At some point in development, DarkFall lost its skill cap and players were allowed to train every available skill to 100 without any penalties. It’s not clear when the cap disappeared, or exactly why, but it’s gone and not coming back. For the first few months players wondered about the future of character diversity in DarkFall, as eventually almost everyone would have everything maxed out and everyone would be exactly the same save for the player’s race.
Then with DarkFall’s first expansion, the Specialization system was introduced for magic, with promises of later expansion into both archery and melee. At its core, the Specialization system allows you to pick one enhancement at the expense of other choices and sometimes with some additional penalties, with the ability to change this choice at any time through the same NPC vendor at varying gold costs.
For magic currently this means making the choice between +10% damage, 40% faster spell travel, the ability to jump cast the spell, or a 100% range increase. There is no penalty when making a choice other than of course the inability to select all of them. While a good addition, it did not exactly revolutionize combat in DarkFall or bring about critical decisions. Most players pick one spell as their ‘jump turn’ spell, one (if that) as their long-range spell, and the rest go 10% daamge (if the travel speed is already fast) or 40% speed.
With the latest expansion both melee and archery received some notable Specialization options, ones that not only helped define roles, but also ones with some tough choices to make. I’ve held off on going into detail about all of this due to Aventurine still making changes, but I can at least cover the basics and give my overall opinion on the system and its future.
For both archery and melee, the biggest choice currently is whether you pick specializations that limit your elemental magic or not. You either receive a bonus to your magic resistance or a boost to damage vs staff-wielders if you decide to limit your magic, and the choice comes down to player preference. Personally I favor melee and archery, so giving up my one elemental school (earth) was not a difficult decision, plus with elemental now ‘off’ I no longer need to worry about skilling those up, and instead can focus my time/money on increasing my melee or archery mastery.
In solo combat against a magic user my specializations puts me somewhat at a disadvantage, as the elemental schools not only offer damage spells, but some good buffs and utility spells as well. In group combat or PvE, my choices benefit me so long as I get team support (for buffs, healing) and put myself in the correct situations (harassing casters, trying to be the focal point of magic damage). The extra magic resistance is noticeable and allows me to survive a bit longer, while my mana shield when wielding a bow also helps absorb some damage and gives me a nice edge verse casters and other archers.
The key to the system is of course getting something at the expense of something else. Any specialization the gives me something at the expanse of my mana is an attractive option for me, but it might not be for a magic-heavy character. What’s also tough to judge currently is just how far the Specialization system will go. The advancement from the first expansion (magic) to the second (melee/archery) was rather significant. Will crafting receive specialization options (damage vs durability, selection of damage type?), will melee and archery be further specialized, perhaps limiting melee to either a 2h or sword/shield? It’s difficult to say overall, but with some tweaking Aventurine’s second pass with the system in CtS has already increased combat diversity and options, which is the ultimate goal. It’s not about creating a ‘best’ build or locked-in character classes, but rather tailoring your character to do what you enjoy best, be it melee, archery, magic, or some combo of all three.
(DarkFall-related post disclaimer/reminder. If you click the image link near the top-right of this page and buy a DarkFall account, I get paid 20% of the client cost. If you believe this taints my views and reporting on DarkFall, your opinion is wrong.)