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An early Christmas for Darkfall Online players this year, the free expansion "Conquer the Seas" is set for launch December fourth. Darkfall was hailed as the ‘WoW Killer’ but since its launch from ‘vapourware’ it has been met with heavy criticism. Will the new expansion be the saviour?
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What is Darkfall Online?
Darkfall Online, developed by Aventurine SA, is described as a ‘real-time mmo’ It combines the character progression of an MMO with the controls of a first person shooter. The games main distinction from your average MMO is its character development, large scale battles and brutal PVP.
The character development within Darkfall Online is a pleasant change from the popular current MMO’s. Instead of picking a class, and jumping between alternate characters, you create one character and play the way you wish. You can use melee weapons, archery, magic or all three. You can be a spell caster in a robe or in full plate metal armor, with a penalty of course. There is no ‘levelling grind’ instead your skills increase as you use them.
Darkfall Online has a ‘full loot PVP’ system. This means if you kill another player you can take the items they were carrying, likewise if they kill you they take what you were carrying. This gives consequences to losing PVP, rather than just re-spawning. Full loot PVP drives most casual gamers away, but allows competitive gamers to excel.
Darkfall Online is a perfect setting for large scale battles. Clans band together to control large cities, hamlets and villages. When two groups vie for the same area a fight is likely to ensue. The only limit to the amount you can bring to a fight is the number of allies you have online. The game itself places no restriction on team size.
There is, of course, a lot more to the game but you can take a look for yourself on the Darkfall Online website.
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Darkfall Online Criticism
Darkfall online has been widely critiqued for being a ‘hacker playground’. Many exploits exist within the game and several third party developers sell ‘hacks’ to allow players to teleport, fly and see through walls and other obstacles. The game does not offer a free trial and while this might scare away a few potential players, but it does mean rule breakers risk accounts they have actually paid for.
The game client itself is a little unpolished. There have been considerable fixes but it still looks a little rough around the edges. It’s nothing game breaking, but a little off-putting if you are used to an appealing client.
Many players have complained about unbalanced skills. Currently for example, a m elee player has little chance of beating a magic player. This is not in the usual MMO community fashion where everyone complains about other classes simply to bolster their own. When PVP is this paramount to the game, it's kind of a big deal.
One of the selling points of the game, even featured in one of the popular videos circulated before launch, was player created and controlled boats. Naval warfare and piracy attracted entire clans, fuelled by the dream of calling their character Jack Sparrow and living out at sea.
The problem is, even when exploiting for resources, boats are not worth the risk vs. return. Boats are expensive and really only used for long range assault on buildings before sailing away. And piracy is completely out since the ‘global banking’ system allows players to store their items in a bank on one side of the world, and remove them from a bank on the other end. This means there are no merchant convoys sailing the seas to pillage.
While there is no levelling grind within the game, this is not to say there is not a grind at all. Full loot PVP attracts competitive players. Competitive players want the edge on other competitive players and to get this (other than using third party applications) they grind their skills higher than others. In order to be competitive you will have to spend time increasing several skills.
Aventurine has been known for missing deadlines, their “Conquer the Seas” ETA announcement even included a ‘we might miss it’ clause. On the flip side though, many game developers push back deadlines. Taking the extra time means on release day the expansion actually works and the game is ready for it. You remember what happened to World of Warcraft when its first expansion hit? The servers went down. That’s what happens when you rush.
For the first few months, the common opinion was the game was a paid beta. Players were paying to play a game which wasn’t ready for launch. The game has since had several patches, a free expansion and a new server. The player base eagerly awaits the second "Conquer the Seas" expansion next week.
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Darkfall Online “Conquer the Seas” Expansion
Darkfall Online “Conquer the Seas” is the second free expansion since the games launch. As you can guess from the “Conquer the Seas” name, the focus was on the naval aspects of the game. Full details have not been released yet and rumours are rife within the community. We do have some confirmed information from the developers however.
First of all, building costs for ships are being reduced. This should fix the risk vs. return unbalance and increase the population of the seas. On top of that current ship speeds are being revamped, magic area damage will no longer pass through boat walls, cannon damage is being increased, swimmers will tire faster and face new dangers in the water and larger ships can shunt smaller ships out of their path. This gives naval combat the tactical advantage it sorely needs.
Another incentive to draw players into the waters is the upcoming ‘sea towers’ and sea villages. Sea villages operate the same way as normal villages, if normal villages were dropped in the sea. Players can fight to control these sea villages to collect rewards from player housing on the island. Sea towers can only be captured from a ship and defenders can use the towers cannon defences to repel invaders. Possessing a sea tower grants financial benefits, bragging rights and free clan advertising within major cities.
The “Conquer the Seas” expansion is also set to include some non-navel updates.
Racial abilities are being added while will differentiate races from each other a little better. Currently ‘hitbox’ and melee swing range are the only differences between any race, and these are fairly negligible.
Addressing the skill imbalance, the “Conquer the Seas” expansion might just do the trick. Melee and archery are being given anti magic skills, area of effect damage will no longer pass through obstacles and magic is being given a cool down to slow down casting. New specialisations will also allow new players to become competitive against magic type players without too much of a grind.
To increase the immersive feel of the game, developers are planning to base events not around seasonal events (i.e Halloween or Christmas events) but actual player actions. More details are eagerly awaited on this ‘Dynamic Lore System’. Wildlife artificial intelligence is to be introduced as well. Wildlife will travel the world, forming herds, fleeing from predators and allowing for hunting to be a viable profession for players.
Player housing is gaining several upgrades. From new areas and house types to extra decorations and vendor NPC’s to sell your good for you. These NPC’s can’t be killed so the market hungry merchant players can sell items without even being online.
The “Conquer the Seas” expansion has further updates but unfortunately, details have yet to be released.
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Is Darkfall Online Worth Playing?
If you ever played Ultima Online or Shadowbane, you’ll enjoy Darkfall Online. It isn’t perfect, but every game has its faults. The Darkfall “Conquer the Seas” expansion is free and addresses a lot of the current game problems.
It is a refreshingly different MMO and ideal for the competitive gamer. With the second expansion about to hit, it looks like it will only improve.