So, let me paint a giant target on my back, cover myself in delicious meat, and walk right into the lion's den of MMOs. This column is dedicated to Darkfall's gameplay mechanics; presenting an analysis of what we know so far from released beta tester announcements and gameplay footage. This is, by no means, a comprehensive analysis of everything Darkfall has to offer. This is just one man's opinion column at work, looking at the ups and downs of what Darkfall might bring to the table.
I'm doing all of this to answer one eerily simple yet dastardly complex question: Can Darkfall live up to the hype around it?
Let's do this in a nice orderly fashion and work our way from the things that might go horribly wrong to the things that might just blow your socks through your eyeballs and leave you breathless. This way, we get to end on a good note for once in this column's print life!
All right then, enough stalling, let's get on with it.
That's nice, that's great, but what does it do? Why should I do it?
We've already gotten eyefuls of Darkfall's PvP and combat, and it looks really interesting. But what I'm interested in are the things that aren't being said. Quests, dungeons, city building benefits aren't really mentioned in all of the pre-release content. We know they're there, but what do they do?
Even in a sandbox world, you need some sort of direction for the players. You need things that will get them out to explore your world and bring them into combat situations. You need to offer the player tangible benefits to go out, explore, build cities, and do what you want them to do.
I don't want to see Darkfall turn into another Age of Conan, where city building means nothing and grinding is the best way to get anywhere. Just because the content is present doesn't mean it's good. It needs to have some sort of incentive backing it so players feel justified in using it.
When a player builds a city, it needs to give back to the player. When a player sails a ship, it needs to do something more than just fire cannons. It needs to provide access to some other types of content or it needs to provide viable transportation. What we need to know is that Darkfall is more than just PvP, or just PvP over content that doesn't provide kickbacks.
Aventurine says that Darkfall isn't just a PvP game, but "the focus of the game is kingdom building, clan warfare, and conquest." Which, if anyone didn't notice, are all just different terms for PvP.
Pretty cities are great, and dynamic combat is great, but if there's no reason driving the whole thing then you have no game. You just have people smacking each other in the head until they get bored and leave. I hope the devs don't sell themselves short. Incentive drives conflict -- just ask any EVE Online player about incentives versus risk.
Risk has finally been reintroduced
This is something I'm really interested in seeing in action. Darkfall has a very viable chance of bringing risk back to the table. Beta testers talk about being paranoid in open fields, eager to explore new lands, and a sense of accomplishment that they haven't felt in a long time. The reason they're feeling that accomplishment is because they are risking everything with each step in the game.
Our games today have minimized risk and penalties to the point where accomplishment is being minimized. Because Darkfall is providing such high risks in their open world, they're also providing very high feelings of accomplishment. This is a good thing -- a very good thing -- to anyone who's willing to take the time and learn the ropes.