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Darkfall in review part III

A Joe Review

As promised in part II of my review I will be struggling here to discover the positives and negatives of Darkfall’s current alignment system.  This system has under gone changes recently which have been for the better but it may still require tweaks by Aventurine in the future.

There are many races in the world of Agon.  The Alfar are the black sheep of the world they are only friends with other Alfar.  The Mehirm and Orcs are allied and tolerate each other surprisingly enough.  The Dwarves, Elves and Humans are all allies in the world.  You ask what does this mean.  Good question.  I suppose it can be used for role-play but mainly to a novice player it means you can use your racial and your allies’ racial cities without threat.  All racial areas have Guard Towers which will quickly kill even the most skilled player if they get in range.  If you are of good alignment (Blue) you have some security in that other allied races will suffer negative alignment if they kill you.  You need to keep in mind Agon is a dangerous place and that nowhere is completely safe.

The alignment system in Darkfall uses the alliances between races and then adds additional factors to mark those whom are good or evil.  The alignment and association to a specific character is designated by a color.  The character name is displayed in the applicable color.  The colors are as follows Green, Blue, Grey, Red, and Orange.  Players all start as a blue (lawful) character to their race and an allied races' character.  All other races normally see a non-allied race as red unless allied through clan.  If someone is red (evil) it means they are not allied racially, through a clan alliance, or they are simply a player killer whom has disregarded the alignment rules for their own pleasure.  If a character appears green (clan allied) it is either a clan member or an ally of your clan.  When a character is seen as grey (temp neutral) the character has entered a lawless zone or recently hit a blue aligned character.  If a character appears orange (at war with) they can be attacked anywhere on the map safely even in racial cities without repercussions from towers or penalty to alignment. 

All non allied raced characters normally appear as red.  Racially allied characters will also appear red if they have broken the rules of alignment.  If a character is red, orange, or grey to a player he can attack them without alignment penalty.  If a target is blue you will gain negative alignment upon killing and/or ganking the character. 

There are a lot of factors which have to be considered when speaking on character alignment within Darkfall. You are free to attack and kill anyone within this game but in some instances you need to expect penalties.  A red character is not safe from any NPC towers, even ones which are of the same race, as mention before, these towers will kill someone very swiftly if they wander into its range.  The only way at this time for a red character to remove negative alignment is to find a chaos city where there is a church. To regain positive alignment it currently costs 2,000 gold for each point up to two points per day.  This is extremely steep considering if you were to kill and gank a blue you gain, up to, I believe eleven points of negative alignment when killing and ganking the character.  So not only do you have to pay through the nose to ever come back within proximity of an NPC Guard tower but it will take days of entering a chaos city which is usually dangerous to do. 

They have also recently added Lawful areas which follow the alignment rules and Lawless areas which do not consider alignment at all.  When you enter a lawless area you show as grey so anyone who attacks you will not receive negative alignment but that means everyone is free game to you also.

Aventurine recently added system changes to allow defense without receiving negative alignment.  If someone who is not allied to your alliance enters one of your cities they turn grey.

I could probably attempt to explain the topic of alignment for pages, comparing all different scenarios as examples.  If you are interested in all the official specifics look HERE.   Mainly, if you follow the rules in place you can remain blue and use your racially allied cities as sanctuary.  If you are red you are forced to live as an outcast or within a clan or alliance holding to avoid game persecution.

The alignment system has many variables but this being a review and not a tutorial, let's get on to the meat of my review.  Mainly the alignment system works and is great for new and old characters.  It takes some effort to remain blue (lawful) but then again there are rewards. It is pretty easy to become red (evil) if that is what is desired.  As mentioned they have refined the system over time and it has gotten much better over the years and I am in hopes that they keep doing so. 

My characters are both blue and have been that way for a long time.  I just refuse to attack blue characters under any circumstances but it is not easy.  There are two inherent problems with the Alignment system today.  First of all if you are in a skirmish with a bunch of characters of different races it is possible that many of the characters in the opposing skirmish are blue at least until they hit you when they will turn grey and become free game. That goes the same for you, if you attack them first. Let’s say you are traveling with some clan allies and they are all human and you are Alfar. Well if you come across a group of hostile Alfar you either cannot help your friends in the battle or risk becoming red, with the steep negative penalty to your alignment and the costs it’s a problem.  Players who play a full loot game end up with negative alignment. It never ceases to amaze me how they tend to whine and come up with excuses for doing so.  My favorite excuse is "well, a blue character jumped in front of my arrow or spell."

