Thursday, August 19, 2010

Darkfall: Day 3

I started out the night with some travel. Well, okay... a lot of travel. A quest had me running through the wilderness to what looked like a nearby village - well, it wasn't nearby. I noted that there were no monsters to be found on my trip. Kind of odd... I at least expected some kind of animal out there.

I also noted that I saw my first fellow player(s) during this trip. There was one in town recovering from death, and another chasing down a fox right outside of town.

Detour: It's unfortunate, but lack of players in a starting area is... well, it's crippling. Personally, I steadily lose motivation to play a game when there is nobody to be found. It's lonely, and it feels like there's no point. Yes, players may be waiting in later tiers of content, but if I never get there because the game feels like a ghost town, why does it matter?

I can truthfully say that in one day of playing Everquest's new tutorial area, that I saw many more players there. Granted, it seems that everyone starts there, and in Darkfall this is only one starting area of many... but two people in three days of play? It's disheartening.

Back on track. I navigated around some treacherous ravines and got to the town, where I was promptly told by the new NPC that I had to deliver something back. Oh, there and back quests, how timeless you are! No, not really. Not when the run is bereft of anything interesting and takes for-ev-er. If there was a chance for some combat or loot along the way back, maybe. But not like this.

In lieu of re-delivery, I stepped out of town in the other direction, straight into a family of monsters! This was very refreshing because I didn't have to wander for fifteen minutes to find them But, my joy was short lived. A barrage of invisible ranged attacks struck me over and over, and literally drove me back. I find it interesting that ranged attacks slow your advance - cool even - but the way that it's implemented in Darkfall makes it feel more like an engine glitch than a mechanic.

I killed several of them and then found my end at the hands of an indistinguishably more powerful member of their group. The name was different - which you'd only know if you placed your cross hairs over it since there are no floating names - but there was no physical difference. Just another naked, odd looking fleshy creature which I assume was a rat man.

This rat man is precisely what I mentioned on day one. It's unimaginative, bland, and generic. It has no personality and no style. For lack of a better phrase, it's built like a board. A fleshy, rubbery looking board that I took no interesting in killing save for the fact that they were right outside of town.

And, on the subject of killing things, there seems to be a strange engine bug. When I slay something, the body doesn't stop moving. The monster falls down or over or whatever it may do, but it keeps moving, frozen in its death pose, across the ground until the corpse vanishes and a glowing gravestone appears at where it actually died. Why the gravestone? I'm simply curious. It seems a bit odd to make a corpse disappear rapidly and be replaced by a stone which holds the loot.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Darkfall, Day 2

I started out my second adventure by encountering a troll not far from town.

I was surprised to come upon him for two reasons. The first, is that the world feels very barren. There's a lot of open, unused space. The second is that I was alerted to his presence by way of being struck with a glowing blue ball of energy. After he threw a couple more, I figured he was some kind of troll mage.

After a short and very close fight I won and was immediately set upon by three more trolls from the distance who all began to hurl the same blue energy orbs at me. Well... I guess all trolls are mages here?

After a few minutes of fleeing I managed to lose them. Then I open up the help browser to find out how to rest. Ok, there's a rest skill. I put it on my bar and use it. Then I wait. A while.

A momentary detour here; I can understand the concept of having everything be a skill. But honestly... resting?

Anyways. I get back into the fight with a new troll, this time wielding a club that I picked up from the last one. I bash him pretty good and he runs rapidly away, causing a bunch of his magic-using friends to notice me and promptly kill me.

So, back in town, I "rest". While doing so, I finally find some quests. There was no indicator that I could see that this NPC would have them... I just happened to notice the Quest tab on his interaction window. Kill some goblins, with the promise of armor - I'm on board for that!

With the goblins marked on my map as well as my corpse containing my neat new club, I'm off with a sluggishly replenishing health bar. As I traverse the barren landscape, the only company I seem to find is in the fairly regular 'ding!' noises that accompany gaining skill in sprint, run, and crouch walk.

The next half hour basically consisted of me killing a few goblins, and then dying to magic abilities, and repeating this process as I tried to finish the quest/get my loot back. It's rather unfortunate that a lot of the drops seem to decay on the corpses before I can get to them.

The load times in this game are a bit excessive, and I've got a decent computer. I run plenty of newer games with everything turned up and have no problems, so I don't know why loading in takes so long.The help page says that you can release early after death by pressing the space bar, but it doesn't work.

