EA Checkup: Reign of Darkness Is Dead

Two years later this $20 title is dead.

I have to hand it to the folks at Unorthodox Studio; it takes some huevos mas grandes to keep a $20 MMO on the Steam store and maintain that price long after it’s apparent that next to nobody is playing it. If you look at SteamDB’s charts, you’ll find that Reign of Darkness peaked at 100 players almost two years ago, in January 2020. Since then the numbers have gone down into the low double digits, and more often than not the single digits. That single digit being 0.

Now for what it’s worth, the people who did review Reign of Darkness have a lot of praise to give it. The game currently sits at an 81% very positive rating among 239 scored reviews. Presumably almost none of those players liked it well enough to continue playing, given the game regularly revolves at 0-1 players. But I digress.

Evidently at some point I decided to buy Reign of Darkness to see it for myself, and upon logging in I realized very quickly why my character hadn’t progressed past the first quest to get five chunks of boar meat. Reign of Darkness is excessively dull and the low drop rate on quest items doesn’t help that. The opening to the game can put someone to sleep, combat is boring, and it’s almost impressive seeing how unreliable your dps is against the same enemies, as I found myself leveling up and actually performing worse against lower level scorpions and boars.

The problem I see with Reign of Darkness is that it’s a game that presents itself as a nod to old-school MMOs, except those old school MMOs not only still exist but they have decades of content and quality work and budget behind them. And players! They have players! And most are free to play. Reign of Darkness costs $20 and looks like an asset flip from the Unity marketplace. It’s in early access, it has no players, and no reason for anyone to waste their money on what seems to be a guaranteed lost investment. EverQuest? More like an EverQuest prototype.

Now for what it’s worth, the only people who haven’t given up on the game are the developers themselves. The folks at Unorthodox Studio still update the game routinely with small tweaks and respond to reviews. But it doesn’t change the fact that the game has a massive, $20 barrier stopping people from checking out the empty dining hall the devs rented out and filled with scorpions and boars. The other barrier being that the game has one of the worst opening experiences I’ve ever seen in an MMO. It also has none of the charm of old school MMOs, again as it looks like a cheap mishmash of Unity assets.

After playing the game for a while, Reign of Darkness feels like crap with a doctor’s note. Yea the developer has a lot of excuses for annoyances like why drop rates are so low on creatures, why the combat system is the way it is, and how it’s just old school for your character’s leveled up abilities to miss several times in a row against a monster half your level. Or how it’s just the game’s design that you have to slowly kill several dozen boars yet still not have the meager five pork shanks to turn in the quest. But just because there’s an excuse for the game not being fun doesn’t change the fact that it’s not fun.

As a title that has all the energy and flavor of Ben Stein eating unseasoned rice on camera, Reign of Darkness is definitely something to observe from a safe distance that doesn’t involve clicking on a checkout button. Early access is a show of faith from the customer that the developer is capable of seeing the game through to a finished, polished product. I have little faith that Reign of Darkness will ever be a finished, polished, fun product. More another body for the giant graveyard of indie MMOs trying to recreate that old school feel with none of the old school charm or quality.

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