Edit: My newer, one year review of DarkFall can be found here.
DarkFall has been out just shy of three months now, and for me it’s been the most interesting three months of any MMO since UO, for a variety of factor. Going in with low expectations, finding an amazing guild to play with, and actually playing an MMO that is designed from the ground up to be all about impact PvP all contribute to a great three months.
The low expectations part has been well covered, but I think it’s important to remember what people were saying back prior to release. DarkFall is a game that was called vaporware throughout much of its development, all the way until the very day it went live. It’s the game many predicted would be a repeat of Shadowbane from a technical perspective, and it’s the game many claimed would fundamentally not work from a design perspective. It was low on my radar because after all these years following the MMO genre, I’ve learned not to get myself hyped up about website details, screenshots, or bullet-point lists like some little school girl waiting for Miley Cyrus at the mall. No one actually playing DarkFall will claim its perfect, or even at 75% of what it can be, but for anyone looking for a player-skill based impact PvP game, it’s hard to argue that DarkFall has not delivered on the promise to cater to that niche with a worthwhile product.
Most MMOs outside of the growing ‘solo hero’ segment depend on player communities to draw and keep players going. Anyone who has ever been in a solid, close-knit guild knows whatever game they are playing is infinitely more fun because of the people around you, which can make a good game great, or keep you playing something average just for the people. Inquisition is a great group of guys to game with, both because of their overall in-game skill and the leadership’s ability to maintain a good balance of serious yet laid-back gaming. We are not a dominant, all powergamer guild like TheMercs, but we are far from the casual, non-factor guilds that spring up and die after the first defeat. Given my current playstyle and gaming time, this fits me perfectly, and has added a ton of enjoyment to DarkFall.
Outside of my clan, I actually really enjoy the DarkFall community as a whole. Beyond the ForumFall aspect that non-players love to point at as a negative is a solid group of people who all love the same thing; good PvP. As the three months have progressed we have seen the niche start to establish itself, as players who can’t handle or don’t like impact PvP quit or go inactive, and those looking for exactly that rise up to be major players. In today’s MMO market you don’t need sheep among the wolves; you just have to provide enough tools for the wolves to keep them entertained. In three months, DarkFall has slowly started to shed its sheep, and continues to cater to the wolves as they go at it. As most MMO fans know, it’s not about how many other solo-heroes play the game on x server, but about the people you actually play with or against on a daily basis that matters.
Finally the game itself is above and beyond what I thought it would be. The graphics are fine (unless all you know is screenshots or youtube), most of the technology works until you get a zerg vs zerg battle, and for as complex a system as PvP is in Darkfall, balance is actually very decent. Compared to other MMOs, DarkFall has made good progress in refining its formula over the last three months, especially when you factor in the size and resources of the developer. While the outgoing sheep cry for Trammel before they go inactive, those actually playing know very well what areas need work and what needs to change to make DarkFall a better game. Beyond that, the player base is still in its infancy in terms of understanding the game, as just last night the server saw the first player-built warhulk in action. As the players become settled, more complex strategies and tools will be used, further enhancing the player experience. Just like EVE took some time to settle in and for player run empires to establish themselves, DarkFall is in that phase now. Expecting ships and warhulks to be common in the first months is a fool’s request, as is the thought that the first month of DarkFall looks anything like the third, or that what is happening now will remain unchanged in the next three. Unlike a themepark, a sandbox is always shifting, and so far DarkFall is shaping up nicely.