What I expected vs. What they delivered (Darkfall)

Since I receive dozens of “what do you think about this” requests every day, I thought I would try to answer as many of them as I can think of in one post. If I think of any more then I will edit them in.

Scale: Fantastic, Great, Good, Mediocre, Bad, Lousy, Total Crap.
Totally subjective. Totally my take based on how I play the game.

Skill-based system
I expected: Fantastic
They delivered: Mediocre
Reason: The system is susceptible to macroing and sets aside the value of earning skills with the value of accruing them. Example: Instead of hitting mobs with spells to earn skillups, you just spam them into the sky. The skill system could have been taken an alternate root with skill trees, skill progression and unlocks, choices between skills via branches or pools, etc.

I expected: Good
They delivered: Great
Reason: I expected Oblivion with a lot of issues translating such a real-time system to the mmorpg gameplay. Aventurine surprised by actually pulling it off with just a few quirks that can be worked out.

I expected: Fantastic
They delivered: Mediocre/Bad
Reason: It’s not what they advertised it to be. I’m not even knocking them for simplicity or tedium. I’m knocking them here for allowing stupid stuff to make it into launch such as only having to make the very first item from 1-100. Seriously, why craft anything but Goblin Axes from 1-100 when they take the least materials and you can skill up on them just as easily as something that takes 100x the mats? The system earns points with me for really requiring players to work at something, rewarding them with a player-driven economy, and having much of the game in general center around crafting.  [Additional points added today for making the gathering system more in-line with what it should be in today’s patch with resource nodes being global.]

Melee Abilities and Weapons
I expected: Great
They delivered: Lousy
Reason: Whether you’re using a dagger or a polearm, the abilities are all the same. You get a Seize (draw in), Knock back, Whirlwind, and power attack. Zero thought went into this. Additionally, combat with certain weapons doesn’t make sense or it’s not polished. Polearms do the most damage, have the most range, and the widest arc while the only drawback is they use the most stamina. Arguably using anything else is inferior. There are subtle differences, but weapons should really stand out as having their unique benefits and drawbacks. It’s too simple. Ranged Combat falls into this for much of the same reasons.

Read ‘more’ for the rest!

Magic System
I expected: Good
They delivered: Mediocre
Reason: The spells are just “bleh” right now. I admit that few people have even reached the elemental magics, but commenting on what I have seen I can’t possibly rank it higher. The simple bolt spell with a splash is effective and to the point, but using it to such a degree as pretty much the bread and butter is just… well, “bleh”. I’ll happily reevaluate this later.

PvE Gameplay
I expected: Good
They delivered: Total Crap
Reason: The game is obviously not a PvE game. The mob behavior is … I don’t even know sometimes. There are times I think “Wow that’s the smartest mob I’ve ever seen” and then there are times where I think “Some GM must be controlling this thing and having a great laugh” because of how bizarre they act. The fact remains that PvE introduces money to the economy and PvP redistributes it. Lately I have avoided PvE as nothing but a chore

PvP Gameplay
I expected: Good
They delivered: Fantastic
Reason: It’s the total package. The “hardcore” consequences with the political landscape combined with how completely open it all is make it for one of the best PvP experiences ever. Add in the fact that they made the oblivion style combat actually work, mounted combat work, sieges, ship combat, and almost everything they promised have really made this an experience that every future PvP game will have to live up to.

City Building
I expected: Good
They delivered: Fantastic
Reason: I added this as its own category because I really feel that they’ve achieved something special with cities. Owning land in Darkfall is the total experience. When you finally own something under the conditions of this game then that feeling you get will embody what Darkfall is all about. Just imagine how easy it will be to lose territory and how important it is that you don’t. It gives your clan a place to hang out, a place to craft, and a purpose.

I expected: Good
They delivered: Great
Reason: I expected 1999 and I got 2007. Can’t complain with what they’ve been able to pull off. The game on max settings really is beautiful if you can look past some of the animations.

I expected: Bad
They delivered: Good
Reason: I actually thought we would be stuck with something a lot simpler. There are several types of armor, different appearances for each race, item ranks based on skill level, durability, and functionality (although limited as mentioned in combat). ‘Enough’ diversity is there to not make you think about it. Gear doesn’t matter – exactly how it should be.

