In the face of player backlash, Dark and Darker developers say they may stop selling character classes

Dark and Darker concept art
(Image credit: Ironmace)

It was widely seen as a triumph when the PvP dungeon crawler Dark and Darker arrived in a surprise early access launch earlier this week, but some of that initial thrill has given way to widespread criticism of the game's microtransactions. Numerous fans have taken issue with developer Ironmace's decision to sell additional character classes and races through Dark and Darker's in-game store—and the pushback has been strong enough that the studio is considering changing course.

"I think I can speak for a majority that buying classes is not what we want in a Buy to Play game," redditor BarnacleLanky wrote yesterday. "Cosmetics? Cool. Provisions? Please define. Classes? Hard no."

(Image credit: Ironmace)

BarnacleLanky acknowledged that the in-game currency used to purchase new classes can be earned through gameplay, but "the current rate of earning is abysmally low," they said. "So if Ironmace wants to keep this system, then let’s talk about adjusting the rate of earning to be more realistic."

That post attracted hundreds of replies, and to the Dark and Darker community's credit, many of them were quite thoughtful. Some posters pointed out that this is only the second full day of the game's early access release, and that early access by definition is meant to get this sort of thing hammered out. Others denied claims that the sale of extra classes is a "pay to win" scheme, defending it as a convenience option and a way for Ironmace to earn much-needed funds—an especially tricky and perhaps urgent task given the studio's legal battle with Nexon, which among other things saw the game kicked off of Steam earlier this year.

A lot of fans on Reddit aren't having it, however. One of the big points of contention is the fact that unlike most games that charge for in-game items, Dark and Darker is not free to play: It costs $35 to purchase, or $50 for a founder's edition.

"Releasing microtransactions on an [early access] game where they can already make the money through paying for the game is one of the most inexcusable scummy things I've ever seen," stinkyzombie69 wrote. "This entire introduction of basic class grinding and locking things behind pay walls is a complete contradiction to their hollow [mission] statement."

"Was eager to see how this game turned out, but early access microtransactions locking gameplay?" rightfallen said. "No thanks. massive red flag."

"They need to pick one," Captn_Clutch wrote. "$35 is a small game price, buy classes early or grind slowly is like a copy of the LoL free-to-play style. I'm honestly able to accept either method, [but] not both."

But the gameplay grind is also facing criticism for being very slow indeed. Shard requirements appear to scale linearly, meaning you need 25 points for your first shard, 50 points for the second, 75 points for the third, and so forth. That means players need to earn a total of 375 points from extractions in order to unlock a single class, and that's a lot of grinding.

"Assuming you play only regular matches and not solo (2 points per extract), and each round takes you 10 minutes to extract, and you NEVER DIE, it would take you ~30 hours to get 5 shards," sp00kyemperor calculated in a separate thread. "So if you're a god tier player that extracts every single time, it will still take you 30 hours to unlock one class."

And because the requirement scales on a linear basis, the time sink become even bleaker, according to evilomerta: "With a 20% avg survival rate and the avg game lasting 12 minutes for last play test, that means it’ll take the avg player 1,800 games or 360 hours to unlock one class. And that’s just the average. For some it’ll be impossible."

The backlash has been strong enough that Ironmace is in fact giving thought to walking it back. Character classes currently remain available for purchase through the in-game store, but Ironmace CEO Terence Park recently recommended on the Dark and Darker Discord that players not spend money on them, and suggested that refunds will be offered to those who already have. 

(Image credit: Terence Park (Discord))

(Image credit: Terence Park (Discord))

Nothing on that front has been confirmed at this point, but a separate developer confirmed with PC Gamer that the studio is "heavily considering" the change, and that a final decision and announcement is "not too far off." We'll let you know if and when it happens.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.