DF:UW – Review after two weeks

(Note: I write this sitting on my just-crafted boat, fishing away far off the Agon coast. Let’s see what I end up with at the end.)

MMO sequels are tricky. When you create a sequel, you generally do so because you can’t fix/patch/expand the original game to get it where you want it to go, and instead have to start fresh. The fact that EVE is 10 years in and without the need for a sequel is just another rock on the mountain of its amazing design, but then there is only one EVE/CCP.

Darkfall 1 was a great but greatly flawed game. For everything it did right (combat, seamless world, atmosphere), it was dragged down by design mistakes (increase-by-use progression system), bugs (rigormax), or exploits/hacks. It was a very harsh game right from the moment you logged in, and posed a giant hurdle for new players to catch up, not only in the skills needed to compete, but with complex UI scripts and keybinds. Near-forced overnight macroing did not help either.

Based on just over one week in, Darkfall: Unholy Wars is everything good about DF1, with most (all?) of the major negatives fixed or removed, and a lot of great stuff stacked on top of that solid core.

As previously described, the prowess system is wonderful. It truly rewards you for just playing the game, and allows you to progress in different ways. If you want to PvE, you can PvE and see progress. If you want to focus on harvesting/crafting, you will progress as well, and not JUST as a crafter. The game also rewards exploring Agon in many ways, be it random chaos chests, hunting down treasure maps, or simply finding resource/weapon stashes.

Combat has that DF1 feel, but is improved with the addition of the four roles (classes you can switch between at will) and the skills they bring. For me the biggest improvement is that unlike DF1, you don’t have half a dozen hotbars full of abilities, but instead 6-8 core skills you use, and those are easy to access with the base UI. Combat still gives you that huge adrenaline rush, and you still need to manage your stats like in DF1, but you can jump in and be effective much sooner, and without having everything maxed like in DF1.

Graphically the game is a better looking version of DF1. The character models are still average, but get the job done. Some of the animations could use work. The world itself is, IMO, one of the best-looking virtual worlds out. Not from a purely technical, poly-count high-rez textures way, but in terms of how you interact with the terrain and what it means. Seeing a giant spire in the middle of a lava field is not just a fancy instanced dungeon entrance or some “focal point” of a zone you quest to once and never see again, but a logical spot in a world that can be used for a number of things (siege stone location, epic PvP battleground, dragon farming encounter).

The lighting and shadows really add a lot of atmosphere to the game, and the musical score is a somewhat subtle but great addition. The sound (finally fixed just as of today) is as great as it was in DF1. You can pinpoint the location of someone based on noise, and keeping quiet is actually important when sneaking up on someone for PvP.

The starting experience is improved not only by a brief initial tutorial that shows you the basic controls, but with the inclusion of PvP-free safe zones around the starting NPC cities. These areas will allow new players to learn the ropes without having to worry about being ganked as soon as they leave town, and will also allow them to do some basic PvE to get their characters started and deposit some wealth in their banks. The decision on when to venture out and expose yourself to PvP is now up to each player, rather than some 24 hour newbie shield.

I’m sure I’ll cover more aspects of DF:UW as time goes by, but to wrap this post up I’d say if you enjoyed DF1 for what it was, I can’t imagine you won’t like DF:UW as much or more. If you missed DF1 but have interesting in a virtual world done right, and don’t rage-quit over FFA PvP, I’d recommend the game. Currently there are many clans open to new players, and overall the world is populated and lively.

(Two ocean tiles fished out from my boat. Gained 250 prowess, fished up two small treasure maps, and a ‘boatload’ of fish.)

13 Responses to DF:UW – Review after two weeks

  1. Rebecca G says:

    Fuck it. buying it. Farewell every other part of life except work.

  2. msp says:

    Serious – as in, not trolling – question: would you recommend the game to a solo player with a really weird irregular gaming schedule? FFA PvP doesn’t bother me at all; slower progression doesn’t either.

    Thanks!

    • sid6.7 says:

      This is not a solo game by any means. You could do it, I guess, but it would be painful. For example, the best spawns all attract a lot of players and a lot of PvP. Without a group, you couldn’t defend the spawn and wouldn’t find the experience fun.

      With a group, it’s a blast. But this is a different kind of game — and one that gets misunderstood.

      If you like FPS games, if you like MMOs, if you like PvP, and if you like banding together with others — there isn’t a better game that combines all of these things that exists.

      Darkfall is a misunderstood beast because people want to label it as just an MMO and then hold it up for comparison against other MMOs.

