(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.)