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    dkirschner's Darkfall (PC)

    [October 19, 2010 06:32:58 AM]
    Downloaded, began and ended the 14-day Darkfall trial yesterday. Darkfall is a sandbox MMO with a heavy focus on PvP. A sandbox MMO here means that you're given a world filled with other players and you just...go. I began the game naked with just a cheap sword. There is no tutorial and absolutely minimal help. There are no levels and no real classes. I naively thought that not having to level would let me play with others faster and not have to grind, but this was not the case. As a naked dark elf, I was dropped at the gate of a starter city with no story, no cinematic, no nothing explaining who I was or what I was doing there. Sounds kind of like role-player's paradise. The world is what you and others make of it. So what did I make of it?

    I did what anyone would do in an MMO: went into town to get a quest or a clue as to the story. I didn't find any story, but I did find a couple quests. There is no notification that an NPC has something for you to do. There are no glowing exclamation marks or question marks, no map markers. You must interact (F key) with the NPC and then select the Quests tab, and see if there's anything there. I get some quests to go kill goblins, so off I run into the marshes outside town.

    One thing the game does explain to you at the beginning is the "newbie protection." This put me off a bit because what kind of game has to give new players invincibility against PvP for the first hour of play? What kinds of deranged people are going to come after me, a brand new player? Am I going to be corpse camped for hours? Newbie protection sure sounds like Darkfall is a scary place.

    As I learned, it isn't the players to be afraid of at first, but the NPC enemies like goblins and werewolves. There is no targeting in Darkfall. Combat is skill-based, meaning you have a reticule that you move in real time over the target and left-click as fast as possible to swing your sword. If you do it right, you hit. If not, you miss. It felt very Diablo-esque, left-clicking frantically on enemies to kill them. As you use an ability, it increases, so as I swing my sword, my 1-handed sword skill increases, and I do more damage with that weapon type. All skills are like this, including sprinting, resting, various magics, archery, gathering skills, and so on. You buy spells and other specialty skills from vendors. The combat and the skill leveling system are very much like Oblivion, which I recently quit out of frustration, not with those two systems in particular though. I quite like twitch combat and leveling skills by use as it opens up possibilities for building your character. He turns into whatever I play like, and the better I get at fighting, the better results I see. I quickly gained points in 1-handed sword fighting, sprint and rest. I did a lot of resting and even more sprinting, aka, running for my life from groups of goblins and werewolves.

    Enemies are ferocious. They attack you from far away and the graphics are, in most places, so unbelievably poor for a commercial subscription-based MMO in 2009 that I had trouble looking in the field and finding who was shooting me. What would happen is I would get sprayed by some green spell. I'd look to see where the goblin shooting me was. Scan the field once, scan it again, not see anything. Finally I'd notice a goblin waaaay off in the distance making a jumping animation or something a few seconds before the spell hit me. There's no green coming out of the goblin's hands, and remember there's no targeting system so no enemy portrait appears to let me know what's going on. Assuming you don't die before you find your attacker, you run over to hack at him, but when you get there, 3 more goblins come running from like 1/2 mile away. So then you turn and run for it. You rest to recover HP and try again. Enemies ganged up on me so often in overwhelming numbers that I was getting pretty frustrated. And when I did manage to actually fight one or two at a time, their animations were so bad I couldn't tell what they were doing half the time, and the other half they spend just trying to circle around behind you, so you attack in circles to prevent them from backstabbing. Enemies also glitch into the ground, can walk up 90 degree angle cliffs, can attack you from halfway up a tree trunk such that you have trouble hitting them, and other stupid things that make the game feel cheap.

