I've been following Darkfall for quite some time, checking up on things now and then - waiting for it to possibly be the new Shadowbane type game that I quite enjoyed roaming around in. The basic premise seems to be an open sandbox full pvp world, with emphasis on combat requiring "true skill" as the people on the forum tend to describe it.
All in all, the overall concept is quite decent on paper really, as it's a fair contrast to what other current popular mmos have to offer at present, and there's quite a few people from the "hardcore pvp-scene" who are quite fond of this game, and have been waiting anxiously the last few years for something similar to this to appear.
Before going into details regarding my experience, I feel I should add in some disclaimers here. The developing company of Darkfall Online, Aventurine, is an independent developer without any proper development publisher behind them, and they seem to be suffering a bit as a result of this. More on this later.
First off, the Darkfall launch was initially set to be in January, but shortly before that it was pushed back to late February. Fair enough, quite a few mmos do that nowadays, nothing bad there really. However, at the actual launch date, the shopping system and general infrastructure was revealed to be nothing short of a complete mess. At the initial launch, only a few lucky people who had pre-ordered were able to make their purchase and enter the lovely new world, after that, Aventurine shut down the sales as they were concerned about server population and so on. I can't seem to find any actual numbers from official sources, but the general public seem to think that somewhere around 5-6000 copies were sold initially. For a game who has 350,000 members registered on their forums, surely this would seem slightly low.
After a few more days after, the store still wasn't back up, and it would take a whole week before they decided to put the store back up. At that point, they kept the store open for a period of 10-20minutes, then shut it down again to keep the number of new people coming into the game limited. The assumed number of copies made available per day seem to be somewhere around 1000.
This practice followed, and I decided that I'd want to get a copy, and as such, I camped the online store at around the time they were opening, and tried to get a hold of an order, but to no avail. First day of camping gave me nothing but a good overview of how the actual purchasing process was set up. I spent some time checking out the forums, who were obviously quite swarmed with angry people wanting to play. Can't really blame them, as entering a fresh online world is in my opinion a LOT more fun than one already populated, especially considering the open PvP format of the game. A dodgy side-effect of this is that empty accounts for Darkfall were seen as high as $200US on ebay before being canceled due to violating terms.
Forums had a nice walkthrough post listed, which probably isn't the standard walkthrough you'd imagine it to be... it was actually a detailed post describing exactly how to *buy* the game. Now, I know how this sounds, but it's true! And following this walkthrough, along with a fair bit of luck and patience - I managed to secure my copy the following day...
When I finally logged into my account for the game, I saw one of the major issues with why it was like it was - only one server available! And the fact that they were trying to keep people from getting into the game seem to be related to them wanting to not have a lot of people running around in the starting areas at the same time.
Upon arriving ingame, I managed to roam around for a bit, do some quests, kill some goblins and loot some stuff and all that good stuff!
First impressions were, the UI is really horrible, I've seen better UIs in the mass produced korean MMOs really. The skill system is 'interesting', as it's a UO-copy, where you have skills that level up based on usage, meaning the more you swing a sword, the better you get at it and so on. And finally, the graphics and overall movement/feeling ... ish.
The skill/spell system has the reasonable premise of usage being the best way to skill it up, this will by many of the seasoned mmo-players instantly trigger a "MACROING!" line of thought, which is fair really! I can take SWG as an example, where you even were allowed to make recursive macros - and if you were able to make your character level some boring skills a fair bit while you slept, wouldn't you want to? Now, the devs have been extremely vague on this subject, despite addressing it several times. The latest official word on it was that unattended macroing or disruptive skillups in safezones were prohibited and cause for bans, and the same behaviour out in the world was done "at your own risk", now, at the own risk of what? Being banned? Killed by other players? Successfully skilling up to max?
The combat is awkward at best from what I experienced. The melee combat is done in a third person over the shoulder view, where you more or less spam the mouse button with your slashes, choosing either to slash horizontally or vertically, depending on whether or not you want to hit more than one target at the same time. This really feels like... something that's hard to describe really, closest I could come is "something I could've played quite a few years back". Archery and Magic use an FPS-view for combat, which felt a bit more "fun" to engage in, however, seeing how the low level magic spells were hardly doing any damage at all, combined with arrows for bows and reagents for the high level spells being rather expensive, the game seems to be quite intent on making you melee quite a fair bit, and I'm not sure I like that. From my point of view, the "true skill" portion of this melee-system as advocated by the hardcore forum-fans is about as "true skill" as two warriors dueling with autoattack exclusively in WoW. Really.
All in all, it seems like the game is suffering a fair bit from the whole Aventurine being an independent developer deal, perhaps lacking the proper management that would be needed to make Darkfall a success. With the apparent huge fanbase as it has at present, there's a huge market for having a lot of players in the game now - which seems to be squandered by lack of servers and overall marketing. If you check out their webpage for instance, there hasn't been any updates since before launch, there's really no sign of the game actually being live there. It just seems to me that they need management who understands the fans they're catering to, and the mmo-crowd in general. With that, I suspect Aventurine would be having a lot more success than they're having at present.
As for me, the 2hour queues whenever I seem to want to try it out was the final straw, so, account canceled and just like before ...
... waiting for SW: The Old Republic ... :)