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I've been reading these two posters on the *?* Boards since my days in AC1 (especially Korrigan, who just registered here recently - but who has been posting there since 2001). And I thought you guys might enjoy reading their Darkfall beta reviews. One is pro and one is con.
As for copyright gibberish, violating rules by posting a link to a competing forum, etc. - I'm just going to copy and paste the two reviews. Anyone who is pissed is welcome to hunt me down and murder my wife if they need revenge. - Pynda
Mini-Review by Loktofeit
Like JJobaber, I'm also an ex-UOer, having canceled my account for the first time this past December. I'm a fan of FFA PvP - UO, SB, EVE Online, etc.
The UI is very different from most MMOs and takes a lot of getting used to. Right clicking switches between what seems like a Move/Fight/Get mode and... access to everything else. There's a definitely learning curve to it, which can be very frustrating for some. I found that after two or three nights (about 4 or so hours of gameplay) I was a lot more comfortable with the controls. Switching modes during movement and during combat became very fluid, especially once I got over that right-click hurdle. Bags and inventory are freeform, much like UO.
Your character has a journal and currently it loads god-awfully slow, but it have a good amount of information in it. Kills, deaths, enemies, a collection of datestamped information... just a decent amount of stats and goodies for most achiever types and goal setters.
Attributes, Stats and Skills... Oh my!
Darkfall is a skill-based MMO. You can pick and choose what you want your character to be. Unlike most MMOs on the market where your only option is 'guy who fights stuff', DFO goes the direction of UO and EVE Online - your crafter doesn't need to increase his 'fight stuff' skills just to progress in his crafting.
Like UO, there are only a few extra abilities and they only unlock at certain levels of proficiency with your skills. This seems to go a long way towards keeping combat based on twitch and tactics (more onthe good and bad of that later) and not introducing 'OP' or 'imba' skill combinations/classes. This will probably pose a problem for the players that are playing to 'skill up' but those players probably aren't going to have fun in DFO anyway as it does not have the Diku carrot on a stick progression that reinforces focus on 'skill ups', 'level ups' and 'dings'.
Skills are gained by use. Sparring with guildmates, fighting mobs, crafting items, mining ore, etc... just do it and skill goes up. I couldn't tell if skill gain was going slow or fast, however it seemed to move reasonably well enough that I was able to hold my own in PvP, so I was satisfied with it. Most of the guild was able to get their fighting skills to about the 50s (out of 100) and beyond in less than a week, and they were able to handle their own in PvP rather well.
Being able to decide what weapons and armor I want to use worked well for me. I liked being able to pick from a plethora of skills rather than be told which subset I am allowed to use because of a decision I made on my first day of play. However, for the average MMO gamer, the lack of direction could prove daunting. Despite my affinity for the complete skill-based system, there is a lot to be said for having a one-button solution for the person that says "I want to play a mage' or "I want to play a hunter.'
Graphics and Sound
You won't be ooh-ing and aah-ing at most of the Darkfall graphics, but you probably won't need to reduce them to blurs just to see them which is a good thing for PvPers. AoC and LOTRO, this is not. It's pretty enough to get by, but the crowd looking for an SM3/DX10 tech demo disguised as a game is going to be disappointed.
Positional sounds made hunting players very fun. You can hear the clanking of the heavier armours, the footsteps on various terrains... Darkfall is a visual and audible treat for those who like to actively hunt and sneak around.
I heard a pack of Dwarves heading my way and was able to thwart their ambush efforts. As I fled, I dodged their spells and arrows. Once over the horizon, I ducked behind a large tree, and walked slowly around, keeping them on the other side ... out of sight and free.
The graphics and sound won't be winning any awards, but their functionality within the game world is exceptional.
There isn't much of any, and I haven't found really any use for it other than to get some starter cash as a newb. The resources for making gear can be easily harvested, and crafted goods are better than drop/vendor loot. The mobs do help one get used to the twitch gaming of PvP - without the mobs to train players to move around and target their enemy, most players would stand still and mash the attack button come PVP time and that's just instant death.
Personally, I really like it. It's a hunter's paradise in an arena where awareness of surroundings and twitch gaming both factor far more than gear and level. My view of the PvP is definitely biased. Practicing firing my arrow in just the right location so that the fleeing target and the arrow meet is a lot of fun for me. Following groups of travelers and picking off stragglers from the back one by one is fun. Big gigantic slugfests with polearms and friendly fire is chaotic and messy. Kill and death counts are great. The journal tracks PvP stats... it's... loverly. happy
I'm looking forward to playing. My time in beta has been a really entertaining and engaging experience. I'm not the grind type, so in previous MMOs I always fell behind the guild in leveling and I ended up going back to one of 'the old standbys' around mid-level. I'm not having that problem in Darkfall, as it is not a level-dependent MMO. So far my experiences indicate that I can play more casually than my guildmates in Darkfall and still be a viable asset to the team.
Despite my affinity for the game, my advice to others is the same as always. Wait 3-6 months and see where it goes. Decide then. If for no other reason than to save us the annoyance of your muvfuxxin whining on the boards because you bought an MMO on release just like you've probably done a dozen times before and were completely and utterly shocked at getting the same results and experience as every time prior. The insanity needs to stop.
Mini-Review by The Korrigan
Aventurine has a solid base with DFO, but it's far from being a "pay to play" ready game.
First, let me tell you that DFO is not even remotely close to the disasters that where Dark and Light or even Shadowbane. It's definitely better. The client is stable, there's little to no lag, on the technical side Aventurine are very good.