    Targeting, general getting around, using skills, and so on - everything basically - would be better if the UI was comprehensible. There's an action bar, your health/mana/stamina bars, and chat windows on display. You can also open your bags, spell list, and various other things. That's not the problem. The problem is that any time you want to interact with a menu, an NPC, or bags you have to right click to enter like 'menu mode,' which stops all action and puts you completely in bags and menus to click around in. First of all, this is confusing because in about every PC game ever, right clicking interacts with stuff or makes you move. It doesn't enter menu mode. Why the designers chose this, I will never know. Thus, you can't manage anything in battle or even in the field because you might get attacked while in menu mode. Then you'd have to right click to switch out of it, but then you just can't attack. See, your weapon is always either sheathed or unsheathed, and to attack it's got to be unsheathed obviously, but to be in menus it needs to be sheathed. These steps are so cumbersome and pointless and make things so needlessly difficult. Here's another one. Want to loot a corpse? Sheath your weapon. Push F on the monster's tombstone. Right click to enter menu mode. Open your bags. Manually move each piece of loot from the tombstone to your bag. There are no 'bag slots,' but bags are just a bit square jumble of stuff with overlapping icons of loot. It's an utter mess. And 9 times out of 10, you'll be attacked while looting, so you can't kill, loot, kill, loot. You've got to kill everything around, make sure it's safe, then loot everything.

    That's all why the UI sucks. Why it doesn't suck is I think I understand the reason behind it, and if I'm right, then I love the idea, but think the implementation either is bad all around or just isn't for me. I think that since Darkfall is all about PvP and all about realism, (fantasy aside) as evidenced by the low, low number of mob spawns in the world, actually having an open bag space, gathering slowly, working at skills, and so on, all the slowness of looting and tediousness of sheathing and unsheathing, and some of the rest, are implemented purposefully to make you feel at risk. Even though I never was attacked by a player, I kept looking over my shoulder, and this was usually for mobs in my case. The player has got to make a choice: Okay, should I loot these corpses now or clear the area first? I can't mine ore with my sword, so I've got to equip a pickaxe, unsheath it, and get to mining. All gathering skills take a long time, which is incredibly boring, but it's a tradeoff. If I sit here mining, I'm an easy target. In Darkfall, all your gear drops if you're killed in PvP and your killer can take your stuff, reminiscent again of Diablo 2, or EVE Online.

    Just a couple other points I noted. I finished my goblin quest and picked up another to run some supplies to an NPC in another town. After running literally for 10 minutes in a straight line, I arrived, turned it in, and got another to kill as many werewolves as I could in an hour. I was doing pretty good for about 5 minutes before 5 or so came at me in a row and I just didn't have enough health to live and stamina to run, so I died. In my last log on Age of Conan, I commented that death doesn't matter because there's no penalty. In Darkfall, death is a huge deal. You have to wait for an agonizing minute or two before respawning, naked, at your spawn point, which in my case was all the way at the first village, 10 minutes' run down the road. You get a 5 or 10 minute invulnerability to allow you to go get your corpse and recover your stuff (if no one has absconded with it). It was absolutely brutal. I quit at this point after I ran back and was promptly killed by a werewolf inside a tree. Not being able to see attackers on a portrait is really unfortunate when that mob is attacking you from up a 90 degree cliff or the inside of a tree and you can't see them because you don't think to look IN the tree for a werewolf claw emerging every few seconds.

    Darkfall is for the dedicated among us. It is not a nice world for any type of casual game player. Following Hobbes, life here is nasty, brutish and short. NPCs will kill you easily. Supposedly players will too, though I didn't experience that. I found it boring, tedious, exhausting, confusing, and a lot of other negative adjectives, and that's bad when those are my thoughts after just a few hours of gameplay. I bet I would get a great feeling of accomplishment if I persevered and learned this game, got over the beginning, and leveled my skills, met some other players, joined a clan, and experienced the PvP. I imagine I could potentially even enjoy this game, maybe in some other life. For now, I will stay far, far away and be happy in more friendly places. The player chat itself was uncontrolled. I've rarely seen more immature conversation, cursing, vulgarity, and so on. Like, it was not pretty and if that's any representation of what typically goes on on the social side of the game, then I've no desire at all to be there. So, Darkfall: some neat ideas, and really unfriendly implementation.
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    dkirschner's Darkfall (PC)

    Current Status: Finished playing

    GameLog started on: Monday 18 October, 2010

    GameLog closed on: Tuesday 19 October, 2010

    dkirschner's opinion and rating for this game

    Boring, tedious, punishing. I spent a few hours here and it was 90% torture. If I tried really hard to get into it and spent the time and pain to advance my character, it may grow on me, but upon first exposure this game just sucks and/or simply doesn't suit my style.

    Rating (out of 5):starstar

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