Release Date: 07/09/2013
So we’ll preface this by saying I’m normally a fan of games involving supernatural horror, and I admit, a fan of vampires. When I first saw the trailers for this game, even with the over the top “gritty” voice, I was intrigued as it was a little reminiscent of “World of Darkness,” at least from the brief glimpse of powers and setting. So I installed the game and then was met by a requirement to open an account with Kalypso Media, which frankly is a little irritating for a game that isn’t a MMO. Fine, here we go. The game loaded up and I was instantly assaulted by very cheesy voice acting, which made me instantly want to close down the game.
The intro has you stumbling about in a manner which I am sure they meant to look as if you are in pain or out of it, but instead makes it appear as if your character is trying to restrain his bladder from releasing itself. So you very slowly pee-pee walk down to the bathroom so you can learn your character’s name is Eric Bane, and start walking about more normally. The perspective resolves from the blur you’ve been walking in, to something more crisp and you are no longer moving at a slow crawl.
One of the first characters you run into is Rose, who is indifferently voice acted, who owns the goth club, Sanctuary, that you are currently in. You learn that you are only a half-vampire running on borrowed time, as unless you can drink the blood of your maker or an older vampire you will start turning into a monster with no humanity. There is no background given to your character as conveniently you have amnesia and can only remember a fight you were in. This also makes it hard to care about your guy as part of you starts rooting for the bad guys to gun you down so he’ll never talk again. The club houses a few young vampires, all of which you have limited interaction with, to help them survive and learn how to use your powers. Your teacher is Tom, who sounds a bit like a stoner surfer, which is totally at odds with his gothed out looks. He offers to show you how to use your powers and this leads to a tutorial on how to engage in combat and use your new vampire abilities, like Shadow Leap, and your first interaction with enemies.
This is where I actually began to have serious issues with the game play, which this may sound like a minor quibble, but you cannot jump, any distance, without using the Shadow Leap vampire power. This wouldn’t be as much of problem, but it also causes a great deal of noise, which alerts enemies to your presence and in many cases they start shooting. You also can not take very many hits before you die, which seems pretty weird if you’re playing a vampire. You can use blood to heal wounds which is great, but your entire method of dealing with people requires stealth at all times. It just seems counter that if you’re using abilities that are supposed to help you sneak past and assassinate your enemies that they not penalize you for using them. In fact the melee system feels like it was trying to be Dishonored and falling grossly short. Typically when you’re going through the tutorial for the combat system of a game it leaves you a bit more excited to continue. In this case, it made the game more frustrating as the melee combat is so clunky. You get penalized if your subject was alerted to your presence since you’re supposed to be a sneaky vampire, and you will gain less experience. This makes you feel more like a frail weakling, and less like a supernatural hunter as you do not have the option of anything but sneaking up on every target unless you prefer to be gunned down in short order. Yes, I realize this is billed as a stealth game, but even this feels very clumsy as maneuvering between cover is frustrating even when you see it right in front of you, and shouldn’t you be able to climb or jump up on objects even a normal human could?
Once you complete the tutorial you’re off on your first mission, which allows you to set the difficulty of the encounter. There are markers set up for each goal, and the game is very linear, making you approach exactly on the path it wants you to before you trigger the event so you can continue to the next area. The AI of the enemies has them not react to your presence unless you happen to walk right in front of them, and at other times feels arbitrary on them noticing you or not. On certain levels I was right in front of the enemy, but because I was on higher ground that was exactly at face level to them, they couldn’t see me.
The character designs are highly reminiscent of the same art style used in Borderlands, quite cartoony with a more gothy feel. They even have an “angel” talking to you, egging you on at certain points in the game. The soundtrack felt appropriate to set the tone of each environment and set the mood. On the surface, Dark seems like a game with a lot of promise as it’s pretty, has a good concept, and hey, vampires. At some point in development it appears that a well thought out plot and fun gameplay were secondary concepts as this does not deliver on either of those. Many of the encounters feel very repetitive, and while I can admire the looks of the game, it’s very hard to enjoy playing through it.
Short Attention Span Summary:
Dark is a very pretty game, with nice environments, and an interesting concept, but lacks teeth when it comes to storyline. The six chapters will afford you about ten hours of gameplay, and there will be a lot of monotonous waiting on guards to wander past. At least this will become easier as you fill out your skill trees, but the limited save points are going to leave you slightly frustrated. The boss fights are also not going to prove very challenging, and this is definitely lacking “Ah!” factor. If you’re looking for a protagonist you never grow attached to, some interesting use of powers, and a relatively short game to play, then you might find this of interest. If you were expecting something akin to Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines you are in for swift disappointment.