Darkfall: Unholy Wars retains a lot of the concepts of gameplay that its predecessor was known for. With this new game, Aventurine is focusing even more on PVP and combat, hoping to create the ultimate PVP experience. This means, whether the players like it or not, some features and mechanics just didn't make the cut and were not included into the game as part of the design plan for Unholy Wars. Personally, as long as there's fun to be had on the seas, I will probably be happy.
First let’s discuss what everyone wants to know about – the combat. It is a combination of first and third-person perspective combat. Unlike traditional MMORPGs, the combat is completely aim-based and is more akin to a shooter than point-and-click. You will need to aim your magic blast and compensate for travel time or even gravity in some cases. It’s the same with arrows when using a bow. Melee combat is a chaotic fury of trying to hit your enemy while also trying to keep yourself from being hit. To keep it brief, combat in Darkfall requires skill and practice to master.
Group gameplay has been massively improved from what we had in the original game. Now we have handy bars on the side of our screen that let us know how much health our group members have and what roles they have, including which they currently have selected. You can also see your group members on the mini-map, in the form of a dot and name tag, which is incredibly useful. But, I have to say, the feature I found to be the most helpful was that it is possible to drop multiple waypoints of differing colors. It goes without saying why having that would be useful for large-scale fighting.
With the advent of the Prowess system, the downfalls of a skill-based “use-to-improve” system, such as overnight AFK grinding and exploitation of the games mechanics to raise your skills with very little effort, are no longer a problem – or so we hope. Now, to gain Prowess, you will have to do so-called Feats, which are like achievements. When you gain Prowess Points from Feats, you can choose where you want to put them – In your skills or your stats. The only thing you cannot spend Prowess points on is the crafting skills.
Although, like all things, there are some issues with the Prowess system. There are certain achievements that are much more efficient than others that seem to encourage repetitive gameplay practices. I'm not a big fan of repetitive gameplay, so I wasn't too pleased with this. While the grind may not be as bad as the first game, it is still present thanks to these repetitive “kill one-hundred and fifty of X”-type feats. Hopefully the developers will be adding a lot more original and fun feats later on.
There are many traditional MMORPG elements within Darkfall as well. There is crafting and gathering, which is your typical “Go find a node and hit it with a pickaxe” system. Crafting is just a matter of raising your skill to gain access to new recipes and finding the components for those recipes. There's nothing new or innovative about it, but I guess it gets the job done. I do have to give points for the simple fact that there are a lot of options for crafting and gathering professions, even with the simplistic systems behind them.
Another traditional element is the game lore, which is deeper than you would expect from a game centered on PVP. There are ruins to explore, landscapes to behold in awe, and interesting and unique races to play – or at least there were until some genius decided to come up with some nonsensical reason as to why all the races are about the same height and build now. It was done for the sole purpose of making the new game more PVP-friendly and easier to balance. A great loss, in my opinion.
I do still love the world though. It's filled with so many unique sights. And, while some of the great points of interest from the original are no longer in the game, some new ones are there and plenty of the old ones made it. The world is truly amazing in terms of immersion. I spent over an hour the other day just going in a single direction and exploring what I could find. And, with the new Fog of War implemented into the game map, exploration isn't just something fun to do, it's something meaningful because as you explore, the map clears up and you can see spawns and other important things.
The world is big, and there is a lot of opportunity for everyone to do what they want to do. If you want to focus on crafting and build a vast trade empire, go ahead. If you want to build up an army to take over a single keep – you're not alone. Organize a massive alliance and take over half the world? It's been done. There's a lot of options for you to choose from, and the game does its best not to obstruct these choices.
Something I always enjoyed about Darkfall was its diverse PvE combat. You won’t be fighting the same type of enemy all the time. You can go out and fight fire elementals, giants, dragons, giant skeletons, floating eyes, and much more. Basically all the types of enemies you could want from a fantasy game. And, generally, the fights are pretty interesting and you will have to use your skill and brains. Sure, some of the early enemies, such as the Rockbangers I started out with, will just throw themselves at you without regard of their own life, but the higher tier monsters can offer brutal challenges.
This new version of Darkfall is a lot more newbie-friendly. Now there are large safe zones in and around all the major NPC cities. In these safe zones, you can no longer steal each other’s mounts or even hit someone, even if on purpose. For me, this hurts a lot of the appeal of the game, as that brutal reality that you could be attacked at any time made it a lot more exciting. Of course, I understand the decision, as this coupled with the enhanced new player tutorial makes for a very impressive new player experience compared to the original. And it really isn't so bad, as the spawns that can be found in the safe zones are not the best, and I am made to understand that there are a few negatives to farming in them.
One thing the game definitely needs is some optimization. At some points of the game, I found the game becoming choppy and got large FPS drops. This usually happened after I had the game up and running for an extended period of time, and I am not sure what caused it. I may not have the absolute best computer, but I do have a more than decent one and I had none of these issues with the original Darkfall. I hope Aventurine can get this issue smoothed out fast.
Darkfall is a game of opportunities and that is what makes it so appealing. Sure the PvP is attractive to some, but it wouldn't be near as popular if it didn't have the rest of the game behind it. And while some things I liked from the original game were taken out with Unholy Wars, a lot of good was added in to replace it. Some people cry that they want the original Darkfall back, but I feel that they should remember that it was a proven failure and that the population was nonexistent for the most part after the initial hype wore off. If you were a fan of Darkfall, or are just looking for a PvP experience that is truly unique, I suggest you give this game a go – even if it's just to say, “I was there.”
Features: 3.5/5 – Lots of PVP-related features, but kinda lacking on the non-PVP and non-Combat side of things.
Customization: 3/5 – Character creation has a moderate amount of options, but character development saves the day.
Graphics: 3.5/5 – While it looks better than the first Darkfall, it's still behind other games that came out the past few years. However, there is still a lot of beauty to be found in Agon.
Controls: 5/5 – Everything worked well and I truly enjoyed the action wheels.
Community: 2/5 - It's poison.
Overall: 3.5/5 – The overall experience of Darkfall: Unholy Wars is not quite where I expected it to be. This is largely due to some missing features that are planned to be added in the future. With those features, I would probably bump the score up to 4/5.