The graphics aren't bad, and they have one of the most impressive global lighting engine (sun/moon shadows/light) of the industry. There are no dynamic light sources though, torches and braziers don't emit any light. Despite that little detail, the graphics are still good enough, WAY better than what the screenshots could make one think. They also have the best vegetation (trees, bushes, etc...) I've seen in a long time, and it all MOVES in the wind, unlike the frozen rock solid vegetation of most other games including Age of Conan. Their water is ugly though, even if they have a nice shore effect, but they could easily do a better pixel shader for the water surface.
The animations suck monkey balls. Yeah, they suck so bad. Even worse. It's not a game breaking issue, but don't expect Conan or WoW quality here. It's really bad.
The sound isn't good either. Could be worse, but it seriously lacks. There are no ambient sounds, which is a shame considering the vast lush world they designed.
The world is huge, but nowhere close to needing 50 hours to cross like I've read some over enthusiastic fans pretend. It's still large enough, and those who remember AC1 with fond memories will feel at home, everything is hand crafted, you have points of interest all over the place.
Sadly, here comes the negatives... the world is dead and empty. You have mob camps, of course, and many of them, all over the place, but that's all. The dynamic spawns that were promised, that roaming wildlife we read about, doesn't exist at all. The world consists in vast, empty areas containing a few sparse camps full of mobs. Same thing for towns, outposts and NPCs. You have very few NPCs, they are static, the towns are dead and uneventful. If you hoped for living, breathing towns, like UO's Britannia, you are in for a huge deception.
The UI sucks. Plain and simply. The chat system would be good if we were 10 years ago, but not today. Many important features require you to type long chat /commands instead of having a UI interface for it, like all games have since 8+ years now. Inventory management is a major pain, as the position of items in the bags isn't stored, resulting in a big random mess. The UI is good... for stone age. Not for a 2009 MMORPG.
The combat is horribly dull, low level spells are completely useless and it's basically a grind worse than anything you've seen before to get to skill levels where skills start to mean something and where combat starts to be more than just left mouse button mashing. The abilities you gain when your skills raise aren't equally distributed over the course of your progression, but all grouped at a few milestones (25,50,75,100), so you're gonna spend ages grinding before your character gets moves which will make combat a bit more involved and varied. Magic is even worse, newbie spells (1 ranged attack and 1 heal) are completely useless, the heal heals for... 12 points when you have 200 health, and has a long cooldown. You have to grind through lesser magic and greater magic before you can take a specialized magic school and start to get interesting spells.
In PvE as well as PvP, unless one of the opponents is a one armed blind monkey of course, the winner is the one who has the most potions. Stamina and health potions are the "skills" required in Darkfall. The end of an encounter is always automatically a wild chase where you better have more stamina potions than the one you chase or the ones chasing you.
Exploits. Exploit early and often will be a motto in DFO just like it was in AC1. Exploit the alignment system and the friendly fire to get people flagged as criminals so you can kill them without alignment hit. Exploit speed hacking, which is still rampant in the beta. Not to mention that those of you who loved macros in AC1 will feel at home, the world is full of people shooting spells into trees or walls to compensate for the poor and useless low level magic, and other people standing in front of a rock under the protection of the guard towers macroing gathering skills for hours.
When you first enter the game, you tend to think the mob AI is fun and different, but you quickly realize it's actually not better than any other MMO, if not worse in many cases, unless you consider mobs always coming in packs and calling friends superior AI.
Crafting is similar to combat, horribly dull and boring. Harvesting basically consist in standing in front of a rock, a tree or a bush for hours and pressing the mouse button over and over again. Yes, on the SAME rock. NO, you don't explore to find resource nodes. It makes resource gathering in WoW look like an interesting and involving activity in comparison.
I will only make a short paragraph on quests, as they are as good as nonexistent. Don't await anything as epic as Aerfalle, Frore or even just the Green Mire Cuirass in AC1. Quests are ALL of the type "please go kill 5 goblins" or "please get me 5 goblin axes", and quest objectives are marked on the map, so there's no exploration involved at all, it's basic "go to marked mole hill and whack a mole" quests. Mind you, that's not automatically bad, as this is supposed to be a sandbox game where players create their own content... but it's important for some, so I had to mention it too.
In conclusion, gameplay in DFO is, to the opposite of what has been promised, a HUGE LONG GRIND. To get anywhere, you will have to first endure hours of button mashing, without any options. Not that I don't complain that it takes time to master a skill, no, that is perfectly normal. I complain because combat completely lacks OPTIONS and DIVERSITY. You have no snares, no meaningful healing, no varied abilities, nothing, the only thing you can do is 1) mash the button, 2) chug potions and 3) run away. It's worse than anything I've seen recently, even in games like Lineage2 you had meaningful abilities and spells at low level, here you have nothing but completely useless spells and your left mouse button. The only skill you need is having enough potions stocked up.
I'm sorry to sound negative, but for now, DFO is not even remotely close to Ultima Online. Pretending it does is actually an insult to Ultima. Ultima offers a huge variety and is interesting at the second you log into the game, DFO isn't unless you first endure a long boring grind. Same for AC1, any basic newbie town quest in Holtburg beats the crap out of any "kill 5 goblins" crap in DFO.
They have a good base to make an excellent game, their world is very well crafted even if it badly lacks wildlife and NPCs, but in its actual stage, it's a game that is stable, yes, but just above alpha status concerning content and balancing. I guess it will please people who want full loot PvP with some city sieging, but DFO is closer to a glorified first person shooter on which someone has grafted a long boring grind. It also looks like it will be about the ones who find the best exploits (and the most potions) instead of the ones who are more skilled and have the best strategy. Yeah, I'm disappointed. I was expecting much better from a game that has been in development for over 8 years.
Will I pre-order or buy at release? Nope.
Will I keep on watching this game to see where it goes in the next year(s)? Yes.
It's been a long time since I've seen a game with so much potential, but for now, and for me, it's only wasted potential.