Darkfall Online Review

Ever since joining the inconspicuous North American launch of Aventurine SA’s Darkfall Online,  I have been perplexed as to why there has been literally no advertising for the game outside of grassroots efforts on behalf of its diehard fans. After all, it is a brand new and full featured MMORPG(these things cost a bundle to make) which is unlike anything currently available. But  after a few weeks of seriously playing the game(eschewing family, friends, and loved ones ), I have finally come to understand why the marketing absence: the luckless fellow charged with the advertising campaign has an impossible task. After all, what would a Darkfall ad ultimately have to look like?

“Darkfall Online: Join the battle for Agon! Immerse yourself in a fully realized 3D world with no restrictions, no levels, and full loot, open PvP. Gather your friends, conquer your enemies and forge your own legend. Play* Darkfall Online!

*Logitech G-15 Keyboard Required For Play

Indeed, were this the lettering of an actual advertisement, it would be  enticing enough to lure a good number of cookie-cutter wearied MMO addicts to look further into the game. Darkfall is, in fact, all of these things — it is hardcore in every sense of the word. You are at risk of losing every item and piece of equipment on your avatar(of which you may only have one) at any given moment. The world is rife with conflict, and the sounds of rival clans clashing over contested territory, resources, and cities is everpresent. The PvP occurring is also completely atypical of most modern MMO’s — it means something. Your actions have real consequences. And from this, it is easy to say that  our Darkfall advertisement looks good — but what about that little asterisk?

Of course, it is the asterisk that should concern you, and it is an asterisk that should have to be included in any honest advertising campaign. It is this little asterisk, in fact, that brings down the great “hardcore” pillars upon which Darkfall is built, and utterly ruins them as the excellent concept of Darkfall  is unfortunately belied by its implementation. “Hardcore” takes a new meaning under the skill system Darkfall touts as having eliminated the “grind.” Now, the idea is sound; don’t limit players in any way. Don’t pidgeonhole them into predetermined roles and classes, and force them down a linear path of levels. Instead, just let them play, and based on their play style they will “skill up” accordingly. This means people using magic will delineate into magician like characters who wield a variety of spells and techniques, while someone who has been using swords and shields in the same time will be more of a fighter archetype — strong with the blade.  There are no limits. Tired of being magic based? Start using your sword and master the skill.  Sounds good, right? The concept is spot on, and progressive for an MMO. It’s the implementation that’s flawed.

Because Darkfall allows a player to have every skill with no sort of limit, and because of the innately competitive nature of the human being, no one is actually playing Darkfall Online — their macro program is. Having more skills wields an advantage, and an advantage in Darkfall isn’t merely cosmetic, its life threatening(everything you own is on the line). Birthed from this poorly implemented system is a boring and maddening race to skill up as quickly as possible(so as to have an advantage) of which is accomplished by using a program to do it for you; a “macro.”

Because I lack the wonderful G-15, I never used a macro to do anything for me. I actually played the game(novel concept, I know). As a result, I was totally and utterly dominated by those who were. “Anyone want to go kill some mobs and get some skills up?” I’d query my guildmates. “What? No. Just go to the bloodwall” they would respond, baffled by my idiocy. This “bloodwall,” of course, is a gentle moniker for the process of leaving your character next to other characters whom are AFK(away from keyboard) and letting people repeatedly hit them over and over to skill up as quickly as possible. People around me were posting skill ranks nearing the 100 limit within the first week of playing — a task for someone like me, not using macros or hitting “bloodwalls,” would take months, if not years to achieve. Accordingly, when I met these fine folk on the battlefield, they would proceed to easily crush me.  To further illustrate this macro mentality that pervades and poisons Darkfall, take the response of my guild mates to my announcing that I was going to log off for the night. “Why?” they demanded, surely out of confusion, “At least afk run into a wall or something. Easy way to get that skill up.” And there you have it. Darkfall is a game of skill ups, and macroing is how the playerbase parties.

But while this all may read like a glaringly negative take on the game, it merely frustration with what is otherwise a superb package. Darkfall has moments of brilliance — a chance encounter with an unknown foe somewhere in the massive world. That first kill, and first foray into an opponents bag — usurping all his items and taking them for your own. These are moments and experiences unrivaled in the MMO landscape; only Darkfall delivers this kind of heart pounding, seat of your pants excitement.  The problem is that they are few and far between(why go out and kill enemies to raise skill when you can do so much faster at the “bloodwall?”) Darkfall also exceeds in other fronts. The visuals are cohesive and well done; more importantly, performance is solid. Spells and combat look, and feel great. Animations are generally poor, but detract little from the core experience. The world is fun to explore, and is filled with clans and guilds constantly battling for control over Agon.

Darkfall has the heart of a lion. It is easy to tell that the game is a labor of love for the developers at Aventurine SA — it absolutely drips with character and personality. The designers have steered Darkfall far, far away from the hackneyed model of the modern MMO and forged their own path with a  full loot, open PvP game. They assumed great risk in doing so, and one can do nothing but admire such a brazen move. However, any game is only as strong as its weakest link, and Darkfall is fundamentally flawed in its implementation. You will constantly wonder how such a dichotomy of unparalleled fun, and unparalleled bordedom and frustration can coexist as they do in Darkfall.

And so you now see the dilemma before the poor fellow who has to write the advertisement for the game — how is it to be done?

“Are you a masochist?! Do you have a Logitech G-15?! Try Darkfall!”


Article from Gamersyndrome.com

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4 Comments - Write a Comment

  1. Good point, I didnt even know darkfall was online 🙂 and im pretty into the MMORPG. I should check it out as it does sound like a decent game but just porr advertising or lack of advertising budgt!.

  2. They’ll have to do something about the bloodwall issue someway somehow. In practically every online game I’ve played on BYOND, anything above AFK Standing, be it holding down a macro or such, almost-always ends with a ban.

    AFK training, phht, I’ll laugh so hard when the admins say “That’s it.” and my character is the only one left. XD

  3. I was so hyped about darkfall for over 2 years and seeing it get so abused by people is just heart breaking. That’s exactly the reason why LARP never got very popular in a commercial sense. People cheat and lie and there is nothing that you can do about it!
    Oh well, hopefully they will fix the bloodwall thing or make macroing unusable in some way. there is always hope…

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