Darkfall: Day One

David X. Messer returns, trying out the hardcore MMO experience that is Darkfall. He expects to be flamed; don't disappoint him.

It was with some excitement that I clicked the 'Buy Darkfall' link. Free trials are all very well and good but I kinda felt that the way to come at Darkfall was to be financially invested in it. This would force me to get my moneys worth out of the game, and hopefully mean I could get more out of it than if I'd merely taken up a trial. My plan is to blog my experiences over my one month subscription on a day by day basis, thereby avoiding any kind of Euro-Dark-Gamer-Fall-gate scenario. That said, I'm probably still going to invoke the wrath of Darkfall's now legendary rabid fanbase, and Syncaine will probably tell me I only spent 3-4 hours playing the game (which is er, true; it's day one after all) because day one is always about teething problems and those little annoyances that come when you try anything new.

So, where were we, ah yes. I clicked 'Buy Darkfall'. The first thing I noticed was that I couldn't click the drop downs to enter my date of birth. Apparently the Darkfall purchasing pages don't support Safari. This is probably fair, it's a PC game after all. So actually it took me two attempts to buy the game. The next thing I did wrong was that I logged into the Darkfall site and clicked the "Download Darkfall Client" link from the subscriptions page, rather than clicking the download link in the email they sent me. The difference between the two is that one link seemed to just download the game launcher only, and other downloads a torrentfile whereby you can download the 9GB or so of the client. I feel my thoughts on online downloaders are well known by this point, so a torrent download was most welcome once I worked out that's what I needed to be using.

8 hours later I ran the installer and the game installed flawlessly, patched itself. All very standard. What wasn't so easy was getting into the game itself. The big PLAY tab in the middle was greyed out. Apparently you need to click the SERVER tab to select your character which then gets you a slot on the server and then you're free to click the PLAY tab. This was to become something of a running theme. When I entered the game for the first time and got past character creation the first thing I noticed wasn't how nice it was that I only have to choose a race and change a few elements of my appearance. No. The first thing I noticed was how dire the user interface is. It's dreadful. Really really dreadful. I can't express just how abysmal it really is. When I tried EQ2 I thought their interface was dreadful, but no Darkfall's UI goes several steps past dreadful and into something else altogether.

  • When you speak to a NPC to pick up quests, there's no real indication as to whether that NPC has quests for you, which is entirely fair as this isn't WoW and therefore isn't guided to death, that I can cope with. The way you find out if the NPC has quests is by interacting with them and selecting the Quests tab from the window that appears. This displays a list of quests. To view the details of the quest you have to click the quest to highlight it, and then click 'view'. Ummm, I'm sorry, but why do I have to click twice to view the details of the quest? I've already clicked the quest I'm interested in so surely that's enough?
  • So you've read the quest text. You click 'accept' and then you're given the quest text again over the centre of the screen and again it's not in a window so you can't move it around. This text scrolls past so quickly that you can't read it so it's next to useless. And just in case you missed it the first time before you clicked accept, and the second time when it scrolled past too quickly for you to read it, the quest text is repeated in the system window. So effectively I've just been given the quest text 3 times over.
  • Existing quests you are on are accessed via the ingame journal. So you click the journal button and what do you get? A window opens with a graphic which says 'loading'. Er, what? The quest is just a bit of text, why am I waiting for the damn thing to load before needing to click another couple of links to actually get into the quests I have?
  • I spent 5 minutes carefully arranging the default windows that appeared when I logged into the game for the first time. I put the chat window in the bottom left hand corner, my inventory in the middle, and the system window in the bottom right hand side. Only later do I discover there's some kind of combat/system text that appears in the bottom left hand corner which is helpfully not in a window so I couldn't actually move it somewhere else. So if you've got some thing over it you get a horrible text ontop of text effect and you can't read what it says.
  • The inventory window is key to the game. I found myself quickly trying to drag things out of corpse inventories before having to run away to avoid sticky situations. More than once I click dragged an item to find that the item hadn't picked up at all. This led to more than one heartstopping moment. Worst still is that there's a definate 'lag' on occasion when you click drag. So intiallly it looks like the click hasn't registered at all.
  • Every time I started the game I had to accept the ToS every single time. This is immensely annoying. I'm not quite sure why it didn't remember that I'd already accepted them previously

If I'm missing something here, if there's some option to turn these things off or something please feel free to let me know. I may have just done something wrong or I'm missing an option somewhere. On the surface of it I refuse to believe this can be default behaviour.

The graphics are functional, and I might even go as far as to say I was slightly let down by them, and the sound. My god, for a game that places some importance on sound you'd think they might have found some decent samples to use that don't sound like they came out of a PC game made 10 years ago.

And now having said all that I feel bad. Why? By the end of day one and having done some of the starter quests, I'd managed to engage in some gathering, some tradeskils, killed a whole bunch of goblins, worked out what hoops to jump through to work the damn UI. By the end of day one I was feeling pretty good about myself and was actually starting to have a good time of things. I'd also started noticing some really nice graphical touches. Little things like when you're up close to the trees you can see them swaying gently in the wind. The water in some angles at night catches the moonlight and shimmers in the most amazing way, in a similar fashion the buildings do this. I think I've settled into the opinion that the graphics are pretty functional, and weren't actually as off putting once I'd worked out what the hell I was doing.

I was starting to get immersed and I was feeling pretty positive about day two.

Posted by Drew Shiel at November 9, 2009 10:32 AM

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