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Choose My Adventure: Building on the clan experience in Darkfall

MJ Guthrie

Boy, MJ's Misadventureland is really coming along! Hiring a few more hands sure has sped things up; you wouldn't even recognize the project now compared to even just one week ago. But isn't that the whole point of Choose My Adventure -- to watch the adventure that you're building develop and unfold? Well, that and to snicker at your Massively guinea pigs... we know.

Having gone into this particular adventure knowing that Darkfall Unholy Wars was not a game meant for the solo soul, I knew that it was only a matter of time before I found myself in a clan to experience more of the heart of the game, which just so happens to be clan warfare. And trust me, the clan wasted no time throwing me into the thick of things once you put me in one.

Although I do think starting off solo was important to get the real experience Darkfall any new player would (after all, most find a clan after first logging in), this week really has shown me a whole new game. I'd just scratched the surface before, the skin if you will, and now I've peered into the heart and seen the seedy underbelly as well.

Gallery: Choose My Adventure: Darkfall Unholy Wars | 93 Photos

Here lies your free time
Slogging up that learning curve

This past week marked only my second full week truly adventuring in Agon (character creation and the tutorial aren't adventuring). And what a difference a week has made! Even before you settled on a clan, I was clawing my way up the learning curve incline. And as any player will tell you, the learning curve in Darkfall is a steep one. The way I played with very little combat time under my belt -- which you can actually witness for yourself -- is vastly different from how I played after a couple more hunting trips. To help you travel the curve faster, I'll highlight a few impressions and revelations from this past week. Then we'll dive into clan life.

To start, let me emphasize that acknowledging your own strengths and weaknesses will seriously impact how you feel about and fare in the game. Pretending you don't have any of them is a surefire ticket to frustration and failure. Addressing them, however, can lead to an improved experience. Let me illustrate.

A set of rare Dragon armor.I mentioned previously that Darkfall, possibly one of the best truth-in-advertising titles ever, was dark. Dark as in where-the-bleep-is-that-mob dark! Never in all of my gaming experience have I considered altering my settings to make the night lighter, but I am in Darkfall. After assessing my own play, I noted I had a significantly harder time in the dark because I was so insanely tense, much as I get when driving at night in the rain. I know that has everything to do with my eye injury, so while it may not affect others as much as it does me, it was seriously hampering me. Making just a tiny adjustment made a huge difference and allowed me to relax, which in turn improved my play significantly.

Next, never ever livestream your first group experience (in the stinking dark!) right after changing your radial wheels. If you've just reassigned your skills, take time to play around with them a little until you feel reasonably comfortable with their new position and can call them up without thinking about it. Don't -- I repeat, don't -- head right out with a new group to hunt in an unfamiliar area. Well, unless you just want to amuse your viewers. If you do, you might just find yourself in the awkward spot of thinking you are calling up your mana-to-stamina conversion skill and getting an empty slot instead.

Ditto for having just added a better weapon to your quick slots; if you don't drop the better weapon in the same quick slot, you're apt to scroll through and equip the inferior one by mistake. Here's another weapon quick slot tip: You can bundle a sword and shield together on the same quick button, making equipping the set a snap and oh so much easier in a pinch. And trust me when I say it is just good sense for a Deadeye to still equip and wield a sword and board when necessary.

Here's another important tip: Complete your feats! You may tire of grinding a bit in an area, but completing feats (like kill 150 humanoids) grants a boatload of prowess. Counting the killing and skinning, I doubled my prowess with just the one feat.

Finally, accept hints and tips. It's not weak to see if there's a better way to do something for you, and someone isn't necessarily saying you suck by giving you a pointer. Case in point: Having been a student of archery in real life, I found that first-person view felt more natural to me. However, in real life, I rarely had to be jumping around things and watching for attacks from the side when shooting in-game. So on the advice of a couple of fellow players, I gave the third-person view a bit more time. And guess what? Though counter-intuitive at first, I found I actually improved.

Doorbell ditch this, I dare you!
Finding the seedy underbelly

I know a number of you have been waiting for me to reveal the torrid underbelly of my Darkfall Unholy Wars experience, waiting for that moment when I expose the dark nature of the game and throw my hands up and say, "It's evil incarnate!" Well, I may have to disappoint you. Ironically, the only bad experience I have had so far was during the last livestream when I was accosted by trolls and their inappropriate comments. Otherwise, it's been fairly chill.

