If you are a fan of action-based MMOs like Rusty Hearts and Dungeon Fighter Online, then you might want to check out Outspark's new title Darkblood Online. Not only does it hand out the same bang for the buck, but it does so with a unique and flashy style that I haven't seen before. I spent the last week chopping up monsters, shooting demons, and conquering dungeons. I saw some of the weaknesses of the title as well, but overall it possesses an honesty about its intentions that helps to keep the good times rolling.
There is definitely a persistent nature to the game. It's an MMORPG, so don't worry. It's not a MOBA or social game with multiplayer elements even though a player could spend much of her time soloing areas. The whole thing is balanced between an arcade grinder and a living world.
But I'll try to not get ahead of myself.
After logging in you can make a character from one of the four classes: Warrior, Knight, Hunter, and Mage. I doubt I need to explain how these basic classes work, but it is important to note that the Knight and Mage are both gender-locked as female. I'm no fan of gender-locking, but luckily I would rather have played the Hunter anyway. I had streamed the game the week before, so I was familiar with the gameplay and knew what to expect. Still, a lot of gamers will not like the fact that playing a favorite class means playing a certain sex. I'm not sure I understand the need for gender-locking at all unless I consider its use for storytelling. Even then I'm not sure why a player's character would need to be a certain forced character to participate in an MMO's story. After all, MMOs are all about playing an extension of yourself, not a hand-picked character. Couldn't the lore flex as it does in other MMOs?
Minus the minor issue of the female- and male-only classes, I found myself intrigued by how blatantly comfortable the game is with itself. I play so many titles that seem to want to do too many different things while mastering none. I love to come across a title that is what it is and does that one thing well. Darkblood Online is about giving the players the ability to do some real damage right out of the gate. Monsters can easily explode or split in half, and the game even occasionally allows players to take the reins of a higher-level character to illustrate different parts of the story. I found myself playing the role of a high-level melee character, a major player in the storyline I was working through. Even though I preferred the ranged character, I kept giggling when the temporary swordmaster I was playing splatted enemies or crushed them under his boots.
Combat is very reminiscent of old-school button-smashers. I tend to stay away from action-based MMOs because of the fatigue it causes my arms and wrists, but Darkblood Online kept the buttons easy to memorize and arranged within reach of my fingertips. Monsters were tuned enough to present a challenge without causing my fingers to fall off. Special moves are timed so that when they happen, they happen in a big way. This timing helps create a fluid experience while not taxing my body like other action games have. That wrist pain is especially hard to bear when it forces me to avoid such a wonderful genre. Fortunately, titles like Darkblood Online are easy to play for an hour or so. I can take a break and easily come back later to find the same experience waiting for me.
I kept expecting the game to get boring near the end of the week, but it was always easy to log in and destroy a few enemies. I didn't download the game on one of my weaker laptops to check how it runs on a more basic PC, but I imagine it would run just fine. This technical accessibility is always almost more important to me than gameplay. Almost. Allowing players from all financial backgrounds to play your game is what MMOs are all about. I'm tired of reading long lists of technical specifications that act as a guardpost against those of us who are tired of spending thousands on PC guts. Darkblood Online could probably be played by a college student, a professional, or a soccer parent. The action is easy to understand and hard to master, allowing all sorts of players to attend the party. Accessibility, once again.
The message is clear with Darkblood Online: Come and play me. Kill monsters. Loot stuff. I often wish more MMOs would try to do a few things this well instead of splicing in half-baked systems along the way. There is some fun lore that comes along with the Darkblood Online experience, as well. The world is, well, dark, and the monsters often remind me of those that came directly from a Dungeons and Dragons or Warhammer game. In fact some of the artwork from many of the Darkblood Online loading screens reminds me of a popular Warhammer artist. The cutscenes and movies that come along with the game are a bit campy but fun. If you like min-maxing your stats or grabbing only the best loot, then you'll enjoy Darkblood Online as well. True, I did find myself behind the wheel of a high-level character thanks to the developers, but I also started a brand-new character and had just as much fun. I did occasionally miss the ability to destroy hordes of enemies with a push of a few buttons, though. When I did, I just logged back in to the high-level character and blew things up.
Overall, it was a very satisfying week of gameplay. As in explosions.
Next week I will be looking a bit deeper at Vendetta Online, the multi-client space MMO. I am going to attempt to stream the game live from my Nexus 7 tablet on Monday, the 20th of August, at 5:00 p.m. EDT on our livestream channel. Join me!
Each week on Rise and Shiny, Beau chooses a different free-to-play, indie, or browser-based game and jumps in head-first. It might be amazing or it might be a dud, but either way, he'll deliver his new-player impressions to you. Drop him an email, comment, or tweet!