I've played Darkfall several times since launch, and each time I've remembered how good the game can be and how bad it sometimes is. Good and bad, I thought it a good idea to record the Darkfall that exists now so that I can compare it to the Darkfall that will be open after an upcoming relaunch, one that promises to change quite a few key features. Will it be a better game? I hope so.
Either way, during my week with this free-for-all PvP MMO, I was able to hook up with a newbie-friendly clan relatively quickly but spent most of my time running to the city where the clan took up residence. Same old Darkfall, really, but there were some truly hilarious and truly fun moments all the same.
If you haven't experienced Darkfall yet, why not? I have read a lot of comments about Darkfall and other "hardcore" titles that suggest the mere suggestion of open PvP is enough to dissuade people from even trying a game. Many potential players actually appear frightened to even step into the game, as though once they do they will immediately be assaulted by bands of roving PKers and forced to sit there as insults are forced onto the screen.
The first thing I think when I read about a game that appears to fit perfectly on my "do not try" list is try this game. I thought Salem, a hardcore PvP sandbox set in the time of the pilgrims, sounded absolutely ridiculous; the videos showing the developer talking about some of the systems in the game really just made me giggle. My next thought was about how to get into the beta. (I'll hopefully talk about that game later.) If we aren't brave gamers, we will be forced to play the same games over and over, and who wants that?
Watch live video from massivelytv on TwitchTV Darkfall never scared me, but I have had my moments in the game that left me feeling as though the "hardcore" title was really just a silly conglomeration of off-balance systems. Sure, players can hide out in the shadows thanks to the fact that floating names (you know, those carebear identifiers) would not appear in world. But other players can turn those wonderful shadows off, leaving hidden players not so hidden. Combat is more "realistic" or immersive in the way it can take real time to end. I've been involved in epic fights that lasted for what seemed like days. That's good stuff. But once a player dies, he or she is instantly teleported and resurrected... there's no realism in that. There are plenty of systems that seem more than a bit off, but after experiencing the game several times, I have to say that, as with Mortal Online, I can see what the developers are going for, an, in this age of instant-satisfaction MMOs, I can truly appreciate the effort. It helps that Darkfall is actually a pretty high-quality title.
As I have always noted when I cover a game that is supposed to be "hardcore," I know that a week or several hours is not enough time to get to the real meat of it. I know that playing solo or exploring is really not what makes Darkfall special. I know all of this because I have played it so many times. I actually agree that a game like Darkfall or other hardcore sandboxes need time to grow on a player, need time to let us grow a proper character, and need time so that we can truly experience what makes sandbox MMOs great. The solo or new player experience is just as important as any other, though.
But I did find a clan and spent just a short amount of time with its members. When I arrived in the very impressive clan city, I was immediately outfitted with free weapons and armor and sent along with others into the thick of battle. I felt sort of like a character in a move who wanders up to an enemy encampment, only to be rushed off into battle on the wrong side. According to the players I was with, most players had left the game while waiting for the reset and complete character wipe. I can't say that I blame them. The players who remain are having a great time taking advantage of the open world and seem more loose during combat. The chat channels were more jokey instead of filled with smack-talk, but that could have been a fluke for all I know. The point is that players who are sticking with Darkfall until the reset are going about the usual business of attacking each other, but the extra elbow room doesn't seem to hurt.
After tagging along and fighting off a handful of enemy players, we all jumped onto a ship. The sea and ship battles are some of the true highlights of Darkfall. To get onto the boat, you wade into the water and pull yourself up the side by grabbing some netting. Someone takes control, and the ship sails away. I was able to hide out, fire arrows, and dodge incoming magic blasts all while the ship continued to move and rock from the blasts of cannons. I am in the habit of keeping Fraps going in case I see anything cool, and I captured some footage of what is probably a pretty standard sea-battle. To me, however, it was very exciting.
The game became frustrating again after I woke up after being killed at sea; I had forgot to bind my character to the clan city and was, once again, very, very far away. Spending another few hours running in an empty world to get back to the action sounded like as much fun as network television. I ended up spending the rest of my time looking around, attacking goblins, and attempting to contact my clan. No one was on at the time.
"Darkfall does have its flaws and does have a community that hosts plenty of jerks. But, like most MMOs, if you decide to play you will end up in a group of your friends anyway, and you will hardly notice the jerks."
I checked one of my other accounts, and it had been reactivated as well. I wondered why Aventurine hadn't allowed anyone at all back into the game, instead of just players who had subbed at some point. Surely the empty game would have been filled up and those brand-new players might have experienced a game that would have turned them on to free-for-all gaming, but it's hard to say. I would have liked to see more of a massive blow-out happening before the relaunch instead of the tired whisper that is going on in game now. The point of Darkfall is that it is fun the more people you have, but honestly playing it alone while waiting for a relaunch is almost so depressing that it makes me want to skip it after relaunch. I'm sure I'll check back, however. I must for this article to make sense.
Darkfall does have its flaws and does have a community that hosts plenty of jerks. But as with most MMOs, if you decide to play, you will end up in a group of your friends anyway, and you will hardly notice the jerks. Darkfall takes time and a commitment to really get into but it does offer plenty for soloers or explorers to do. It really is one of the closest games we have to Skyrim Online. The combat is tough, but inexperienced players can help out in a battle. The free-for-all combat allows everyone to do something, similar to a game like Ryzom. If you like pretty epic combat, really nice sea battles, and some pretty darn scary night time, then try Darkfall. Of course, at this point you'll need to wait until the relaunch. Don't be scared; you will have a good time.
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!