With Darkfall set to release in two weeks, I want to write down my expectations for the game. Today will be a best-case post, while tomorrow I’ll do worst-case. If nothing else, it will be interesting to revisit these post-release and see how Aventurine did and how DF2 ended up.
The launch will be smooth from a performance standpoint, as the three years of DF1 experience will have refined the engine and stabilized it. Queues will still occur but won’t be ridiculous (over 1hr) in the first week or so, and player populations will be similar to levels experienced when DF1 launched the EU server. Server stability will be good, with minimal or no crashing. Hacking and exploits will be kept in check like they were in the later years of DF1.
The game will feel like DF1, but refined with the new roles and skills. Progression will still matter, but without obvious “must grind” skills like swimming or running. The early days/weeks will be heavily focused on character development and world explorations, with PvP happening when hunting parties cross naturally rather than along pre-defined PvP routes. The early land grab will be an interesting scramble, and the true value of each holding won’t be known until everything settles down and cities/hamlets/villages are built up.
The game will look similar to DF1 graphically, but with a nice facelift in terms of animations, lighting, sound, and overall feel. Much like DF1 in 2009, it won’t be cutting edge, but it will hold its own and the graphics will get the job done. Agon itself will be a better –designed version of its old self, with more places of interest and fewer barren spots. The three years of watching player behavior in old Agon will result in AV crafting a better, simply more interesting version, retaining the aspects that made the world interesting (magic lifts, high mountains, hidden passes) but removing the troublesome parts (one-entrance cities, imbalanced resource allocation).
The safe zones will allow players new to the DF experience to settle in before jumping into the deep end. Clans that are still forming will have a place to grow and learn. Veteran players will shortly leave these areas for the much richer lands beyond, but a sizable population of players will always occupy the safe zones. This will in turn allow DF2 to retain players better, and more of those new to the experience will be converted into core players rather than being driven off before really seeing what DF is about.
Those core players will have an environment that is busy and politically complex. Empires will rise and fall much like they did in the early EU days. PvP strategies will develop around specific roles, but then get countered by other roles and battle plans. The ‘grind everything’ character will not be the end-goal for everyone, and this will keep PvP interesting.
Crafting will be a refined version of DF1 crafting, with more designed being overall viable. With harvesting and resource placement redone, the DF2 economy will be stronger than anything DF1 saw, and ‘playing the market’ will become a legitimate role.
Finally, AV will have the resources to support DF2 much like they did for the first year or so of DF1, with frequent small updates and bi-annual expansions. This in turn will keep the core players playing while also attracting new ones.
Edit: Eurogamer will review DF2 and give it a 6/10, assigning someone who will actually login before writing it up.