Performance / Lag
I expected: Good
They delivered: Lousy
Reason: The game itself actually runs really well on my system (70-100fps), but they lose an overwhelming amount of points for server-side lag and stability. It’s inexcusable for it to be going on this long.

Server Stability + Communication from Aventurine
I expected: Bad
They delivered: Total crap
Reason: Didn’t have to be Nostradamus on this one. The server queues lasting 3+ hours, server downtimes every day, ninja patches with no notes, and almost a total communications blackout make this category a stinker of massive proportions. The worst of any company I’ve seen actually.

I expected: Good
They delivered: Good/Great
Reason: There is something about Darkfall. It has that really important aspect that reaches out and grabs on to you to keep you playing. There is something special about all they’ve accomplished with taking PvP combat and gameplay to new places. I don’t think I’ll be able to go back to a game that doesn’t capture the same quality of PvP and potential on this scale. I’ve been saying this a lot: “Darkfall is better than I expected”. Although they could have, and really should have in 7 years, reached the “Fantastic” status, the server issues combined with the systems that fell short (like the skill system) make Darkfall Good/Great. I don’t expect much from Aventurine. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if it took them a year to overhaul the skills system. But the fact that I can set those things aside and still play a very functional and very fun game is the key.

  • It will be interesting to see what happens to the game down the road. In terms of how guilds settle and establish little fiefdoms, i mean.

  • This list doesn’t make much sense – for instance how can Combat be “great” when you rate both the melee and magic systems as “crap” – and yet pvp gameplay is still great?

    How can pvp gameplay be great when lag is “lousy?”

    And how can an MMO with crap lag & stability (as well as other mediocre to crap ratings) still manage a “great” overall?

    The high points of your review are: outdated graphics – but not as bad as you were expecting, itemization that doesn’t matter, and great city building. That doesn’t really sound like a great game to me. Well, simcity maybe.

  • I couldn’t finish reading after “server queues lasting 3+ hours”. I had to go back and reread the whole article because I just knew I must have missed something. Something vitally important. Something critical. Something that would make someone want to “sit” in line for three hours to play. I tried to imagine what type of content a game would have to have to make me want to do that.
    Until they make a game in VR where I can be emperor of the universe laying around on a bed of cushions in my palace while scantily clad female half-elves feed me grapes as I judge the Intergalactic Women’s Creamed Corn Wrestling Competition, brought to you by Carl’s Jr, then forget it.

    Seriously though, good write up. I still can’t shake the deja vu at how similar the game sounds to UO. Which could be a good or bad thing.

  • @Schmapdi: The combat – the act of engaging and fighting and how it all comes together is great. The Oblivion style combat swinging weapons and shooting arrows in FPS style is great. This type of combat in PvP makes it even better.

    There isn’t lag in combat for me.

    You have to keep in mind that the parts which aren’t crap outweigh the parts that are crap. It won’t make much sense unless you realize that.

    @Drak: The game is just that much fun. It’s what it boils down to in the end. The server, even after 3-5 hour queues, is full to capacity and people are having fun. That should be the “something vitally important”.

    And yes, it’s very much like UO.

  • Howdy,

    Well I must say tonight was one of the best nights in DarkFall I have had yet. Only about an hour in que, and the server ran smooth as silk all night. No crashes, no lag…just butta’. I hope this is a sign of things to come.

    eheheh, and got into some great pvp!

    Great write up again. Can’t wait to leave noobville.


  • i played it for a while, but in the end I just think it isn’t a very good game.

    the one thing they nailed on the head is the fear of death. and… that’s pretty much it. Combat is a lousy circle-jerk strafing thing, and I made the mistake of using knives when (as you mentioned) they totally suck.

    the reason for this: armor is calculated on each swing, so dual wielding is penalized twice.

    take a knife that hits for 5, against armor that blocks for 4 (random numbers for example)

    5-4 right hand + 5-4 left hand = a whopping 2 damage done

    2 hand sword that hits for 12 against the same armor: 12-4 = 8 damage done.

    it wouldn’t be bad if knives attacked 4 times as fast… but they don’t. it’s certain glaring issues like this, and the shallowness of combat in general that just turned me off. don’t get me started on having gathering nodes INSIDE CITY WALLS (there’s a dangerous spot to macro!).

    to each his own, and i wish you luck in there. but I’m over it. full writeups of my week in-game on my blog for those interested.

