Darkfall Hands-On Preview: The Rise of the Ninja (Looter)

Freedom. It was the one thing you heard about any time someone asked about the ideological premise of Darkfall. The game was built on the promise of freedom. I think Darkfall has delivered...

Freedom. It was the one thing you heard about any time someone asked about the ideological premise of Darkfall. The game was built on the promise of freedom.

I think Darkfall has delivered on that promise. Unfortunately, freedom comes with a price, and no matter how you try to finagle your way around it, someone always has to pay the piper. There are some things that drive me crazy in the game, yet others are done exactly right. It makes for an interesting dynamic, perhaps even more so when it comes from a carebear like me.

Framerates should improve for everyone.

Through all of this, it's only fair to bear in mind that the game is still technically in a beta phase. I believe the server is still running in debug mode as well, so while I had no performance problems (I am running a beast of a system), other players may find themselves running much smoother when the game launches tomorrow.

After a reasonably sized download (I'm sorry folks, but 9GB for a modern day MMO is not that big), and some subsequent patching, I was more excited than a kid in an arcade to finally hop in the game we've been hearing so much about. After sitting in a queue for awhile I finally got in and created my first character.

I can sum up my favorite thing about Darkfall in one brief sentence. You and your target move during combat. Until I started playing Darkfall, I really never gave the idea much thought, but looking back now, the mobs in virtually every other game I play are generally static, at least until they get below 20% health and begin to run away. If that's what you expect out of Darkfall's combat, you couldn't be more wrong... and I bet you'll love the fact.

Combat is by no means perfect. Targets will glitch out as you’re running and reappear behind you, some will freeze up while you both stand there and swing on each other for five minutes, tombstones don't always appear where the mob dies, etc. There are definitely some minor gripes I have with the combat in the game, but for all its faults, it gets one thing absolutely correct - immersion. I can't tell you the last time I was that focused during a battle in an MMOG. Maybe during some particularly large or difficult fights I have been in, but in this instance, I'm talking about battling a goblin. Don't bother cleaning the wax out of your ears, because you heard me correctly. I, Dalmarus, was entirely focused while battling a lowly goblin. Pretty scary, huh?

I'm not sure if it's just because the Alfar are the closest thing to Dark Elves in the game, but the Alfar areas of the game were filled with every type of despicable individual you've ever had the displeasure of running into. The dregs of the Internet have found their way here and contaminated the gene pool. There were some very friendly and helpful players there as well, but they were *far* out numbered.

One of the favorite actions of these individuals is also the single largest complaint I have about Darkfall right now. In last week's Forever Fantasy, I mentioned how I'm not really in favor of being able to loot players, but I understood the concept and was willing to give it a try. I'm proud to report that no player has managed to kill me yet (though a few have tried) so I haven't had my body looted. Instead, what these players will do is wait for you to get jumped by more than one mob, then loot the tombstones (mobs become tombstones instead of corpses) while you're fighting for your life. This is old school EverQuest ninja-looting brought back tenfold. I can’t count the amount of times this happened to me.

Mounts may not be desperately needed, but damn, they're pretty!

I've heard the problem becomes far less prevalent when you get out of the starting areas, but as it stands now, the system really, really irritates me. If you're too much of a pansy to attack me (especially while I'm in the middle of fighting something else), then you do NOT deserve any of my loot. It brings the general arguments against kill stealing to a whole new level. I think it's something that needs to be altered in the game as soon as possible, but from what I understand, it won't be.

While I'm thinking of it, there's something else you should probably be aware of as well. Just in case, for some unimaginable reason, you were planning on allowing your teenager to play this game... there is no filter. I don't mean there's no filter in the chat channels, I mean there doesn't appear to be a filter with the naming system either. A sizable number of the players I ran across had names that I quite literally cannot type here and still keep things teen friendly.

Speaking of things non-filtered, let me step back and describe the general chat channels (Public and Racial) a little better. You know how people like creating various drinking games based around the concept of a phrase or action being repeated? I strongly encourage you to resist this urge when it comes to Darkfall. If you had to take a shot every time someone said newb, carebear, gay, or a smorgasbord of other words I simply won't repeat here, you would be dead from alcohol poisoning in less than an hour. While the game is still very much in beta, what I experienced in the world is still the worst example of an online community I've ever encountered, without question.

I'll leave you hanging there in anticipation of our full-blown Darkfall review coming in the near future. When trying to decide whether you want to get the game, just be honest with yourself. Can you put up with people looting your kills and a very real lack of direction/hand holding in exchange for near limitless freedom? If so, Darkfall could be right up your alley and you should probably give it a try. If not, or if any of my complaints are a turn off, I'd suggest leaving it alone.

My inner old-schooler won't allow me to let it go, so I'll see you in there!

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