as the skill leveling, it isn't so much of a grind that you can't handle it. It is quite slow, but not so slow as to be like EVE's skill progression.
From what limited crafting experience I have had, the system seems simple and self-explanatory (except enchanting). AV has done away with all of the complicated mechanics other games put into crafting in a vain attempt to make it "fun." In no way is the act of crafting supposed to be fun. You do it because you want to make money, gear, and items for yourself and others. Of course there is also the added danger that will definitely keep your blood pumping. It works in a skill system just as does combat and magic. You buy the ability, for example "Alchemy," and as you level that skill more recipes open up to you. There isn't any "trade" or "crafting" channel per say, so advertising your wares can be a bit of a challenge. But there is a lot of money to be made even this early in the game. Right now the flavor of the week is Armorsmithing and Weaponsmithing, but I have a feeling Jewelrycrafting and Enchanting are going to end up being the really huge money-makers.
With all of this glowing commentary, I would also like to address the surge of negativity during beta and since. A lot of the bad reviews came from the fact that the world felt 'dead' without more players in it during beta. There are more than enough people, mobs, and things to do as it stands now. That being said, this game is definitely not for everyone. Even now in-game players complain about the open PvP (versus realm) and lack of safe areas. But that is what makes the game great in my opinion.
I fully believe Darkfall is going to last because Aventurine cares about the game as much as the players do, they listen to their player base, and they actually fix issues quickly. For example: We don't have anymore queue issues, the sync issues are already fixed, and several exploits that players took advantage of early on are no more. Now they are free to focus on improving the game play experience and balancing. Ultimately, this game has nowhere to go but up in quality.