Maybe you just reap what you sow. I didn't go into the game expecting everyone to be a jerk, and really no one has been. I was, however, surprised by the random helpfulness in such a cutthroat world. Contrary to popular belief, more people have been interested in offering me helpful pointers than in trolling or tearing me down (obviously I'm ignoring global chat in this assessment). And I don't just mean people in clan or because I am with Massively; random players have offered tips and even material goods just because they noticed I was brand-spanking new without knowing who I was. I think the majority of players who actually care about the game want to see it succeed, and they understand that this means offering a bit of support and guidance to the new players. More players mean either more comrades or more targets in the end, so where's the sense in chasing folks away?

Don't get me wrong, though. Darkfall Unholy Wars is not a feel-good, lovey-dovey kind of place. As you'd expect in open PvP, there's a sort of "only the strong survive" mantra, but that envelops groups and clans. So if you are in a clan, you're apt to have folks who rally around you, helping when needed, and whom you in turn help out.

And speaking of clans...

Rde 'em cow... bear/pig/cat
Getting to the heart of the game

I know you all are on the edge of your seats waiting to hear what happened this past week, so let's finally just cut to the clan chase. While I'm very aware that my treatment within my clan is not exactly the run of the mill recruit (the members are a little more forgiving of my shortcomings as I have logged significantly less time than most), I've watched them support and include other recruits in the same activities I am privy to. So aside from my personal healer -- bad press to let the press die? -- I'm just one of the bunch. And they've been showing me what the game is truly about. Here's a synopsis of events and impressions of my first few days with a clan.

1. Riding en masse across the countryside with your clanmates is exhilarating. From the thunder of hoofs and paws across the terrain to the sight of figures in the distance scrambling to stay out of your way, it's something that absolutely has to be experienced. There's also the suspense -- was that a poor hapless harvester who bolted away for safety, or was it an advance scout of another war-party hightailing it back to the main group to bring murder and mayhem down on our heads?

Boating 1012. Clan cities are pretty dang spiffy. The first thing Sinister leaders did was get me to their clan city to show off that aspect of the game. It's got a bank, a trainer, (soon crafting), and more all tucked away behind fortified walls that others can come crashing through at any time. And about crashing through...

3. Sieging is fun, even when you die and lose everything (I miss my bear!). I wasn't in the clan more than an hour before we were dashing off to breach the walls of a neighboring hold. Breaking through the wall (best to overestimate on the number of battle spikes to bring, trust me), infiltrating the city, and engaging the occupants was chaotic but quite fun. I say chaotic because whereas the rest of the teams all knew the drill, I was not even sure whether I was in the first or second group, so I was not quite where they thought I was. (See below)

4. Voice is essential, but not just for communication; while war-parties and sieges can really be coordinated only with the voice program, it helps liven the more mundane everyday play that goes on in-between those flashes of excitement. Even if you choose not to chat much, listening in on the banter makes for a better experience. And it could offer a few screen-spraying laughs! Here's my hard-earned hint for this: If you haven't shut the overlay in Mumble off, do it, then relog into the game before you go anywhere, otherwise the list of channel occupants completely covers the right side of your screen and you can't see Jack (or Jill or John or whoever is actually in your group), let alone the minimap.

5. Boats are really cool. 'Nuff said.

If you've never been in a clan and you are complaining about the game, do yourself a favor and join one, then get back to me. See the game from that angle, then decide if it is for you. I'm not asking you to delay judgment until reaching endgame; I'm saying judge the game after experiencing the game. And for Darkfall Unholy Wars, the game is clan warfare. And trust me, it's definitely different from playing solo. It's like a whole new world! *cue Disney music* Don't believe me? Well, come see for yourself this Thursday, May 23rd, at 9:00 p.m. EDT when CMA Live will be broadcast on Massively TV.

Emey's first siege
And don't forget that you get to choose the clan-based adventures for the final week of our project. So what would you rather hear more about: smaller PvP skirmishes from roving bands, ship-based warfare on the water, or large-scale sieges on land? You have until Friday night, May 24th, at 11:59 p.m. EDT to decide. After that, it's a weekend of Unholy Wars!%Poll-82587%
Strap yourself in for the ride of (six weeks of) your life! Where are you going? Well, that's entirely up to you, the Massively readers, to decide -- the where, the what, and the how are all directed by you. The who is MJ Guthrie! For the duration of Choose My Adventure, her virtual life is in your hands! Join MJ in-game, on-site, and live on Massively TV to be a part of the adventure and watch the story unfold.

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