Darkfall is the kind of game that scares new players away, but with the upcoming launch of Unholy Wars, I want to encourage you all to give it a shot. Now I know, I haven’t always been kind to the game, but Darkfall is something I truly feel all players – PvE and PvP alike – can have fun with and, with a good clan, is one of the best MMO experiences available today.
The fact is, a lot of what you’ve heard is probably half-truth or based on assumption and fear of how “hardcore” the game is. Yes, the game is full loot. Travel takes a while and means something. Anyone can attack anyone and griefing happens. What doesn’t get the coverage in those criticisms is that they come together to make a game that feels more like a true MMO — you know, when we aspired to virtual worlds rather than quest rides — than any other game out there than maybe, I hear, EVE. But believe it or not, Darkfall is a far more accessible and much more action-driven game than EVE ever was. Get yourself used to the idea of playing with other people again and it can provide some of the most memorable, fun, and MMO-like experiences you’ve had since EQ or Ultima.
And to be clear, I’m not a hardcore PvPer, I’m not a big grouper, and I don’t like games that punish the crap out of me. I’m probably like a lot of players — and yet I sit here saying, “play Darkfall.” Here’s why:
Full Loot is Nowhere Near as Bad as You Think It Is
This is my biggest gripe with naysayers. If someone has told you that losing your gear when you die is a big deal, let me be clear, they weren’t actually playing the game. First off, it’s based on skills. You can die, get a basic weapon from a vendor, and still be strong enough to go back out and get on your feet. That’s number one. Number two, you’ll collect enough basic gear just playing that you’ll be re-outfitted within minutes, even if you never play with another person. Number three, there is no epic gear to be lost here (though there is some good stuff), so it’s not like you’re losing weeks of investment. Here’s a rule: Bank the gear you find. Do that and you’ll never have to worry about FFA PvP in the same way again.
This is also where clans come in. Any clan worth its salt — even most clans that aren’t — will have a bank full of basic gear for you. If they don’t it’s because they’re inactive and you should probably leave.
Full loot isn’t something to be scared of because the impact is minimal. Bank your stuff. Be happy. Once you get in that habit, it becomes second nature. Dying is disappointing, especially if you were carrying a lot, but it also makes your choices meaningful. If you stay out in the world with a treasure trove of stuff and you die, it’s because you pushed it. This is the kind of tension that makes things exciting. If it becomes stressful, change up how you do things. Carry less you’re unwilling to lose. Learning how to survive in Darkfall is in experience unlike most MMOs out there.
If you want to get better at something, use it. This is something MMO players have been clamoring for since Ultima fell out and Darkfall still has one of the best implementations out there. In vanilla DF, there were issues of players macroing and cheating to build up certain skills, and there was a wall that built up over time where new players felt disadvantaged. That’s said to be fixed in Unholy Wars. If that’s the case, this will be the single best skill system in any modern MMO out there.
There are quests in the game but don’t expect a quest hub tour of Agon. Your gameplay is determined by your own goals and those of your guild. Some people look at this and scoff but those people either a) didn’t give it enough time, b) tried to be solo cowboys, or c) never tried it at all. In this game, you have personal goals and social goals, from your clan or your friends, and they intermingle. What you do depends on where you want to go — even if that’s just a direction on the map. Some of the best experiences I’ve had have been based on grabbing a buddy and heading out to see what we can find.
Here’s the thing, other games push you through quest hubs because the world can’t hold up on its own. Darkfall’s does. Just finding a new spawn area or, even better, a new dungeon is an adventure that tends to top most dev-content. Honestly. Combat is truly action based and not simply dodge-distance-directional. And the possibility that at any point another player could come along and totally change the dynamic — for better or worse — adds a layer or dynamicism other games don’t touch.
Exploration is Fun, Rewarding, and Pretty Much the Best Out There:
Like I said, mobs drop things you need. You might come across a den of skeletons that stock you up on basic armor to re-gear with if you die. Or maybe you’ll find a cave where the monsters drop “epic” gear (there is no epic) that makes you look and defend like a king. To get good gear in this game, it’s not about grinding a dungeon 50 times. It’s about finding the right spot in the world and figuring out a way to take down your enemies.
Other things support exploration, too. Chaos chests spawn all over the world and can drop great and valuable things. Maybe you find a new, fast mount. Maybe a deed to a home. Maybe you find a player village to pillage. Maybe you come across an unsuspecting player and make a new friend… or kill him outright just to make sure he doesn’t move on you first. Maybe you find a dungeon or a dragon’s lair. How about a floating island with excellent spawns for all your magic ingredients. I’ll say it again, this is as close to a virtual world as modern MMOs get. Darkfall does it well. If you are into the idea of a lush, breathing, deep, and engrossing game world, you should try this game.
Combat is Active, Action-Based, and Better Than Hotbar Games
I like Guild Wars 2, I do, but Darkfall just beats it. It’s not dodge based but that’s pretty much a gimmick anyway. Darkfall combat is about positioning, and reach, attacking and defending, aiming and choosing the right ability for the situation. It is deeper and much more impactful than Guild Wars or TERA even hint at. When you get with a clan, large scale warfare akin to WvWvW takes place but carries much more weight. You are literally fighting for control of the game world, literally making your own history to be posted on YouTube and debated on the forums.
Cooperation is Key and a Ton of Fun:
If there is one thing that keeps Darkfall from attracting new players apart from the PvP, it’s that it’s at its best when people play together. This really isn’t so bad, honestly, and neither is scheduling. I am an extremely busy guy these days. I don’t raid for just that reason. But in DFO, this is answered simply by joining a large clan. Because cooperation is intrinsic to the best game experience, if there is another person online, the chances are they’ll be open to teaming up with you.
So much of the game is built to be experienced with other players that when you do get the chance to do something with a full group, it is an absolute blast. Even if you walk away having been summarily defeated, the experience of waging your own mini war on player or NPC is memorable. If you want dynamic content, look no further. It doesn’t get better than simply stepping outside yourself and joining up with another player in Darkfall Online.
This one is worth ending on because it’s just plain cool. You can sail the seas on your own ship and wage naval warfare. You can be a pirate, pillaging the shoreline. You can also be eaten by a kraken. True story, check it out:
Overall, Darkfall isn’t for everybody in the same way that WoW isn’t. It is for a lot of people who simply won’t give it a chance. That’s a crying shame because in a lot of ways DF is the exact game players have been asking for for a long time. Give it a try. What have you got to lose?