      Honestly, that’s just a very small part of the appeal. Many of the people actually playing Darkfall come from more skill-based games like FPS shooters. That’s why bloggers like Tobold don’t “get” Darkfall — they are comparing it to WoW and EvE when they should be also be comparing it to entirely different games (like Tribes and WWII Online).

      To be honest, Syncaine doesn’t really help the cause because he draws a lot of his own comparisons to other MMOs including EvE. This game has almost nothing in common with EvE — it’s so NOT EvE that I find the comparison ludicrous.

      It’s a shame because you have a lot of DF haters posting on Steam because they are thinking of this game entirely in the context of an MMO. It’s that, for sure, but it’s also these other things.

      • msp says:

        Thank you very much for the detailed reply!

        I really like EvE, in spite of the “not solo friendly” warning label it comes with, so I was hoping Darkfall might be a bit like that – more fun with a good group, but doable solo as long as one’s willing to accept the limitations. I might still give it a go, but at least now I know what I’m getting myself into :).

    • Rynnik says:

      My recommendation taking into account everything Sid said, would be to try out the game in one of the larger clans. Some of them are big enough that you should be able to find SOME people almost any time of the day or night.

      True solo Darkfall is not for the faint of heart and really isn’t something I would recommend without an understanding of what it entails. You can always leave and GO solo afterwards if the large clan life isn’t what you want, but I would consider giving it a shot with the assistance that clan life provides in getting reasonable gear to wear and being able to get spawn multipliers to help the feat completion as a couple examples of where it can help.

  3. Great Article! I really hope more people decide to play Darkfall and enjoy it for what it is. There is no other game like it on the market. -Uzik

  4. levi says:

    I concur with Darkfall not being solo. It is very very harsh and it is extremely hard to run away from a 5+ man group as a solo player. You pretty much have to engage 5 people or die 9/10s out of 10. And even if you kill 2-3 of the people you are going to stat out – run out of stam and be a sitting duck. This is of course if the players are equal prowess GOD FORBID if the 5 man group has 4-5 times your prowess which is more often the case. And of course I’m talking about the average player – not someone who is in the top 5 percent of game with 60k + prowess.

    To address the above statement that groups commonly guard the high end npcs – this is true. HOWEVER it is also true that 5 man groups regularly roam the small to medium spawns right outside of safe zones to completely grief and murder 1 to 2 man groups just trying to make their own way in the game. Even if they are wearing horrible gear and have killed like 3 npcs with absolutely zero loot – you will get murdered, teabagged, and then ganked. Then you have to run back to your corpse to find that all your shit gear was either taken or possibly destroyed just out of spite. It is completely brutal and pathetic at times.

    The game in its current incarnation heavily favors the large zerg like clans in not only a numbers game but also the fact that they can manipulate the prowess system by grinding down and last hitting very large npcs that have huge feats that award thousands upon thousands of prowess. Several large clans sported players with 50k prowess just a couple days in with several small clans only able to put up players with 10k prowess in the same amount of time and effort simply because they did not have numbers to manipulate the prowess system. The old system of skill gains through use was much better because everyone had to play and get skill gains. Macroers and hackers were the downside to this because they gained an unfair advantage through outright cheating and AV was very bad at enforcing it.

    Basically you are looking at cheating in the old system or huge clans using in game means in a flawed system to get an unfair advantage over solo / small clans.

    Several people say that in a couple months it will not matter – it still doesn’t change the fact that there are several things that are completely unbalanced and make the game crap for others.

    Also add in that dungeons and the market system they promised are not in the game as well as HALF – that is 50 percent – of all the schools are not in game.

  5. Jae says:

    A lot of people can’t even get this game to launch, and for many others, the word “sluggish” is a gross understatement in describing how the game runs, even on high end systems. You’re taking your chances investing in this game. I took this bet and lost.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I personally did not like this game at all. I felt that DF 1 was much better in almost every aspect. I liked the combat in DF 1 because it not only have a better feel to it, you also had a wider variety of skills to choose from. Not just a few key skills. Also you have to work to make your powers stronger so you can beat people. While it took long it was worth the wait. I also loved that in DF 1 there was no set class you had to be. Sure you can switch classes in 2.0 but that doesn’t change the fact that for the time you have 1 set class. Like in DF 1 you could be an archer/ mage/ and warrior at the same time. That way if you are a casting spells in the back you arent completely screwed if you get into melee.

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