I have to say, I find it somewhat interesting that so many people are coming out in support of Darkfall all the sudden. I mean, that’s good for them and all, and certainly good for the game, but it makes apparent the changing nature of people’s interests. When Darkfall released it’s gameplay video touting “actual gameplay footage” so many criticisms poured over the web, it was hard to find anything positive to be said about it. It’s a demonstration of how the pack mentality pervades when market conditions are flush.

Still, the lack of true competition places Darkfall in the position of “next best thing”. It’s no secret the its target audience is narrowly scoped but as people scour the market and find it as the only MMO pending for release, it’s sure to garner more players than it could have otherwise hoped for. Now, new player rush doesn’t really mean anything. Look at Age of Conan. Darkfall is in a position where they’d better deliver or they’re almost doomed to failure. When it comes to the degree of “hardcore” Darkfall wins. That, in and of itself, will guarantee that a lot of the initial “release players” will be gone before the dust settles. The lack of PvE dungeons will ensure it.

Yet, I believe the many will remain. The promise of the game lies not with its hardcore pvp so much as its player driven nature. It brings to the table more sandbox content that we’ve ever seen in an MMO and that’s to its credit. It also brings back a lot of the classic elements of the MMORPG genre, such as alignments and your actions having meaning in the world. The PvP is the frosting on the cake.

One of the more dynamic elements of the game is the lack of levels. Now there’s something you don’t see any other big titles going for. On one hand, I think it’s awesome. This new approach, should it succeed or fail, will influence the decisions of other developers for years to come. And yes, I know other MMOs have tried it. But none on the level of this game. On the other hand, however, it concerns me.

If there are no levels, then character advancement must be skill driven. Or, to put it more like I imagine it, driven by skills. Does this mean that quests will reward skill points instead of xp or will we be looking at a massive grind? Long grinds are another characteristic of former MMOs but one that I hope is minimized from those levels.

And what of gear? Stats? If there are no levels, then stat advancement is based either on questing, skill advancement, or gear. It may even be a mix of all three. The lack of level based advancement will almost assuredly place an increased emphasis on gear though. Based on this, as well as the full-loot PvP structure, Darkfall strikes me as a gear game like we’ve never seen before. Thankfully, it should be easy enough for players to kill each other that there will be a nice turnaround on equipment. Still, gear dependency is a wolf vs. sheep game concerns me.

I just hope we have the ability to free auction people’s gear without having to use the auction house. Salt in the wound and all.