Now that I’ve had a little bit of time with the new patch in DarkFall, I can safely say the PvE changes are a definite step in the right direction for the game. It ultimately comes down to group PvE being more rewarding than solo PvE, and that’s exactly how it should be. Solo PvE should be a last resort option; you should only be going out to solo PvE when nothing else is going on, rather than having it as the most efficient/effective method, and this patch shifted that balance correctly.
As I mentioned before, but have now confirmed, mount farming is no longer viable, which means the more difficult mobs can no longer be soloed effectively (you can still bow down just about anything, but the amount of time it would take you to down something tough vs just fighting easier mobs does not make this a smart choice unless you have a specific reason like an enchanting mat or some item to farm). This is not to say that soloing is now impossible, its not. Anything you could solo on foot before the patch you can still solo, and more or less the rewards for such mobs are fine (just not when they got compared to battlehorn farming 1200hp mobs).
Group PvE itself is actually not that difficult in DarkFall once you know what you are doing, as even mobs that hit extremely hard and have a great deal of HP can be taken down by a small (2-3 man) group so long as everyone is playing smart. Parry when needed, heal and buff each other, and focus on the same target and soon the mob will fall. The better you get the faster you will be able to clear a camp, and so long as the respawn is fast or you have a second camp nearby to work on while you wait, the money will accumulate quickly.
And because of how DF combat works vs the more traditional model (where once a mob is on you, its stuck on you unless taunted/agroed off), even two players are far more powerful than one when farming simply because you can have one player running away or parrying while the other is dealing damage or healing, and the amount of time a mob spends between players is significant. Under the more traditional model, if a ‘red’ mob gets on someone, its going to pound you until you drop, and there is usually very little that you can effectively do to stop this from happening (short of reseting the mob, which just makes killing it impossible anyway). DF combat being a bit more fluid and not as restricting means that player action and skill can help overcome pure damage and HP imbalances. Enhanced mob AI does not always mean the mobs are geniuses and destroy you, it also means they fight and react a bit more naturally rather than following a set script, and this makes them more interesting to fight. The mobs in DF, when compared to other MMOs, do indeed accomplish this, even if not perfectly.
Ultimately though this balance between group vs solo is exactly where an MMO should be. You SHOULD be encouraged to group up with your buddies, as not only is anything more fun with friends, but the system should actually reward you for making the effort to get a group together. It sounds so simple, yet so many MMOs (DF included until this patch) fail at this basic concept, and so the rather simple gameplay of any MMO (even DF’s more active combat is relatively simple when compared to any console action game) can easily be taken as ‘the grind’ when you are ‘forced’ to go it alone. And again, soloing should still be an option (no early EQ1 please), but as stated above it really should be a last resort. If someone truly wants to play solo in an MMO, they should NOT be encouraged with the fastest advancement path. The more grouping you encourage, the stronger the social bonds between players will become, and the more ‘hook’ your game will have once someone gets into it.
Usually when DF comes up the topic is PvP, and ultimately that is the main selling point of the game and the source of its highlight moments, but just having great PvP does not make the game a complete MMO, especially one aiming at the sandbox style. My guess is that once the community adjusts to this patch and we see more groups heading out to PvE, the amount of random wilderness group vs group PvP will also significantly increase. What adjustments players make because of this will be interesting to see, but it will be nice to see more than one mounted player at a spawn going forward.
(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.)