  • I’m making sure to read every article that gets posted here on Darkfall. I’ve been waiting for the game for a LONG time, but after the burn I got from Warhammer I want to wait at least 6 months to see how things settle. Honestly, DFO sounds about like what I expected. Hopefully the server issues will get sorted out.

    I KNEW their advertisement of “truely intelligent mobs” was too good to be true. 🙁

  • I think it is very important to note that you are still enjoying the game despite the negatives. I admit that I’m disappointed to see the negative comments about crafting, and I suppose I can grin and bear the lag/Adventurine issues; but poor PvE isn’t really something that will bother me at all.

    In a way, I’m glad that I’m not in the game from day one, perhaps once the dust has settled and they can pull their heads out of the grand task of making the game available to the masses without having to gradually allow players in, they can get some serious dev-time in and work on what I’m sure is a reasonably sized ‘to do’ list that they have.

    I cannot wait to get a copy and follow up on my Haven application by actually getting in game with you guys. Even if the game absolutely drives me round the bend, at least I’ll be able to say I gave it a go.

  • I have a lot of the same feelings as you Keen. I wasn’t expecting much from this game as all the games that have been overhyped (and have huge budgets in comparison) in the last year or two – AoC and WAR spring to mind – haven’t met my expectations.

    But there’s something to Darkfall that I really like that makes it fun and exceeded my expectations. I think it has a lot to do with player interaction, being forced to group up to get anywhere and an epic feel to the world and clan cities that are worth fighting for. Not like AoC’s horrific instanced cities. It means something to die in the game which makes people band together a bit more so there’s a lot of immersion to me.

    Sure, it has a lot of flaws and there’s a lot that needs to be fixed, but the core gameplay is there and that’s all that matters right to me right now. The stability issues will be fixed pretty damn soon so I’m not worried about that. I’m enjoying myself at the moment.

    The only thing I somewhat disagree about is the change to crafting with the latest patch. Whilst I understand that the game needs this type of change to crafting, and that an increase in the risk and price of everything only helps immersion and the risk of dying, I can’t help but feel a little annoyed that there’s now nothing left to do in the game where I can switch off and do something mindlessly. I did crafting in the safe zones whilst waiting for people to come online or get to a certain point to start a quest or whatever. Now that’s it’s either a group activity or a risky trip out into the wilderness, that part of the game has gone for me. I know Darkfall is meant to be hardcore and all that, with no safe zones etc. etc. but now I’m just gonna be standing around twiddling my thumbs in the town until someone actually wants to do group up with me.

  • I think to comment on lag and the queue is a bit early right now. If it’s 3 months later and we still have a 1 hour+ queue, ok. I mean the lag issue was fixed last night, who is to say the queue won’t be today/tomorrow?

    As for crafting, you are focusing too much on skill gain, and missing (or not mentioning) the actual benefits of the system. DF allows a guild to farm mats for an hour as a group, have the guild crafters make armor/weaps for everyone, and then take those items and use them directly in a PvP raid. It allows more organized guilds to significantly benefit from pooling resources over a free-for-all structure guild, where everyone just skills up what they want. Getting to 100 skill in a craft is not the true power of the crafting system. As guild-vs-guild wars become more common, having a solid supply chain of good gear is going to be critical.

    Mob AI depends on the mob. Goblin behavior is easy to track (usually fight, flee at times, they kite you), undead AI is also simple (fight), while men-at-arms are a bit more difficult (frequent switching from melee to ranged), and magic users are also rather random when/if they decide to use their abilities. Just the fact that the type of mob matters in terms of behavior, and they act differently outside of specific scripted behavior, makes the PvE more interesting. On it’s own its still nothing amazing, but placed in the DF world, with all the other factors, it’s still better than grinding out xp in other games.

  • My biggest problem is not being able to play. I love the damn game and pretty much everything about it, but I haven’t been able to play more than an hour since Sunday.