I personally think the alignment system is good but not perfect.  The costs to recover from negative alignment are extremely high and time consuming and many people who become red will never see blue again.  If I was to get into a battle as described above and killed and ganked 2 blue characters it would take me more than ten days and 20,000 in gold to recover back to a positive ten alignment. 

I commend Aventurine for the tweaks they have made to the alignment system over the last few years but I am in hopes they make some more tweaks to the system sooner rather than later. Until then I will live between the known parameters and remain blue.  This is the weakest part of Darkfall that I can think of right now. These and similar issues cause a lot of player aggravation at times.  Like I mentioned several times however, the good features of this game far exceed the bad. I am positive the developers will fix the problems over time as they have been trying to do for years. I do fear however many red labeled characters will quit the game before they pay off their negative alignment which can cost 220,000 if they reach -100 in alignment and would take like 55 days of visiting a chaos city where they can obtain redemption at a church.

The next part of my ongoing review of Darkfall will be covering the New Player experience.  Until next time have fun gaming.  Happy Hunting.



Darkfall in Review Part II

A Joe Review

Shortly after I Introduced part one of my review of Darkfall, I realized that there is so much more involving the dynamics of the world that I had not included. Trying to describe the world of Agon quickly and concisely had me omitting some interesting content Aventurine has placed in the game involving property, much of it is revolutionary compared to similar games.

As I mentioned in my previous article the landscapes of Agon are filled with NPC racial cities, Chaos Cities, Clan controlled cites, and hamlets. I did however forget to mention another wonderfully entrenched aspect of the game which keeps the game exciting and ever changing. I am talking about Villages and Player housing. Villages are the most unique idea containing player housing in any game present or past. The villages are very robust and each village contains five or more plots in which players can place homes. There are many styles of player housing from cottages to keeps each have unique properties and styles. Villages themselves are very graphically pleasing and are extremely creative. Some of the coolest places in the game are these little villages. Players can obtain a deed to a housing plot during normal game play which can enable them to own their own piece of real estate within the world. When villages were first introduced there were different graphical scenes and plots of land, where a house could be placed, using an acquired deed. Once someone found a deed they could search all of the villages which dotted the landscapes on all the continents and islands of Agon for somewhere to place their home. Sometimes it would take days or weeks to find an open plot which would support a specific property deed. The plots currently designed and developed within villages are full on both servers. This system however fits into the open world style of the game. Unfortunately unless you trade or purchase a house now it is difficult to obtain one.

Villages are designed to be control points within the game. Each village has a stone within it (similar to a bind stone in appearance). These stones become vulnerable every 12 hours from when they were last controlled or taken down. Players can beat on the village stone with a siege hammer or battle spikes. When the stone is depleted of hit points the last person to hit the stone becomes the captor of the village for 12 hours.

Owners of the houses in a village have to pay taxes to remain owners of the property. If the taxes are not paid for a period of time the plot becomes available for someone with a matching deed to assume the property. Currently when a plot becomes available players come from far and wide to be the last man standing and become the new home owner.
Once you own a property in one of these villages you receive a second bind spot on the map. Bind points are useful enabling you to bind back to that location when the action is available and uninterrupted timing permits. There are many things that can be added to a property depending on the style and the item. If you add a vault then there is storage. If a tree or garden is added you and others can harvest right there on your porch at their own risk of course. There are also a lot of decorations and furniture which may fit in your home enabling you to allow tenants a bind to your home. There are even Slot machines which can be placed within a house which acts as worldwide lotteries. Of course if you win the jackpot you better get somewhere you can bank quickly before someone kills, ganks, and loots you of anything that you are carrying. All these added housing items must be hunted for and found in the world. This is not the type of world where you buy things from a vendor too often. You will be bartering amongst players to gain the rare items of the world.

