Hands-On With Darkout

Darkout – Introduction

If Minecraft-style sandbox games have taught gamers anything, it’s “Build a shelter quickly!” In Darkout, players control an unfortunate astronaut who crashes on a hostile planet full of shadowy creatures, forcing players to build a primitive shelter fast, then begin scrounging for resources to survive on the hostile world. They’ll mine minerals, chop lumber, harvest plants and then use all of these resources to craft the tools and equipment they need to thrive in the wilderness.

Take Shelter

Darkout is a 2D sidescrolling sandbox game along the lines of Terraria and it is in an open beta at the time of this writing. Hopefully this explains many of its problems. A major issue that will alienate players is a terrible tutorial that distracts players as they are struggling to survive the first few minutes of play. While the player is reading the text that explains how to build their first shelter, they will be overrun with swarms of enemies who attack without mercy even as players are trying to learn how to build walls to keep the enemies at bay. 

Terrible tutorial that distracts players as they are struggling to survive the first few minutes of play

The player has a gun at the start of the game, but explanations on how to actually use it only come after the player has already suffered several dozen unfair deaths while muddling through the tutorial.

Making the tutorial even more frustrating is the clumsy interface. Players wouldn’t have such a hard time with the basics if the controls had a more intuitive design to them. An action bar at the bottom of the screen has a dozen slots, and players have to scroll through them all to select the right item. The result is that players have to frantically scroll back and forth between building materials, harvesting tools, and weapons all while they are relentlessly attacked from all sides.

 

Once a basic shelter has been constructed these troubles are less of a problem, but it would be no surprise to learn that many players simply rage quit before ever completing the tutorial.

The Long Game

For those who stick it out, Darkout does have some features that help it stand out from other similar games. The science fiction setting means that players crash land with a few pieces of advanced technology that will eventually help them go from a stone-age hovel to an advanced fortress. As with this genre of gaming, there is an elaborate set of items to be crafted, resources to harvest and new inventions to research. Despite the horrid beginning, Darkout plays well in the long run as players slowly create a place of safety in this alien world.

The designers have made the introductory parts of the game as frustrating as possible

As the title implies, light and darkness are key features. The planet is populated by creatures that can spawn in any place that isn’t sufficiently lit. This includes inside the player’s shelter! At first, this is a nightmare for players who only have a handful of electric lights, and may not have even built a complete shelter yet. However once they can begin to craft torches and start using electric lights this stops being such a hassle. There are background items that provide some light as players explore but this is not enough to navigate many parts of the world, nor establish a place free from enemies.

Darkout is also relatively advanced in terms of graphics. Minecraft and it’s copycats tend to use pixilated blocks for deliberately crude graphics. Darkout on the other hand is rather pretty, aiming for a more realistic approach to it’s visual design. Because light and shadow are key components there is is added emphasis on these aspects, especially in the early jungle settings where luminescent plants provide ambient light.

Conclusion

Darkout has many promising features for people who can stick it out through the first hour or so, but the designers have made the introductory parts of the game as frustrating as possible. It’s still in beta, so there is time to create a more inviting tutorial and newbie setting. The open beta is available for PC via digital download.

Positives

  • Good graphics for this genre of game
  • Lots of crafting/research items
  • Uses light and shadow in a new way

Negatives

  • Terrible tutorial
New From: $14.99 USD In Stock
New From: $15.99 USD In Stock
 

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Charles Battersby is a playwright, actor, theater critic and video game journalist. He founded the U.S. Department of Electronic Entertainment (www.DoEE.us) and also runs www.TheaterForNerds.com. Learn more at: www.CharlesBattersby.com

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