Das Tal, a new PvP-focused sandbox MMORPG from Fairytale Distillery, has an ambitious task: provide a hardcore player-vs-player gameplay experience that is still accessible for casual gamers. With server-specific rulesets, skill-based combat, and an emphasis on group coordination, the game offers an interesting take on what sandbox MMOs can look like.
I recently had the opportunity to chat with Fairytale Distillery’s Game Designer and Director, Alex Zacherl, who gave me an overview of what we can expect with Das Tal. The game features a dark fantasy, post-apocalyptic setting, and takes several gameplay cues from beloved titles such as Shadowbane for its sandbox, Guild Wars for its character system, Bloodline Champions for control, Gothic for its setting, and Ultima Online for an ever-present inspiration. It uses WASD controls and plays like a first-person game with a third-person perspective, and gives nods to MOBA-style games with line of sight, bushes you can hide in, and even a blind spot directly behind your character that can be exploited.
The premise of Das Tal is straightforward (and dark): you and everyone else in the world have been thrown into a prison valley and have to either band together or fight each other to make your way out. You can progress your characters, make alliances, build cities, and take part in what little PvE content the game has to offer, but ultimately, you’ll have to face off against other players to succeed. While there’s some PvE grinding that allows you to fight mobs for experience and loot, it’s mostly a backdrop for the game’s PvP system. You might, say, be on the prowl for a weapon drop or supplies for your city, but everyone else will be doing the same thing, at which point you’ll find that the proverbial might will make right in Das Tal. As a casual player, you’ll be able to farm some gear and XP for your clan members, but no one will be able to farm up to max level on day one. There are no quests or raids in Das Tal at this moment, although the team would be willing to consider putting them in the game if there’s sufficient demand.
Combat will play out a little bit like an arena battle (think Bloodline Champions), where you’ll have eight-ish skills, half of which will come from your weapon, and half of which will be provided by your armor (see the dual class system in Guild Wars). With this system, you’ll be able to mix and match damage, healing, crowd control, and other skills to suit your objective and play style. Das Tal has an open PvP system with full loot, which incorporates a Bind system where you can use points to bind gear to your character, allowing you to keep certain items even as your non-bound stuff drops in combat.
As you roam the world, you and your clan will find oases and ruins, upon which you can start building your cities if you have the appropriate resources. You’ll have to manage such resources and space as your city expands, and protect it in CTF/control-point-style siege battles when your enemies come a-knocking. Eventually, after about a couple months of real time, everyone on your server will encounter an endgame mode, where prison guards - essentially hundreds of NPCs plus GMs - will come to attack everything. At that time, you’ll be able to fight back or lend your assistance in backstabbing other clans. Then it’s back to the drawing board on a new server.
This scenario brings to light one of the most intriguing aspects of Das Tal’s gameplay experience: its custom server rulesets. Each server will support a high density of players with numbers around two to three hundred, and can have several different quirks, such as worlds without fire magic, or where visibility is poor due to sandstorms, or where ranged characters will have an advantage. There’s even the possibility of worlds where heavy armor will be the best protection available, but gameplay will be slower because of increased gravity. There will be the opportunity for player-made server rulesets, and account persistence between servers that will carry over your stats, KDR, and maybe some items, although Fairytale Distillery wants there to be a level playing field every time a new server starts.
The art direction for Das Tal is also very unique. Fairytale Distillery wants to clearly distinguish between player characters and the worlds they will inhabit, so the team is employing projection mapping with hand-drawn environments and 3D character models. The result is that the game should feel isometric without actually being so.
Das Tal has just left pre-production and is being prepped for its first Alpha. Alex and Fairytale Distillery see the game evolving over time with incremental features, which can be tested and redesigned through the addition of new servers. They also see themselves adding new biomes, like mountainous and swamp regions, to the game’s decidedly desert theme. Right now, the team is collecting feedback and will be recruiting Alpha testers soon, having recently created Das Tal’s forums and Steam Greenlight page.
Som Pourfarzaneh / Som has been hanging out with the MMORPG.com crew since 2011, and is an Associate Director & Lecturer in Media, Anthropology, and Religious Studies. He’s a former Community Manager for Neverwinter, the free-to-play Dungeons & Dragons MMORPG from Cryptic Studios and Perfect World Entertainment, and is unreasonably good at Maze Craze for the Atari 2600. You can exchange puns and chat (European) football with him on Twitter @sominator.