Darkfall Unholy War: The what and the why

It would seem the recent Darkfall: Unholy War (DF:UW) announcement has caused some confusion, so consider this my public service in attempting to clear some things up. Note that most of this is just personal speculation based on what AV has released and from what I’ve observed. My personal batphone to AV HQ is currently undergoing maintenance.

The biggest question seems to be is DF:UW a totally new game?

The answer is no. It’s more like what Mount and Blade 2 was to the original.  It’s still the same engine that DF1 used, but updated with the new lighting and sound systems (among other updates). The gameplay will likely feel very similar, which is good considering DF1 had the best combat in MMO history (fact not opinion), but with additions like crosshair wobble and momentum, which hopefully works like Mount and Blade (best combat system period).

The world itself has been revamped and reworked, but expect it to look and feel similar, but hopefully better in terms of hamlet/city balance and overall flow. I would expect to see many of the same monsters, but again with some additions and tweaks behavior.

So why is DF:UW being pitched as a new game instead of an expansion to DF1?

My speculation here is that AV wants a fresh start for everyone, themselves included. I consider DF1 to be the 3-year open paid beta for DF:UW, and like any beta, everything gets wiped and everyone starts fresh come release.

Using the above theory, my hope is that AV has been internally testing the new features coming in DF:UW, while using the last three years of DF1 to work out the major engine bugs. This should lead to a smoother launch for DF:UW, although I still fully expect some major hiccups given the nature of the sandbox genre and… well AV being AV (small indie studio biting off more than they sometimes should). Hopefully we see a beta for DF1 players soon to really hammer it and get it ready.

So if this is just an expansion, what’s the big deal?

For all its faults, DF1 did a lot of things right, especially if you consider what the MMO genre as a whole has looked like of late. The biggest non-failure of the last three years has been a game with no end-game (more on that in another post), which is really, really not saying much. What AV is doing with DF:UW is giving everyone who liked or wanted to like the idea of DF but hated the bugs, exploits, or some of the silly gameplay (AoE magic spam, bunnyhopping, mount boots, or whatever FOTM was OP at the time) another chance to start fresh, and (hopefully) this time not be turned away. It will still be a FFA full-loot player-skill-based PvP MMO, so it will certainly still be a niche title, but that niche is larger than what DF1 ultimately retained post-launch.

According to info from AV, anyone who purchased DF1 will get DF:UW for free, which if still true will guarantee a very sizable player pool for day one. Even with all its bugs and server issues, DF1 with a high population was amazing, and remained so for longer than current-day MMOs stay with the subscription business model, so (again) assuming AV gets it mostly right and DF:UW is as stable as current-day DF1, and they stay active with updated and fixes as they had in the first year, there will be a sizable playerbase and the game should once again be an absolute blast to play for those who enjoy that style of MMO. It’s not like you have a lot of options anyway.

Plus if nothing else, I’m sure Eurogamer will have a glowing review with 100% factual accuracy, and well-informed bloggers will no doubt produce insightful posts about the game. That alone is reason to be excited.

Hopefully more soon, especially if that damn batphone gets fixed.

5 Responses to Darkfall Unholy War: The what and the why

  1. John says:

    The biggest question, at least in my mind, is whether or not they’ve learned the lessons that EVE teaches. New lighting and sound systems and a less atrocious UI are next to meaningless in the grand scheme of things, at least for the type of audience that enjoys games like Darkfall.

    Fixing exploits is one positive step. How are they going to retain players over the long term? Even you, the game’s most dedicated fan, left. How is the skill system going to help retain players? Is there going to be any degree of protection that systems like EVE’s highsec provide? Will there be an economy that matters?

    • SynCaine says:

      I’m curious to see how the new skill system balances grind vs progression. Hopefully it is a bit like EVE, where getting good at one role is somewhat quick/easy, but the number of roles and the time to fully, 100% master one is long. Also like EVE, they can always add more roles to expand horizontally.

  2. Kyff says:

    Darkfalls biggest problem was/is its sub-par playerbase. Apart from some notable exceptions – like the author of this blog – I never encountered such a congregation of imbeciles, cheaters, exploiters or general indecent persons. Personal verbal attacks in chat were common. Habitual drug abuse seemd to be the norm. Most people were playing to crush rather than to win. Although I’m not a roleplayer by any means I do wince, when I see charactes whose name is an arbitrary allocation of letters and numbers with random caps thrown in. I think the average Darkfall player considers the game being a fantasy DOOM instead of an MMO.

    Fixing exploits is a step in the right direction but I’m afraid the mindset of the people will not change.

    • Coeur-de-fer says:

      Allowing the hacks and exploits to run rampant certainly helped breed the current culture, and drove many people who objected to it away. They’ll be fighting an uphill battle if they want to change that, now that there is an established player base for which this is the norm, but the developer definitely has a hand in shaping the community, whether by commission or omission.

    • Beleg Firebreath says:

      I agree with you, to some extent. Especially in the last few months, it has been like playing politics with 12 year olds. No IG loyalty (or even memory!) from a lot of the playerbase.

      However, in terms of ‘community’ (ie people you personally play and interact with), I suggest you find a clan full of folks you get along with, instead of being “stuck” in some clan full of douches. My clan would fit with your sentiments. We have our own voice comms, forums, etc. and we (I) have no issues kicking people who don’t belong. (We’re not the only ones! :P)

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