Something I find extremely irritating is that even when sprinting away, I can't outrun anything. I've run straight, I've maneuvered, but it doesn't work. The monsters stick to you, or worse yet, make a bee-line for you through and over terrain. Also of irritation is that the starter-sword doesn't seem to let you raise your sword skill. To top it off, all the weapons I'm finding are terrible, and don't make a noticeable different in my fights versus these mobs.

Next on the list... dying when there's still health in my bar. That's right - my character died with health left.

After a few more runs, I finally get some gear, my stuff back, and managed to conquer the goblins - except for the shaman who still destroys me. With a suit of armor, a shield and some potions the game is MUCH more fun starting out.

King Gripe of the night: the interface. Well, all 3 interfaces actually. The way they work/are split up. You've got your normal interface that's in first person. Then you've got your 'combat' one that you activate by hitting "R" to draw your weapon. Then if you right click in any of these, you get your mouse cursor back and lose control of your character while doing so in "interaction mode".

This is like a gigantic step backwards to 10 years ago when Ultima IX: Ascension came out. The combat/interaction split interface in that game was miserable, and I suffered through it out of loyalty to the title. I can't believe that a decade later I'm seeing the same poorly implemented system. I guess it makes sense though, since the Darkfall project started in the days of yore when this might have seemed like a good idea.


Monday, August 16, 2010

Darkfall, Day 1

My first impression of the gameplay is that this game is in need of "new user experience" triage. I'm more resistant than a casual player (hey, I played Everquest and Ultima Online near their releases, so I've experienced unforgiving worlds), but I can see how this game could very quickly turn away potential subscribers.

Expanding on that... I spent my first 15 minutes in the world (after reading tips and hints), looking for something to kill. I covered a lot of ground at a very slow pace, and during this time I came across a Fox and a few rats. "No way," I thought to myself, "am I going to be killing rats in my first minutes of a newer MMO..."

Well, I tried. I hit the rat once, and then it erratically fled from me, not only over open ground, but through architecture, terrain, and up obscenely steep hills that we were both somehow able to climb. After about three minutes of pursuit and missed attacks, I ran out of stamina or whatever it may be called that allowed me to do so. Next, I attacked a fox, and we immediately began acting out the scene I'd had with the rat. Later, I attacked another rat... I hit it twice, but it got away.

I'd like to note that at no time was I in danger. But, I think I prefer danger and being able to kill something because it fights me, over perpetual pursuit of a creature that does not result in my victory.

Well, after a while, I finally found a camp of goblins. I only noticed them because, as I was trundling around the wilds, I started taking hits from arrows whose trail/arc were coming from... inside, or perhaps behind, a rock. I engaged the goblin as I was happy to have an actual fight at last.

I killed him. Then four of his friends jumped in, and I laid into a shaman. But alas, my extensive sprinting over the landscape (because going at walk speed is fairly unbearable, but hey I gained quite a few points towards... mastering running) had left me with only enough stamina to kill the first goblin, hurt the second, and then get beaten into the earth.

At this point a meter of some sort came up, and I figured it was my "time until I regain consciousness" bar. Instead, it turned out to be a bar that when it has filled, you have finally died, and are treated to a loading screen and a trip back to your bind.

I was a bit irritated that I had laid there for so long hoping to get up, only to have, I supposed, bled out.

My first impression of the art is that the art direction seems a bit uninspired. Bluntly, I'd say it's generic fantasy. Metal, tusks, fur, shiny armor, all the usual. Very little stylization to be had, or at least noticed. Everything pretty much looks like you'd expect it to.

In short, so far, the game is "overwhelming", in the sense that you really aren't given a purpose as you log in for the first time, and thus don't really know where to go, or what to do. It's not a feeling that I dislike, but it's something that I know many people are intolerant of.

As far as the "first log in experience" goes, I'd rate this below the first time that I logged into Everquest and Ultima Online - at least those games had me laughing at the sheer comedy of my situation... things like "What the crap, I can't see at night!", as I ran smack into danger. Or wandered off deep into the a forest and was harried by a Mongbat that I could scarcely see on my faded old monitor.

Those two experiences had one thing in common however; despite my pitfalls, I managed to do some things right. Darkfall thus far has made me feel like I am doing absolutely nothing right and that I deserve to be punished for my ignorance.