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Why You Should Try Darkfall: Unholy Wars

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.

No Levels:

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.

From DF1.0, this will likely be different in UW

Non-Linear Gameplay:

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.

Naval Combat:

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?

5 comments

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  1. adam

    Apparently, owners of the original DF don’t have to pay for a new copy, they just have to pay for a subscription. If that is indeed true, I will be trying Unholy Wars since I played DF briefly a few years back. Unholy Wars looks fun.

  2. Ettesiun

    Two questions :
    1) is there a non-subscription way to play this game ? Or a free way to test it ?
    2) Can someone only play 2hours a week and still enjoy this game ? Or will progress (both in stats and to complete goals) be verrrryyyyy slooooow ? Can I play 10 hours and accomplish something interesting ? Can I have a sense of achievement every two hours ?

    I hope the answer to these two questions are yes, because your description look like very interesting !

    1. Chris

      I believe that they have offered free trials in the past. Part of me wants to say that Unholy Wars will include one but I can’t find anything now verifying that.

      Hm… The time commitment is a tough question. At 2 hours a week, your progress will be slow. With skills going up with use, it’s hard to fit enough ‘uses’ into those two hours. That said, you can still adventure on your own and contribute to groups. The big difference will come into play with PvP. Going against someone who plays much more than that will leave you disadvantaged. But then, at two hours a week you probably aren’t trying to be competitive anyways. If you can find a clan, do things with other people and you can still have a good time.

      For accomplishments, it really depends on your goals. Getting a mount, gathering backup gear, exploring, working towards or finding a land deed…. Sure. If you can organize your playtime a with your clan you will be able to work at bigger goals, like building up a hamlet, raiding the countryside, building a ship. Goals in Darkfall tend to include much more in acquiring tools for sandbox play, so it’s vey progressive, but also pretty different from most other MMOs out there.

    2. Chris

      Also, you can take part in large scale pvp if that time lines up well. With low skills, you will likely be cannon fodder but, to be honest, as a casual player that can still be important and pretty epic to boot.

  3. xXJayeDuBXx

    If I didn’t know you were talking about Dark Fall, I would say the game you are describing sounds pretty dang awesome. I did try DF a couple of times and was never able to get into it all that much. I do know that I am going to give the new DF a try to see how it is, a game this unique kind of requires me to do so. When I do, I’ll already know what I’m getting into and have a bit more of an open mind. Won’t guarantee I’ll like it, but I may not hate it as much as the original Dark Fall.

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