Reasons why Darkfall is catching my eye

Mahirim or Dog people

Mahirim or "Dog people"

This game has been in development longer than some of you have been able to walk.  Many consider it to be “Vaporware” – including myself at times (still do on occasion) – and many believe that it will fail horribly.  However, the game is releasing in Europe on the 22nd of January with a North American release coming sometime after that.  The Devs have said that North American players may still play on the European servers though, which is what my friends and I are strongly considering.  For those of you following the game, you’ll already know that it’s based heavily on Player vs. Player to the point of being classified as “hardcore” because of full-looting.  You’ll also be able to tell right away from looking at screenshots that the game is not as pretty (I’m being kind) as other games.   I don’t want to focus on the bad right now though, because everyone seems to be focusing on why this game will flop.  I want to focus on what is catching my eye and making me actually consider playing on January 22nd.

I’ve based my take on this information from the Official Features list, a FAQ, and Beta Impressions from a real player.

Truly open PvP
It’s the first time in a while that a  game is releasing where players can kill anyone they want.  In Darkfall you can kill the newbie standing next to you just because he looked at you funny.  However, there are loose factions based on race (Human, Dwarf, Elf / Ork, Wolf people / Dark Elf) that provide the servers some basis of friendly interaction.  Straight from the FAQ it says that it’s up to the players whether or not they care about these natural factions.  Players can form guilds with all Human and be completely anti-everyone else or they can stick to their racial lines or they can cross them compeltely.  It’s up to the players.  Of course there are downsides to killing the races that are loosely aligned with you.  According to the beta impressions I’ve read, there is a “murder system” in place that penalizes you for killing someone who is supposed to be allied with you.  However, this penalty can be negated by killing ‘true’ enemies.  I want to hear more about the specific details but so far this sounds great to me.

Full-Loot and the importance of gear
In Darkfall you can kill someone and take almost everything they have on them.  I’m told that the only things you can’t take are the basic necessities such as the player’s basic weaponry (Like a basic “Short sword” or something).  This is going to be tough for a lot of people to grasp.  Items in Darkfall will not have their permanent status like in WoW and other MMORPGs.  Even the best gear in the game can be jacked from your cold dead body by a band of newbies if they happen to kill you.  Also, using that gear is going to eventually wear it out.   I’m anxious to play under these rulesets though because, when you think about it, it has a ton of possibilities.  Gear won’t matter as much because if you get attached to your like you do in WoW then you’re going to quit in a week and start up a blog about how much Darkfall sucks – everyone will be glad to be rid of you.  A sword is a friggin sword!  A mail tunic is a mail tunic!  These are things which allow your character to deflect damage or cut a face but they’re not what defines who you are as a player.  That’s left up to….

A SKILL driven game!  No levels, no classes, pure freedom
There are no levels in Darkfall.  For some of you, this will be the first time ever (or in a long time) that you’re playing a game that doesn’t require you to gain levels.  It’s going to be completely skill based with ~500 skills and ~500 Spells (that’s the Dev’s goal at launch with more added later).  This raises more questions than I can fathom, but from my understanding it works like this:  Let’s say you want to be a sword using, plate wearing, warrior type character.  The first thing you’ll want to do is get a sword and some plate armor and begin training with them.  Yes, you USE your items to become better with them – not just to “hit” with them like most games but to become “better” with them –  and your character slowly begins to lean toward the type of character that would use these weapons.  As you gain sword skill you will be able to train special sword attackss/skills from a trainer and become more proficient with the weapon.  From what I’m told, your character will begin to really shift towards a fighter type and you will slowly gravitate towards the stereotypical warror-esque playstyle.  However, like I said, your character develops solely around your playstyle.  If you want to be a caster and cast spells then you don’t want to wear plate armor because it hinders your casting.  As you cast more spells you will mold into a spellcaster if your choosing.  Heck, if you want to be a plate wearing battle-mage then I bet you can be one – you’ll have to find the balance of skills and spells and take into account the game’s mechanics but I bet it’s doable.  From the impressions I’ve read it sounds detailed to the point where the game recognizes you are using archery and wearing armor so you begin to skill up in “armored archery”.  To top it all off, there is skill decay.  This means you lose skills if you dont use them often – how often I’m not sure.  And the best part?  If you don’t like being a sword using guy then stop using the sword and start doing what YOU want to do and you can easily shift from being one style to another without having to reroll.   There is no way to “mess up” your character or worry about “min/maxing” and the stress that brings.  You play your character how you want him to play and he will develop as thus.

