GAME NAME: Dark
DEVELOPER(S): Realmforge Studios
PUBLISHER(S): Kalypso Media
PLATFORM(S): PC, Xbox 360
GENRE(S): Stealth, Action
RELEASE DATE(S): 5th of July, 2013
Dark is proof that you cannot judge a book by its cover, or rather, you cannot judge a game by its trailers. Not too long ago, we reported on a rather exciting development by Realmforge Studios. It was about a game called Dark and as far as first impressions go, the trailer had come perilously close to fooling us into thinking this was a supernatural attempt at Splinter Cell. I say perilously because Dark, like any good vampire would, lured us into a trap. We fell for its cel-shaded aesthetic, voice acting and (at face value) slick moves. On closer inspection however, well it bared its fangs and dove for our carotid artery. Luckily, I carry a wooden stake for just such an occasion, and when it comes to Dark, so should you.
Unless you’re trying to flip the trope on its head, vampire games are typically defined by style and a generally badass disposition. However, any and all pretence of being cool and slick is lost the moment you have to fight with finicky controls as your character fumbles around trying to shadow leap (a short distance teleport) or assassinate his victims.
At its best, Dark is about stealth and tact, quietly navigating an area, as though you were a whisper on a breeze, as you assassinate and otherwise dispose of those impeding your progress; at least that’s the theory. Unfortunately, Dark does not play out that way very often. The A.I. may be rather daft, often assigned to strict, scripted patrol routes, but it also has an uncanny and rather annoyingly wide field of view. So regardless of how stealthy you actually are, someone will eventually spot you. The inevitable conclusion is every A.I. enemy in the area converging on your position as you fight the controls rather than those attacking you. You’ll try to fight back but to no avail as you can’t do much more than a rather clumsy one hit kill attack that only works if you line up with your target just right, and even then, there are too many targets to be bothered with.
This does, however, allow you to employ the most effective strategy in the game, or at least as far as I have discovered. Almost any area can be overcome by you running from the beginning to the end without regard for what is shooting at you or otherwise attacking you. Not that it’s fun or enjoyable to do so, as even your character’s movement is sluggish and ham-fisted; it’s less a whisper in the wind and more a fart in the wind really. He doesn’t manoeuvre around objects but rather bounces off of the things around him, so throw any ideas of graceful movement from the recesses of your mind right now.
Besides, the fact that this is a possible option for overcoming most areas is a glaring fault in the game’s mechanics and gameplay. And it’s only made easier by your vampiric abilities, obtained through an RPG-like system as you progress through the game. Regeneration and blood vision (an ability that makes the environment a translucent purple and your enemies blood red) is all you need to sail through most situations. And in case you encounter traps or supernatural enemies where your blood vision (if not upgraded) can’t see them, well it doesn’t really matter as they aren’t nearly smart enough to catch you.
And in case you think I’m encouraging a sort of malevolence by suggesting you exploit the game, I’m actually doing you a favour. The problem with Dark, when it works as it’s supposed to that is, is it’s actually rather laborious and not that interesting. At times, you might manage a nifty combo and that may win the game the odd brownie point or two, but its spending them faster than it can earn them and everything about the game will begin to tire you out. Even with around 16 powers to develop, upgrade and make use of in varying scenarios, none of them really add to the game in a way to make it worthwhile. And it doesn’t help that the story is far from the most engaging or riveting narrative ever told.
You play Eric Bane, voiced by Doug Cockle (voice of Geralt from the beloved Witcher series), who wakes up in a nightclub having been bitten by a vampire. In this world, having been bitten by a vampire, you need to be initiated into vampirehood by drinking the blood of an elder vampire. More specifically, you’re looking to drink the blood of the vampire who turned you. Should you fail, well you’ll quickly become a mindless ghoul. Beyond that, well I honestly can’t remember. The one thing I will say for Dark is that Eric is voiced superbly, its ear candy really, even if the lines given to him are half-assed and don’t exactly motivate the player. Beyond that though, well the story quickly loses its edge and the rest of the voice acting isn’t quite as grand as Sir Doug Cockle.
All-in-all, I would recommend you avoid Dark, even if you’re an absolute devout follower of all things vampiric. There are far better games and this one costs a lot more than it’s worth. It’s a shame because the initial trailers I saw gave me so much hope. And the look of the game is actually quite good. The cel-shaded, graphic novel visuals give a lot to the theme of Dark, but aesthetic isn’t worth a damn if you keep falling asleep while playing it.