Once a player gains control of a village they begin receiving taxes from that village. The incoming taxes are split in half. One half of the tax goes to the player, which is placed in their backpack hourly, and the other half is placed within the players Clan Bank.
Beware however when raiding or shopping at personal vendors within villages. The owner of that home receives system messages to some of these actions. Houses can be damaged but not destroyed or taken unless the taxes are not paid within the time allotted. Tenants or owners of a house can open and close the home door. If the house takes a certain amount of damage the door will break but can be replaced by an owner or tenant. If the door is open anyone can enter the home but beware, the door can be closed behind you and you will find yourself in a tight spot. When you enter someone’s house you cannot control the door operation even from within the structure unless you have a bind there. All these details make village battles frequent and full of tricks and strategy.

Aventurine has successfully fit player housing, in the form of villages, into the game perfectly in my opinion. Many of these villages are so unique and cool to the eye that they are arguably some of the better graphics within the game. A problem with having an open world is the ability to support more of these villages. Keeping to a seamless non instanced world has some disadvantages but are far worth the rewards. The development of this game is obviously focused on making this a real world rather than just bits and pieces of a game taped together like so many others. I feel the developers have done a great job blending player housing through the use of villages in Darkfall. I will say however that there are many who would disagree with my views. Their disappointment at not being able to obtain a home for themselves causes them to overlook the ingenuity involved.

I have spent many in game sessions taking (capping), fighting over and sailing to control points or villages in an effort to collect the precious taxes for my personal use. In moderation it is a blast. This aspect of the game just adds to the overall content of the diversified game play available. This is just one way Aventurine has successfully kept the world population moving around the map which, as mentioned in a previous article, is one of the rewarding aspects of this game. I can only begin to understand the enormity of the undertaking that it took to properly add villages to the game and have them fit so well into the landscape as well as the game play. I do hope they will someday add more of these villages with the same high standards but with so many projects on the table I don’t expect this will happen anytime in the near future.

Keep an eye out for my next review of Darkfall in which I will attempt to evaluate the alignment system which will once again prove a challenge.



Map of Agon Pictures, Images and Photos

Darkfall in Review Part 1

A Joe Review

I have wanted to begin a review of Aventurine’s Darkfall for months. I quickly discovered this was much easier said than done. The first problem I encountered was attempting to convey my point of view. I wished everyone reading my reviews to understand the type of gamer I had become over the last twenty years. I quickly realized that I would have to search very deeply for why I play the games and that it may just be easier to covey this as I write each review. The bigger stumbling block proved to be the immense size of the game world. I was also more interested in playing the game than writing about it. This game, more so than many of the others I have played, is vast in its content. This is accomplished mostly due to the Open world and the full loot system of game play which makes travel within the game world challenging.

The first thing I would like say about Darkfall is that I see it as the best game developed in many years, equaling if not superseding Ultima Online and Shadowbane which have both seen much better days. This game is closer to being a complete world than any other, by any MMO game developer, possibly ever created. One example of this is simply the size of the seamless map in which the game is placed. Moving from one end of the game world to the other would take someone the better part of their real life day whether mounted, on a ship, or simply hoofing it.

The development team at Aventurine is small in comparison to most MMO games these days. The team took on a very large task in this ongoing project of immense proportions. Patches, upgrades, and changes come painfully slow and mistakes are made but that is to be expected with a game this large and they are unwavering in their efforts to keep with their vision. I personally overlook most, if not all, of these shortcomings. I understanding that they are trying to avoid common problems in the industry today, including avoiding making this yet another collapsed gaming economy. I see Darkfall as much more of a niche game than many other mainstream games that let the complainers of the gaming community ruin a great idea time and time again. Many games I have played over the years would develop a game to a state where it often disappointed many players who had placed large amounts of time and energy into their characters' development.

I feel Aventurine has been extremely careful to not acquire a population which they cannot support. When they released the game for sale it was very difficult to obtain a license to play the game. They limited the amount of licenses available and while this was aggravating to many, I think, that it was done by design as they fine-tuned the launch. When the game was first released the only server available was in Europe yet many people across the world flocked to it even with poor ping responses. The game was unique and people recognized its possibilities for the future. Eventually there was a North American server opened on the West coast which was later moved to the Central US for more even connection results across the country. As I type, the company is currently in the process of possibly opening a server in Asia.

The main problem I see now is Aventurine currently having to balance development, population, and the need for more promotion of the game. They will need to attempt this without creating common problems that occur within smaller gaming companies. They obviously have been working to balance it all financially without large corporations involved which would tend to compromise the integrity of their game. I don’t think this is going to be easy and I am expecting some more bumps along the way.

