You learn a lot of things about a game when you stop min/max playing 24/7 and occasionally log in just to have some fun. I know, blasphemy, but it happens, and now that my DarkFall character is ‘good enough’ for what I want to do, I’ve been doing more and more random stuff rather than logging in with a set goal of increasing X or skilling up Y. The road to recovery from min-max-itus is a long one, but the poster on my wall keeps reminding me to just take it one step at a time.
One thing I’ve been keeping an eye on lately is the new wildlife added to DarkFall; how exactly it functions and what it really brings. When you are busy and just going from point A to point B, wildlife plays a very minimal role in the game; some might go as far as to call it useless, but if you dig a little deeper they actually add a few interesting things to the game beyond just moving scenery.
For starters, killing wildlife is not exactly a braindead task, especially for the usual reward (rumor has it they occasionally drop something nice, but I’ve never seen it myself). The reason behind this difficulty has nothing to do with HP totals or attack power, but rather their AI and the combat mechanics of DF. Unlike a normal mob, wildlife never fights back, and so as soon as you hit one, the whole pack goes into ‘run away’ mode and you are left to chase. If you can fire off a quick second shot, you can score an easy kill, but if not you are likely going to have to give chase and miss a few times (I guess this would be much easier with AoE magic, but what fun is that?). And because you can’t tab-target and insta-cast in DF, actually hitting a scurrying fox or armadillo is not a guaranteed task.
Speaking of a herds or packs, it’s also interesting to watch how the wildlife gathers, scatters, and comes back together again. It looks very natural, especially if you mount-chase one member of a pack for a bit, scattering it a good distance from everyone else. If you stop and just watch, the rest of the herd will continue it’s slow pace in a random direction together, while the once-chased solo member will go looking for buddies, be it his former herd or new wildlife. It would be interesting to see future AI additions add things like water dependence (a herd would proceed to grab a drink occasionally), seeking shelter when it snows/rains, or traveling to spots with know food sources. As far as I can tell right now, once a herd has gathered they simply move in a random direction until scattered.
But in addition to being low-risk targets (not zero, since anytime you are out a PK can come by and drop you), wildlife also server another role, that of random movement on the horizon. In the always risky world of Agon, anything that moves is a potential PK, so when you see something out of the corner of your eye/screen, you can’t just ignore it and continue mining or PvE’ing away. And because wildlife has no ‘spawn radius’, it’s always around, and can be seen from a long ways away. As they also move in somewhat random ways across longer distances (at least compared to normal mobs), depending on the time of day or the terrain you can’t always identify them quickly. If it’s night time and foggy, a bighorn from a distance can easily look like a player mount at first glance.
Finally, certain mobs will actually spawn and attack wildlife, which can lead to some confusion if you are out looking for PvP. More than once now a group I’ve been in has dismounted and crept up on a spawn only to find the mobs launching spells and arrows at some wildlife running for its life, with a few wildlife tombs littering the ground. I’m always amused by this because it just feels like you are watching a living world (however simple) rather than some very specific set-piece scenery.
Overall I would say the addition of wildlife to DarkFall is a great thing, and while a power-gamer might view it as clutter, there is a lot to appreciate if you take the time. I also believe that this is just one piece of a much bigger ‘world’ puzzle that Aventurine is putting together. I’ve been saying since the beginning that while the initial focus was on getting the core of the game (PvP) right, the overarching direction DF is going in is to be the best fantasy world in the MMO space.
(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.)