Darkfall Online beta begins

MMO said to offer Ultima-style freedom.

Greek developer Aventurine has begun the Darkfall Online beta test ahead of the full-game launch later this year. Head to the official site and register to join in.

Darkfall is an MMO being billed as a spiritual successor to Ultima Online. There are no player levels but an entirely skill-based system that uses around 500 abilities and spells. Each is capped at 100 and, due to no class templates, roles will be determined by skills chosen and improved by use.

Alternatively, there are prestige classes such as Paladins and Druids, which narrow skill focus but offer special abilities.

Also similar to Ultima is the relative lack of rules; players can kill other players anywhere in the apparently vast and seamless world of Agon - including towns and cities. Good and evil paths will be walked-down depending on deeds done, but become too nasty and NPC guards will attack you on site in the more built-up areas of the world.

And if you should die, your body will drop to the floor with all your equipment and belongings on, ripe for looting presumably by the killer or any cheeky thief within distance.

The story, Aventurine hopes, will be player-driven, with an emphasis on guild battles for artefacts of power placed within the world. However, the fantasy setting does have some pre-developed hatred between the playable races: Elves, Dwarves, Humans, Mahirim, Orks and Alfar.

Combat, according to the official website, will be as fast as an online shooter but with the plenty of strategy when faced with large-scale assaults. Collision detection is to be included, meaning entrances to dungeons could be blocked by lines of players, or group formations to protect squishy casters employed.

There will also be plenty of monsters to slaughter, and Darkfall will take a rather ambitious approach to monster-spawn camping, presumably to combat the lack of instancing; hunt an area too zealously and spawns will eventually dry up before the monsters migrate elsewhere. Like ducks.

Magical item crafting and "extremely sophisticated" economy will sit at the heart of Darkfall, offering enough gold to buy horses and other beastly mounts, as well as houses and boats. NPC merchants and guards can also be purchased for additional help.

Pop over to our Darkfall Online gallery or to Eurogamer TV for an entirely in-game Darkfall Online trailer to find out more.

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