Choose My Adventure: A fond farewell (but not really) to dear old Darkfall

Jef Reahard
J. Reahard|12.29.10

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Choose My Adventure: A fond farewell (but not really) to dear old Darkfall
Swiftsnout in Hammerdale
Wow, is it time to go already? I guess the old adage about time flying when you're having fun applies to MMORPGs as well, since Choose My Adventure's Darkfall escapade has run its course. Happily, I'm only saying goodbye to the column, as I'll be staying on in the world of Agon for further adventures on both Swiftsnout and my human alt. It's been a fascinating six weeks, full of adventure, grind, new friendships, new enemies, and a rekindling of my personal sandbox flame.

While the tone of this series has been undeniably positive toward a game that has suffered more than its share of negative press, I hope I've been able to remain fairly objective and paint a clear picture of the goings-on in Aventurine's grim fantasy opus. Join me after the cut for a brief look at my week-six activities as well as a few final impressions on the game as a whole.
NEW guild on Shazzta's schooner
Week six wrapup

This week was an exercise in soloing, as I spent the vast majority of my 20-odd hours hunting alone or pushing further into unexplored regions of the vast world map. I also spent a good bit of time transferring inventory items from Swiftsnout to my alt since I'm planning on relegating the former to a life of crafting and gathering while I spend most of my playtime on the latter. Let me tell you, you've never had tense moments in an MMORPG until you've tried to transfer a stack of crafted armor, piles of reagents and resources, and 30,000 gold from one Darkfall character to another. While that probably doesn't sound like much in the way of wealth to veteran players, it represents six weeks of blood, sweat, and tears, and all of it could have been gone in a second had I run into an inopportune gank.

Cool Mahirim playerNot only that, but the transfer process itself was a lengthy one and featured a decent amount of logistics and planning. Where am I going to make the transfers? Can I get my buddies to provide backup or will that draw unnecessary attention? Should I do it late at night or early in the morning? How many runs will I have to make due to inventory weight? These and other factors all had to be taken into consideration since you can't simply mail items to your alts like you can in most other games, and once again I found myself having a blast simply due to the fact that Darkfall feels like a world first and a game second.

Final impressions

I have to say that six weeks is the bare minimum time you should set aside if you're thinking seriously of giving Darkfall a shot. Not counting the week surrounding Christmas, I played between 25 and 30 hours each week and felt as if I'd barely scratched the surface of what the game has to offer. I did get to see quite a lot of high-level PvE content early in the column run, but I didn't get around to high-level PvP and sieges (which are a huge part of Darkfall's endgame). I also managed to get my greatsword skills to a respectable level as well as improve my base stats and a few of my crafting and gathering skills. That said, my magic schools are fairly anemic at this point, as are my archery and healing capabilities.

I'm more or less content with the progression thus far (I'm a notoriously slow leveler and prone to exploring, crafting, and otherwise being really inefficient), but I'm sure there are quicker and easier paths to viability than the one I chose for Swiftsnout. In any event, I managed to see a good sampling of all there is to do in Darkfall, and I've collected my overall impressions of the game as follows:

  • Active developers -- Aventurine is committed solely to Darkfall, and while some players question the speed and impact of the team's updates, there's no denying that the devs are passionate about the game and hell-bent on expanding it over time.
  • Massive world -- After spending quite a bit of time wandering the wilds of Agon, I found that the "massively" in other massively multiplayer online roleplaying games just doesn't seem that impressive.
  • Combat -- Darkfall combat is a head-scratching marvel of complexity and possibility, and while there are preferred builds for the uber PvP crowd, there are a huge amount of skills, playstyles, and experimentation options for the rest of us.
  • PvE -- I'll probably take a few lumps from hardcore ForumFallers for this one, but the fact remains that Darkfall's PvE is loads of fun (and Aventurine is expanding it with each update).
  • Sandbox trimmings -- See a weapon, tool, or piece of armor you want to use? Go for it, as the game is blessedly free of silly class restriction shenanigans, bind-on-equip tomfoolery, and many other annoying themepark staples.
  • The grind -- Love it or hate it (and many people hate it), Darkfall's progression curve is lengthy and at times discouraging.
  • Avatar graphics and animations -- Aventurine began working on Darkfall in 2001, and nowhere is this more evident than in the dated character models and stilted combat animations.
  • Community -- While my experience with Darkfall's community was quite positive (particularly the NEW clan), fresh-faced players who fail to join a guild will be at the mercy of the game's gankers, wankers, and the unmoderated kindergarten class that is racial alliance chat. Also, oh em gee, the official forums. You will never find a more wretched hive of (young) scum and (wannabe) villainy.
  • Time commitment -- Getting the most out of Darkfall requires a hefty time investment. I debated whether this was a pro or a con at length, ultimately concluding that most newbs will consider it a con. This is not a casual (or particularly accessible) game.
Ultimately, Darkfall is a worthwhile sandbox in that it boasts a ton of play options, sports comparatively few restrictions, and demands a lot of your time. It also features a considerable learning curve and fairly skimpy tutorial/help systems, and newbies aren't so much thrown to the wolves as they are punted unceremoniously right into the thick of the den. If you're coming from post-2004 games that are largely on rails, you're in for an adjustment period. If you've got any experience with old-school Ultima Online, Asheron's Call, or even Star Wars Galaxies, you'll have an easier transition. Regardless of how you're approaching Darkfall though, it's very different from the rest of the genre, and that's one of the things that makes it special.

So that's about it, folks. Thanks for following Choose My Adventure and for picking Darkfall. I had a blast, and I hope you will too if you decide to follow in my footsteps. Check in with Massively next week as our own Beau Hindman slides into the captain's chair for a brand-new CMA series.

Go back to last week.
Go back to week one.

Join Jef as he morphs from a ranty writer into a grindy action hero in a Choose My Adventure directed by you, the Massively readers! Add Jef in-game to play along, or simply follow the column every Wednesday for a recap of the week's mischief. When six weeks are up, we'll spin the wheel of fate and do it all again.
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