A bit of the old Ultra Violence
Graphical issues aside, the real core, and main draw, of Darkfall is the open world player versus player. Whether you are a veteran of six months or a newbie of two hours, anybody with a sharp object and a steely wit can 'have at you' and try and take what is yours. To ride in tandem with this is an alignment system of good and evil - if a player ganks and innocent race ally, a point toward the red is earned, if you murder someone of evil status or race enemy, then a point to the blue is rewarded. If a player runs into the red, NPC settlements will close their doors to them and 'Chaos' cities are their new home. This alignment system is quite a good, simple way of keeping the game from spilling into complete bloodthirsty anarchy but most newcomers will spend their first few months in a panicked daze: banking anything from carrots to gold just in case some man-bastard comes along with thieving fingers.
Full loot is a controversial element of the game and one that will overshadow the brutal and warlike nature of the game. When someone bests you in combat, the winner is allowed to rummage through your corpse for any spoils. In reality (where death results in heading back to a checkpoint) this system is fairly immersive and lends some weight to your actions and activities. Because of this an atmosphere is created and many players avoid one another and a sense of real terror and excitement accompanies any excursion.
Of course this does have a downfall and aside from the positives, finding or crafting a beautifully powerful weapon and then losing it to a git on horseback is never pleasant. Most newcomers will find it extremely difficult to push past the pain boundary of losing everything and this is not helped by certain players who make it their business to give the newbies of the world hell. Personally, I feel that Aventurine could perhaps find another way of dealing with open loot as it is at times too harsh and upsetting to lose everything in one axe swing. A system of highlighting a handful of items in your equipment that will be duplicated in case of attack would be a fairly interesting concept - the murderer gets everything on your corpse while a duplicate of those items specified are kept for the victim. It is a slight deviation in the brutality of the game but could attract back more sensitive players.
So through a mixture of fear and paranoia, most players will find themselves frantically searching out a clan of stronger fellows that can protect them from the unscrupulous characters of the world. Clans are the most engrossing and interesting feature of Darkfall. As the game is essentially based around the idea of warfare, clans can own towns and settlements which in turn can be attacked or defended by other clans. This gives the game another tier of enjoyment as the solo-experiences fade away, the group experience is one that surpassed the experience of the average 'endgame raids'.
There is real purpose to clan warfare and alliances and enemies are made with others and as the developer add more and more facets to this element of gameplay. Bands of players can siege towns with all manner of weapon and can even invade via boat. While my time in this side of the game was limited (the skill progression alone takes months to achieve) I did find that even as a lowly idiot with a sword, I could still assist more powerful clan members as they assaulted rivals on an almost daily basis. While I could not fell a lot of people, I was good 'meat in the room' and an excellent distraction while my companions snuck upon fellows manning cannons.
So as we near our conclusion, what can I say of Darkfall? The game is brutal, challenging, and engrossing. In the UK we have a saying that if something is either loveable or hate-able in equal measure; it is like 'Marmite' (a tar like substance that is essentially spreadable beef) and Darkfall is easily discernible of this title.
The skill system is something that will appeal to those who crave freedom and endless choices - and even difficult as maxing out certain areas if devilishly tricky and time consuming. Grind too is one of those things that you will either find yourself consumed within, or oppositely loathing every step of the way. Within Darkfall is an immersive and entertaining experience that will appeal to your preferences of difficulty or challenge. For those who will not enjoy this game, it is a simple matter of taste.
At the moment, the game is a thrilling ride but still certain elements remain, trading for instance is handled mainly through chat channels and NPC, player-owned merchants. While this system is workable, an auction house is something that would really enrich the experience.
Also, while the game is essential PvP based and warlike, there is a really lack of 'fluff' and more cuddly content that could see players disappearing in a fog of fantasy. Everything within the game is more or less geared toward combat and seeing another facet to the game would be nice.
So in closing, If you crave open world PvP unlike any this side of space, Darkfall is tough and entertaining and certainly for any that desire a successor to Planetside or Dark Age of Camelot, I would whole heartedly recommend this title. Now all Aventurine need is to fix those damn graphics and animations.