Crafting and a Player-driven economy

Dwarfs are great crafters

Dwarfs are great crafters

I really enjoy these player-driven economies.  They always lead to a better community and more immersion for me.   From the FAQ: “You will be able to make almost every item found in the world like weapons, tools, armor, clothing, food, containers, furniture, jewelry etc.” Players can also repair items but eventually all items degrade to the point where they are useless.  That means that the economy will not oversaturate (ideally) and that crafters will always be in business.  From The Noob’s beta impressions, it seems like crafting is a detailed process:  “As an alternative to farming arrows from monsters who use them or buying them at the store, I’ve decided to try making my own. You need a wood axe and a pickaxe to collect wood from trees and ore from ore-yielding rocks. Then you must use a saw at a workbench to obtain wood planks and smelt the ore (using tongs at a smelter) to obtain ingots. THEN you must take your ingots, ore and a woodworking knife to a crafting bench…” I can’t wait to see what can be made – especially things like…

Player housing, guild cities, and player organized hubs!
Players and guilds can create homes, cities, hamlets, and central hubs of commerce.  Guilds can make guild cities/towns or whatever they’re called and, from what I have gathered, the individual can as well.  This will allow for the homemakers to decorate their homes and cities with furniture and for the killers to come and stomp it all down!  In past games with unrestricted PvP, I’ve seen players come together and siege these cities and hubs.  This has created rivalries and all out wars on some servers over these focal points.  Players band together and defend the areas they like to congregate in and then retaliate against the attackers.  It’s all in the hands of the players at this point and this means that servers will develop their own rules regarding player conduct and then be able to enforce them.  Since the world is so large, guilds can wander off the beaten path and find a nice secluded area to establish a guild base.  The possibilities here have me really excited because this type of player control is what I really enjoy.

Combat is more like Oblivion than a MMO
I’ve been trying to decide if I like this or not, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I like it.   Having to always aim at your enemy in combat (like Oblivion and other Elder Scrolls games) will really make combat more active, rather than passive.  I was once in favor of such a system while anticipating Age of Conan but was burned when it became a spazzy button masher.  According to the beta impressions it seems like the game will be much slower pace since it will require aiming, thinking ahead, and execution.   Having to load up a spell, aim, and fire it where you think the enemy will be and being able to actually miss because there is -zero- target lock sounds interesting.  Having to always be aiming at your enemy in melee combat will also be a pretty big change for the MMO genre.  This is where the “first person” stuff comes into play, I suppose.  Much of the game is done in first person – that’s how you cast spells and shoot arrows.  However, if I’ve read this correctly, you CAN go to third person but it is extremely zoomed in on your character.   Some people will hate this yada yada.  I think it can be fun though and it will certainly add to the immersion of being in a world and having to actually – physically – pay attention to your surroundings.  Seeing what’s behind you will require you to look behind you and not pan your camera around.  This means that players can sneak up on enemies without a “stealth” skill that makes them invisible but rather using the terrain, shadows, and natural sneaking stuff (Graev thinks of the game “Thief” here).  Footsteps can be heard so you really need to be careful when sneaking.   Oh, this also means there is no “tab targeting”. heh heh heh.

I’m getting really excited for the possibilities of a game like UO/SWG (and even EQ on the pvp servers) again where the players are in so much control.  I think that if Darkfall can deliver on these promises and concepts then it can be exactly what a lot of people find fun.  No, it won’t be a huge success and it will certainly be labled a “niche” game.  But if it can deliver on these promises and sustain even a small following then the game will be a ton of fun – the type of fun that keeps people playing for many years.  It’s all about the communities in games like these.  The players make the rules and the servers develop around the players.   The players can choose whether or not their actions will be looked upon by other players are “good” or “evil” and guilds/clans will form around these mentalities.   Players will congregate at a certain city (perhaps a guild or player made one) because of its location and want to have peace there, but the aggressive types may want to lay siege to it.  It’s up to the community to come together and protect their beloved location or not.   It’s up to the players to decide if ganking newbies is acceptable or if there will be clans dedicated to the protection of players.  Robin Hood types will spring up and their counterparts will as well.  You can play like a Pirate and make your entire playtime devoted to robbing people blind or you can be the guy who stands up and does something about it.   How one person chooses to play potentially creates content for someone else.

I’m not going to allow Darkfall to crush me if it fails but I’m finding it harder and harder every day to not want to jump into a sandbox world and begin playing my part in shaping it.  I hope, for the sake of MMORPGs becoming more than what they’ve slumped into, that Darkfall succeeds or at least opens the door for someone to make a game that embodies these types of ideals again.

If you’re interested in joining our potential Darkfall community then be sure to visit our forum!   At the very least it will be a support group if things go horribly wrong. 😉

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