Dark and Light – First Look
Dark and Light has been on the MMOHuts radar for some time now. The game even held a top position on our “Most Anticipated Games of 2017” list. Now that the game is in closed beta, does it live up to the hype?
I want to start this review by saying that yes, I do know that Dark and Light is a buy to play game. We received tons of requests to cover the game though, so we’re honoring those requests because we care about you, our viewers. We want to give you the coverage you want to see.
Dark and Light underwent many changes during its 12-year development cycle. In fact, here’s a clip from the 2005 E3 trailer, where developers were boasting that Dark and Light was “the Largest MMORPG You’ve Ever Seen”. This was the 2006 version of the game by NPCube. That version of the game released in an unfinished and underdeveloped state. The game was crawling with bugs and awful design choices. The original vision of the developers was grand, especially for the time, but what we received fell far shorter of that vision. “But Colton!” I hear you frantically typing into the comments, “That was the 2006 game! What does that have to do with now?” This is a literary element known as “foreshadowing.” Take note, kids, because we’re establishing a theme.
The 2017 version of Dark and Light is a game that, like its predecessor, has a grand vision. Instead of assigning players classes or races, you can build your character from the ground up. The game’s creation suite is surprisingly in-depth; there are plenty of options for making your character look exactly how you want to. The number of hair styles available was a bit disappointing, but the rest of the suite around that was great. This is where the game hits its first stumbling block though. This is because you may not ever actually get to the character creation screen.
When I first attempted to play the game, it crashed three separate times immediately after selecting a server. One of these crashes took my whole machine down with it. After nearly an hour of troubleshooting, I got the game to boot and connect to a server. The first thing you’ll see once you’ve picked your serve is this loading screen. Learn to enjoy it, because you’ll be staring at it for a long time. The game took 27 minutes to load from this loading screen, and then launch the character creator. This is not an exaggeration. I have nearly a half-hour of footage on my computer that I nothing but this loading screen on loop.
Once you’ve made your character, you’ll have to wait for another shorter loading screen. When you’re finally loaded in, you can begin your adventure.
Visually, Dark and Light impresses most of the time. The models are decent, and the lighting effects are great. This is especially true for fire and spell particle effects. The textures on trees, rocks, and the ground, though, look horrible even on the Epic graphics preset. The animations for monsters and player characters are also awful and disjointed. As a word of caution, you will suddenly become immobilized by rocks or other shrubs in the terrain without explanation. Characters also experience ridiculous ragdoll effects upon death, clipping through the ground and into hell itself. The game doesn’t look terrible, but it feels unfinished. It lacks any kind of polish.
Despite this, I found myself wanting to explore the world. I wanted to see as much of it as I could possibly take in, and I was anxious to find any secrets or new things waiting just beyond the next hill. Even with its graphical flaws, the game’s world still manages to establish a strong atmosphere.
Dark and Light ruins this atmosphere almost immediately with its horrible optimization. The game’s framerate constantly drops, dips, and fluctuates. For reference, my machine is running a sixth generation i7 processor, a GTX 970 graphics card, and 16GB of RAM. If you’ve got anything less than that, I wouldn’t try to run the game on anything beyond low settings.
The core gameplay in Dark and Light centers around survival and experience. Everything you do in the game nets you character experience and rank points in a certain skillset. These sets make up three different trees: Adventuring, Magic, and Architecture. Adventuring allows you to craft armor, weapons, and essential survival items like campfires. Magic is self-explanatory. Leveling up different schools of magic allows you to learn the spells of that school. Architecture is also straightforward; you build stuff so you don’t freeze to death. Gathering resources, monitoring your hunger, thirst, and stamina levels, and learning to craft new things all feels very rewarding. The game encourages you to play you want to play and to continually grow in power. This is without question Dark and Light’s strongest selling point. The core mechanics are fun.
Dark and Light teaches you how the game works through a series of introductory quests that guide you through the basics. These quests work well and don’t hold your hand too much. Once you’re through the intro quests, you’ll receive a series of other missions that teach you more about the game’s world and more advanced functions.
Unfortunately, trying to complete these quests on a multiplayer server proved to be very challenging. Across three different servers, I found the community to be incredibly aggressive and toxic. I understand wanting to kill other players and take any valuable resources they may have. In a survival game, that’s par for the course. What I do not understand is how a series of players, all at least 33 levels higher than me, followed me for 25 minutes until they had cornered me. They harassed me via in-game voice chat constantly, and repeatedly threatened to kill me. Once they had me cornered, they interrogated me about some faction or guild that I had never even heard of, and then killed me. It’s worth noting that when you die in the game, you don’t lose experience or anything, but you do drop everything you have on you at the time.
I want to go on the record as saying that I get that this type of situation is what survival games are about. The only part about this that really bothered me was the constant slurs and vulgarities via voice chat. I should add here that there’s no way to turn in-game voice chat off that I’ve found yet. So once people with mics start in on you, you’re completely at their mercy. Another point where I draw the line is that these massively high-level players were camping out the starter city and killing everyone that logged into that server, especially unarmed level one players. This is a look at the trail of bodies one player left behind him before targeting me.
On one hand, it’s awe inspiring. It feels like something right out of Game of Thrones. On the other hand, it ruins the experience for new players by not ever giving them the chance to start. If you’re like me and don’t enjoy games with ultra-toxic communities, then you may want to skip Dark and Light.
As for monetization, Dark and Light is a buy to play game. Once you own it, you can play it as much as you like without additional fees. As such, there is no in-game cash shop. At least we can safely say it isn’t pay-to-win.
Overall, Dark and Light is a game that directly follows in the footsteps of its predecessor. It has a grand vision and a fantastic foundation. The world is atmospheric and feels massive. The survival and character progression mechanics are fun and rewarding. Unfortunately, the rest of the game around this foundation feels unfinished at best and poorly made at worst. Combine this with an extremely toxic community and terrible optimization and you have a game that could have been great but ultimately isn’t worth the time it would take to install. Or load for that matter.
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