Tuesday, April 30, 2013 | 19
All MMORPGs are Bad.I feel like it's important for my readers to fully understand that my hatred for MMORPGs is no longer tinged with any shred of irony. They're all shitty, and I wish people would quit asking me which one they should play. You will be disappointed by all comers because they're all bad and getting worse. Darkfall Unholy Wars epitomizes the faceless garbage-machine that mass produces sub-par games that nobody asked for.
Like the Original Darkfall?The Aventurine staff made it very clear that they weren't interested in their former niche audience by 'Carebearing Up' the sequel. If you enjoyed what small freedom the pseudo-sandbox provided before, prepare to be let down hard. Darkfall UW has become Planetside with safe-zones. The only thing that is the same as the predecessor is AV's horrible (non-existent) support who didn't dignify any of my support requests with a response.
The simplest way to review this game is by addressing problems with the original Darkfall, then describing how they fucked up the solutions for these problems. This could get ugly, folks.
What AV Needed to Fix
User InterfaceThe main complaint that most people who actually played Darkfall had was the shallow and mostly unresponsive UI. Most production quality MMORPGs have some form of UI customization or scripting options. Darkfall's UI was so bad that players were forced to create their own scripts with external programs in order to play the game competitively. Regardless of if options exist to improve the game, when your clients have to reach out to Rube Goldbergian solutions to solve simple issues like looting monsters, you've failed.
To fix this problem, the Darkfall team designed what could be the least intuitive and complicated UI system in the history of gaming. This is an example of the most common type of UI element in Darkfall Unholy Wars:
Seriously, what the fuck does that even mean? If you're going to use imagery in your UI, you better make fucking damn sure that it is recognizable imagery. It looks like a mongoloid with swirrels around it. Is it the button that provides access to the smush-face menu? You'll have to hover your cursor over it for seconds to get the tool-tip and find out! Fucking pointless.
There are also numerous radial menus and Skyrim style bar-menus because everyone fucking loves those. I didn't ever believe that a menu-system more convoluted and ridiculous than EvE Online could ever exist, and yet here we are.
Progression SystemThis is where things get controversial because I know there are numerous people who really like Darkfall's original skill system. I, however, do not. I believe that character planning is a fun part of games, so the original system where everyone can be everything simultaneously both increased an already massive grind and diminished roles. Because I'm a fan of specialization, this system wasn't good for me. I would have imposed a hard cap on skill-points much like Mortal and Ultima Online in order to allow players to focus less on grinding and more on thinking.
The Unholy Wars solution to this problem is a traditional roles system. This ensures that minimal creativity can be used to spice up PvP. You're a warrior, rogue, mage, or priest. Period. You can also freely switch between roles so that you never have to think out any decisions you make.
To solve the skill-grind issue, they implemented a system where you could assign generic points to various skills that you acquire by using any unrelated skill. Apparetly they didn't have any foresight whatsoever because literally everyone instantly started chopping trees and assigning the points to combat abilities because it's much safer than actually killing monsters or players. Great job guys! You did it!
Racial BalancePower gamers are always going to look for an edge, and Darkfall was no different. Because different races had different hit-boxes, players could wrangle a minor advantage by playing a smaller race. This wasn't anything that couldn't have been solved with some minor tweaking because racial diversity make character planning more interesting and fun.
Instead of accepting that certain races could be used creatively, and tweaking swing radius and hit-boxes for better balance, all races were redesigned to be the same exact size and shape. If you're not following how funny this statement is, look at this picture:
This image has not been edited, and no, I can't imagine how high someone must be to think you can slap a fur-face on your human model and call it production ready. This image is the wolf-race, and the other races got the same treatment. Orcs are green humans, and Dwarves are hairy humans. This may just be cosmetic, but I believe it speaks to a much deeper issue.
Asshole CultureRisky MMORPGs like EVE and Darkfall have a tendency to create a culture of assholes, but unlike casual games such as DayZ, MMORPGs require a legitimate community to thrive. In an attempt to improve the newbie experience in Darkfall, they used a typical karma system to prevent rampant murder. The problem is that the penalty for griefing is much less for a long-term player than it is for a new player so if a new player does find pvp, it was always one sided and curb-stompy. The penalty of not being able to enter NPC cities due to your murderer status doesn't matter when you're in a well-established clan with their own cities. Ultima Online used stat-loss to curb this behavior, but I'm not entirely sold on that for a game with a near infinite grind.
Unholy Wars decided to instead make the karma system purely cosmetic and add safe zones to newbie-heavy regions. The rules for the safe zones don't include loot rights, so a new form of griefing was born in the form of penalty free ninja-looting. Most people don't stay in safe zones for too long because they're basically the worst invention of Unholy Wars and serve almost no benefit to anyone.
The GrindNobody likes grinding, but the original Darkfall had it in spades. The typical quest in Darkfall required you to kill literally hundreds of monsters before completion, and the amount of time it could take to achieve a competitive skill level was ridiculous. This was mostly due to the aforementioned requirement for players to master every style of combat, use third party programs, and have optimal equipment to be useful. If it were up to me, i'd focus way less on "epic gear" and more on "fun" because equipment is just another meaningless grind, and you're probably going to be victimized by the zerg and lose it anyhow.
Unholy Wars uses the generic points system I mentioned earlier, but the dependency on equipment is still alive and well. If you're new and extremely good at the game but have average equipment, you will either lose or get so bored fighting that you'll give up because you do no damage at all. First person shooters are supposed to be fast paced, but the Darkfall team manages to slow everything down to a fast paced crawl. It's simply awful and I would never wish it on anyone.