Friday, August 2, 2013

Dark review

    There is something worse than a terribly-made game and that's a game where you actually suspect you'd enjoy it if the developers just gave a damn. Dark is an awesome game which is unplayable due to its horribly buggy AI, poor level design, and nearly impossible-to-master controls. In short, if the game had put half-as-much effort into the game as you'd think a developer should--I'd be extolling Dark's praises.

    Even the name highlights the half-assed nature of the development. They couldn't even be bothered to use something which would be easy to find in a search engine. Let me think of a bunch of generic-sounding vampire game titles off the top of my head: Bloodthirst, Gothic, Nightfall,  Shadow-walker, Vampyre.

    All better titles than Dark.

    The premise of Dark is your character is Eric Bane, similarly imaginatively named as the title, who awakens to discover he's a vampire. Wandering through a massive Gothic nightclub which is beyond anything which exists in the real world, he is contacted by an angel who temporarily halts the pain of his transformation.
The game looks fine. It's the gameplay which stinks.
        Eric is only a half-vampire, though, because he was drained without being given the necessary blood by his master. As a result, he needs to track down a more powerful vampire in order to take their blood and become a real boy. It's a simple, but effective, plot-line which might have sustained the game for the beginning of the story but gets only a cursory examination.

    The game is deliberately modeled after Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines as well as Dishonored. Unfortunately, it doesn't include any of the immersive elements which made those two games so wonderful. It also is as buggy as the original V:TM:B and possessing none of the dynamic movement which made Dishonored so enjoyable.

Eric Bane looks irritated. This is his only expression.
     The game is ostensibly about stealth but there aren't any decent passageways to sneak past guards and enemies. There's also far too many enemies per level, meaning that you can't really fight your way past foes should you get into trouble. Instead, the best way to get through a level is to individually murder every single guard in a level before proceeding. It's a tedious and monstrous process which sucks all the enjoyment out of the game.

     What's frustrating is that the idea of vampire stealth is an innately cool idea. There's so much potential for a Dishonored and Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines combination. The Sanctuary is a beautifully designed location and I enjoyed several of the NPCs. Unfortunately, the tedium of trying kill my way through levels sapped most of the joy I derived from the story. It doesn't help Eric Bane is the bladest of the game's few characters.

     Tell me, if you've been turned into a vampire--would you react with more than mild irritation? Eric Bane's denial of being a vampire lasts only a short while but one would think the shock would last a little while longer. Instead, Eric Bane talks like a combination of Max Payne and The Witcher's Geralt. This reduces the potential for drama considerably.

The ghouls are suitably menacing, though. Sadly, they're all similar.
      The few characters I do like, such as Rose and the bartender, are characters who we don't get to spend much time with. The dialogue is atrocious with very little in the way of genuine human emotion from our vampire protagonist. What's worse is that, with a slight punching up, I could have seen Eric's story arc as really moving.

    In conclusion, I think Dark is a bad game. It's a bad game which could have been a good game, which makes it a worse game. I love vampires, I love stealth, I love stealthy vampires. I do not love nearly impossible controls and murdering hundreds of semi-innocent guards because that's the only way to complete the game.


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