    I just feel like there’s tons of people playing right now getting better and better and I can’t even log in when I finally have free time.

    Everything else rules imo.

  • @Xulfer
    That’s a really good point I hadn’t thought of about the node change. It really does limit what you can do that doesn’t involve some kind of adrenaline rush. Yet the positives (like syncaine’s example) seem to out weight the negative for me right now anyway. That will really show up in a few months when then newness is worn off, and I may just want some chill tasks.

    I agree with you on mob AI. I really like it. When mob’s flee they “really” flea. I catch myself constantly telling myself, “Oh come here you son-of-a…..”. It’s not a mindless walk away. I also like how they travel in packs, and even though they branch off occasionally they seem to have signs of some great AI. But again, I’m only in the starting area.

    I had no idea that’s how the combat worked. I just kinda started with a 2 hand axe, and stuck with it. That does suck, hopefully that will be fixed. And personally I like the 2 hand axe. Not quite as long as a pole arm, so I won’t hit other folks as much. I notice I get hit a lot by folks with pole arms.

  • @Bonedead
    Did you play last night? Severs were amazing for me last night. But I only played for a bit.

  • Thanks for taking the time to write this up. Obviously, it’s subjective, but that’s ok. It’s your take on the game, after all. That being said, it looks like you’re giving greater weight to some categories over others, because when I read you scores, the overall score seems too high. You gave so many low scores in the various categories that I don’t see how you came up with an overall rating of good/great.

    Since that seemed a little iffy, I put together a matrix with a 1 – 7 point scale based on your categories. The results is that, per your scoring, you expected “Good” (5), but got “Mediocre” (4), giving all categories equal weight.


  • @ Keen

    You know after reading this review the game seems less good that what you have been describing. I was bored so I changed your score into a number. I did 0-6 for Total Crap through Fantastic.

    Based on that you would give this game a 3.15 out of 6, or over all Mediocre. That is of course if everything you listed was equally valued.

    Never the less I am still interested in Darkfall once they get the server queue thing figured out.

  • When considering what weapon to skill up, also keep in mind you can’t use a 2h weapon on a mount, and that stamina is just as important as hit points. Saying Pole Arms rock in all areas other than stamina use is misleading, since you lose all that stamina regardless of a hit or miss (and a hell of a lot more if you hit a player who is blocking)

    Speaking of blocking, it’s way more important in DarkFall than in other games. Instead of reducing your damage a bit, blocking in DF is close to a 100% reduction, and seriously drains the stamina of whoever hit you. When you come across someone who has really mastered how to fight with a shield, you will be shocked by the difference.

  • so syncaine I’m somewhat confused here. Doesn’t it takes a lot of stamina to block with a shield even if you don’t “block” anything?

    Also, if I block a polearm user does it use more stamina then if he hits me? Or does it just negate the hit therefore wastes STA.

    My 2 hand axe is only at 18, so maybe I need to rethink what weapon to stick with.

    I forgot about mounts, thx.

  • If you block with a shield, it uses stamina. However, if your opponent is a mad polearm wielding attack spammer, he will run out of stamina before you do if you block his attacks. Even if your opponent doesn’t spam attacks and times them well to hit you, you can time your block (I’ve rebound it to RMB) to click it as the hit lands. Here, you don’t waste stamina holding it unnecessarily and they will lose more stamina than you do when you block. I’ve tested it duelling, and I can keep about 30-40% stamina once they run out, if I time my blocks right. A little less (maybe 20%) if I make some mistakes. Once they are on 0% stamina, whip out your polearm and go to town. They can’t sprint away, nor can they swing back. Plus, every time you hit them with the polearm, they lose stamina thus they will never regen enough to get away.

  • Ahhhhhh, i gots yas! So during this time are you hitting back or only in turtle mode? Can the damage caused by a one hander even close to a 2 hander.

    I need to spend some time looking this stuff and learning about the skills and combat.

    I really appreciate this info…good stuff.

  • Those of you thinking you can simply take these scores and average them have to realize that I’ve already said you can’t do that. Not all categories are weighed the same.

  • Well, you did say it was subjective. Sorry for trying to apply a scorecard approach to it ;).