Let’s however get into the meat of the game and my review of all the bits and pieces. This will not be an easy or short journey. It will likely take many articles to develop and completely cover all aspects of the game from my point of view after playing it for years. Keep in mind these are my opinions having played the game for two years with breaks here and there for real life.

The World of Agon is vast, as previously mentioned. The world in comprised of five continents one main and four sub continents not to mention dozens of islands. There are no instances to date or separate servers to load into during game play. Aventurine has done everything in its power to make the world seamless. In the center of the map World, exists the Continent of Agon. This continent is a beautiful and intriguing land comprised of many different environments to compliment the different racial areas. In the center of the continent is what I call the Dark Areas. This area has Epic Mobs like Devils and Daemons which are sought after for their riches and rare drops. Unlike other games the rare drops are more of a novelty rather than being necessary and are not required to compete in this world. The Northernmost part of the continent is the Dwarf lands and the most southern Alfar. The Southwest is comprised of Elven held areas and the Southeast is Human. Northwest you will find the Mehirm conquered properties and Northeast Orc lands. All these racial areas contain several NPC cities including a capital. Racial cities are protected by towers which shock the hell out of any character whom is not aligned with that race and wanders too close. If they remain in the area a second too long they will die. The landscape is also speckled with Chaos cities, banks, and bind stones. In addition to all these creative things there are also Clan owned cities and hamlets. When the game was first release the Clan owned strongholds had to be built from the ground up and required endless hours of team work. Today they are damaged often but for the most part built up. They wrap it all up with many creature camps, Ancient ruins and Dungeons. Every racial area has its own architecture and feel. I think the continent blends its dangers and safety nicely.

To the Northwest of the continent of Agon is the sub-continent of Niflheim which is mostly a snow climate continent. Northeast of Agon is the sub-continent of Yssam which is primarily a jungle climate region. Southwest is Rubaiyat which is mainly desert region and last but not least Cairn to the Southeast. All the subcontinents are spotted with clan owned cities, one Chaos city per sub-continent, and several Chaos Bind stones. They are different from the mainland in that they are non race specific. There is a lack of places to bank unless you are an inhabitant of the Sub-continent. They are not as settled and have resemblances to new frontiers of some sort. All these differences change game play considerably and make this game less cookie cutter and more of an open world.

The waters of the world get more interesting all the time. The amounts and types of materials and skills needed to craft many of the water vessels within the game are such that the crafting of them requires a long time. Characters gather, craft, and hunt to gain the skills and items they need. More advances are made by characters over time and the waters of Agon have begun to flow with action and adventure. Early on in the history of the different servers only simple rafts were available. Now there are one cannon to sixty plus cannon ships that you may encounter controlled by players attempting to gain the riches of the seas. Characters are out solo and in groups fishing for rare items as well as hunting sea faring monsters in the open oceans. There are not only the five continents available as destinations but multitudes of small islands to discover. Graphically the water is “okay” but some of the vessels are superbly designed and just a blast to adventure on solo or in groups. Your character or clan can be out causing trouble as you encounter other players or monsters aboard a fighting vessel. I find myself often out on a raft seeking adventure because unlike land travel it can be much more laid back. I am sure as the world matures over the next few years marine warfare will become more common and will provide hours of entertainment. There are Kraken to encounter and sink your vessel but you are still able to kill them for great treasure with a manned ship. There are of course sharks and serpents which enjoy nothing more than to mutilate swimmers and mounts. Over all the complete World of Agon is full of adventure and excitement, if you take the time and look for it.

This all leads me into my first opinion on Darkfall. There are few games in which you can find a well balanced challenge and reward that can be found just traveling within the game. I find traveling from one area to another in this game world to be a very enjoyable experience whether on a raft, ship, mounts, or propelled like a marathon runner. This all wraps up to be the best of any game I have ever played. It never ceases to amaze me the challenges, skill, strategy, and creatures you experience over the period of a gaming session. Most games either make travel so negligible that there are no enjoyable experiences or promotes auto running across a map. The world is vast and travel can be a large part of your game play but thankfully the world keeps it interesting. No trip on this map is every the same.
As previously mentioned this will be one of the many articles on Darkfall that I plan to write in review of the game as a whole. The game is very large so reviewing this niche game to people unfamiliar with it will not be a small task.

A Link To Darkfall





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