By Jordan Hall(ApocaRUFF), OnRPG Journalist
Editor’s Note: Darkfall is currently in serious flux and many of the reported features in this write-up could be tweaked or otherwise revamped within weeks of the posting of this review.
Darkfall: Unholy Wars is Aventurine's second attempt at Darkfall, which was the 2009 PVP-focused MMORPG that had a devoted cult following, but fell from popularity early on. It was originally an attempt at revamping the first Darkfall, but was later dubbed a new game after the developers realized the extent of the changes they wished to make. Some key changes in the new game are a smaller and more condensed version of the world map, a completely redone User Interface, and a complete reworking of the original skill system that now includes a quasi-class system. Another big thing is increased user-friendliness, something that was almost completely absent. Hopefully, the years of experience gained from the original Darkfall will allow Aventurine to have created a great experience.
I feel that I should mention that I have been following Darkfall for many years now. I originally started following its development in 2005 when I began lurking the forums. In 2006 I took the leap and began to actually participate in the discussion; I even took part in beta testing and bought the game as soon as it was available. However, I honestly never spent much time playing the game – combined I probably played for five months at the most. The massive grind that killed a majority of the population away also caused me to not be able to enjoy the game, and it wasn't until the end of its days that I actually sat down and spend a meaningful amount of time in the game.
Character creation in Darkfall: Unholy Wars is what you might expect from an MMORPG. First you will choose one of six races – which are Mercians (humans), Tovarr (formerly Dwarves), Orks, Alfari (Dark Elves), Mirdain (High Elves), and Mahirim (Wolf people) – and customize your appearance. There are options for your hair, hair color, accessories – which range from earrings to eye patches, tattoos and other body customizations. It's a bit disappointing that you don't get as many options as some modern MMOs offer, but there are enough there to make yourself look at least a little unique. Also at creation you will be choosing a starting primary and secondary role, after which creation ends with choosing a first and last name for your character.
Of course, customization does not end at character creation and it extends far into your character’s life. As you play the game, you will complete Feats and gain Prowess points, which can be used to customize and advance your character. As there are no limits to what you can learn, you can tailor your character to your wants and needs. This new Prowess system is quite interesting and I will go into it more later in the review. In short, Darkfall offers a lot of freedom to choose how you want to play the game, and that itself is a great thing.
The graphics in Darkfall: Unholy Wars are around the same quality as the original Darkfall. They seem a bit higher quality, but that may just be because the game itself has an air of “newness” around it. Despite a lacking in the overall quality of the graphics, I found that the game has several beautiful vistas to behold. Something I've always enjoyed was the large diversity in the world map, from beautiful floating islands to thriving jungles filled with ruins. It feels like a true fantasy world with a rich lore and history.
One thing I've had difficulty working with is the new User Interface (UI). It seems a step backwards to me compared to the old UI, which itself was quite bad. The major issue that I have with this new UI is the inventory. It similar to what you could find in Skyrim, and can be quite difficult to get used to. Another gripe is the small icons on the sides of the screen; it makes it difficult to find the buttons you need to click.
In fact, a lot of things now in the game remind me of Skyrim. The Northern parts of the map even seem to be similar, but not quite the same. I honestly felt like I had just come off the mountain during the very first part of Skyrim when I began exploring the Tovarr lands. Despite the intention of having the first Darkfall game be reminiscent of Ultima Online, I feel like they've began to take more influences from the Elder Scroll series. The graphics quality reminds me of a revamped Morrowind, while the UI reminds me of Skyrim. The gameplay however is still quite unique to Darkfall.
There are some bugs when it comes to the graphics, too. A majority of them seem to surround water. An example, I was standing on a cliff overlooking a vast sea. Suddenly, something in the water catches my eyes – It's massive! Is that a...- Nope, it's just my huge reflection in the water. Another water issue is that if you look into the water at just the right angle, it disappears and you can see quite far without an impediment.
This is the one area I am 100% sure the new game has improved from its predecessor. In the original, I spent hours and hours learning to write macros and mooching off of friends for theirs, just so I could PVP. Whenever I launched Darkfall, I also launched three macros, one of which was quite a number of macros condensed into one file. Lucky for us, that won’t be an issue any longer as each Role in the game only has a limited number of abilities, and the new radial-style hotbar accommodates them quite well.
As opposed to the traditional way of doing things, Aventurine has decided to go with something new. You have two circles on which you can play abilities and spells. Each circle has eight slots, to correspond with the 1-8 keys. Rather than having to stretch to hit Shift+1 to use abilities from the other ability circle, you simply use the Q and E keys to switch between the two on the fly. I found this to be extremely useful and easy to use, and I am glad it was implemented. It even worked perfectly while I was sprinting for my life and talking in mumble.
Other than that, it's still the same general scheme. WASD movement, left mouse attack, stuff such as that. I found the controls to be responsive, and never had an issue with them. I really liked the way that controlling mounts felt; I could almost feel the weight behind them as I turned. Overall, Aventurine did great with this area of the game.
I wish I could say that Darkfall: Unholy Wars had a “special” community and leave it there. Unfortunately, I need to say something about it. As with all things PVP-related, there is a lot of rage and hate involved, and it shows in immense amounts in the Darkfall community. Rampant racism, hate speech, and other obscenities abound on the forums – where it seems the moderators will let almost anything fly. Honestly, I have to wonder if Aventurine cares much about the quality of their community. I understand that it's a mature game, but mature doesn't mean shithole.
Now, don't get me wrong. There are a lot of nice, intelligent people who play the game. It's sad that the negativity often drowns this out. Oddly enough, a lot of role players are attracted to Darkfall. I suppose it's due to the freedom that is available to forge your own destiny and conquer the world. Truthfully, Darkfall has the best of both worlds in terms of community – it's just that the better world is often hidden by the bad one.