  • Hey I said that my score wasn’t accurate if you didn’t value everything equally. :p

  • @Howdy Doody

    Just turtle whilst they’re swinging at you. As an example of how effective this is, I just fought 2 orcs (one was in the distance firing spells but we’ll ignore him for now) whilst I was naked with just a sword and board. When one approached, I hit block and my hp just stayed at about 99%…within 20 second or so they both just backed off.

    Over time, more fighting went on with others on my side and theirs, until it was just me and I was at about 25% hp and stamina. I then had three orcs with two handed axes swinging wildly at me, so I just sidestepped and blocked as appropriate whilst they friendly fired each other and took them a couple of minutes to kill me. Turtling is a powerful tactic, even with a bad shield and no armour.

  • […] it!  The obvious examples to me are Saylah with Runes of Magic and Tipa with Wizard 101, but even Keen and Graev and Syncaine’s love letters to Darkfall have piqued my interest, though the game itself […]

  • Server queues are much better after the cluster upgrades. The longest queue reported today was 25 minutes (mine). Most people are getting in under 5 minutes.

  • I think that the pve in this game is great. While the npcs are in no way controlled by actual people, I feel that they do adhere to a fairly complex algorithm for their actions during a fight.

    I also like the crafting system. While you can gain skill increases by making the starter items, it is still more efficient to create the stronger items because of their higher value.

    While I disagree with Keen’s take on pve and crafting, I do agree with the skill based system. Shooting mana missiles into the sky should not warrant a skill gain, just has swinging a sword at the air does not.

    The game improved immensely today. They have fixed the queues and the npcs were behaving very well today. Aventurine made good on its promise. It was a great day in Agon.

  • Under “Combat” you say you expected “Decent.” Except Decent isn’t on your scale. Whoa.

  • @Inscrutibob: Good catch, I had different names then went back and changed them. Didn’t catch that one. Thanks!

  • Hey Guys,

    I simply dont have time to play this game enough to remain competitive and Im going to sell my account on Ebay. But before I do that, I have been going to this forum a lot and figured I would offer it to readers here 1st. I bought it for $100 on ebay and will sell it for the same if someone is interested. I have a Mahrain that is out of the noob stages, but can be wiped. [email protected] 1st come 1st serve.

  • the “PvP” and “Combat” categories seem to be the same things: Talking about how great AV implemented oblivion-style combat in an MMO.

    What’s the difference?

  • Under skill progression, your suggestion of a better system is basically “level up” system that has existed for ages.

  • @Pierre: Combat is just the general implementation of the Oblivion system, and PvP is how that system actually works against other players and changes the feeling of mmorpg pvp. It’s much more dynamic and draws the player in – much like a FPS game set in a medieval setting.

  • Love your blog …

    It’s difficult to understand how so many of your criteria came in under your expectations yet you then give the game such high marks. I see folks tried to weight the categories but you told them that they weren’t weighted equally. Some confusion would be lessened if you told us what the weightings were.

    You have 12 categories and of those 7 of the 12 were below your expectations. So I’m guessing only the 5 that met or exceeded your expectations were of importance. Which I am surprised by some that you said were lousy.

    Ungodly long server queues, graphics you date as being on par with 2007, and then poor server performance and lag. Obviously some of the newly-released MMO issues most MMOs experience. But overall those to me chalk this up as a game I will skip.

  • PvP Gameplay, Player Cities, Combat system, and the overall impression of the game as a whole (Which is comprised of probably dozens more that I did not include here) out weigh things like crafting being a bit disappointing or the skill system not living up to potential. Seems pretty clear to me, unless you value those types of things equally. I don’t.

  • There’s a lot of flaws and missing parts to the game, but the core elements are there and it’s just fun. Therefore, all the problems with the game really don’t seem to matter one bit.

    Reading a list of “this is good, this is bad” can’t really be weighed up to an out of 10 scale (which are usually a load of crap anyway) without playing the game anyway.

    DarkFall does the elements of the game that matter well. If you don’t like what DarkFall is about (exploring, epic battles, good pvp, politics and alliances, guild cities etc.) and prefer pve, then it’s not for you.