Dark – Introduction
Vampire games have never really been everything they should be. The closest to really capturing the vampire vibe was probably Infamous: Blood Festival, and even that had its flaws. With Dark, the folks at Realmforge Studios have tried to fix that, they’ve tried to build a vampire game that allows you to skulk, to control, to conquer a room full of people with hardly an ounce of effort.
They’ve gone for the jugular, and, instead, have ended up with their fangs sunk firmly in their own hand. Dark doesn’t only manage to underwhelm, but it builds up an idea and then knocks it all down within minutes of play.
The Inevitable Pun
The combat in Dark sucks. By extension, this means almost all of Dark sucks, as it’s built, by and large, around this idea of combat. You see, it’s a little known fact that vampires can only clumsily walk up to enemies, bash them over the head or suck their blood, making loud slurping noises like granny at Christmas and alert everybody within a five mile radius.
The base gameplay consists of sneaking through various areas, avoiding capture, sneakily taking down enemies and moving from room to room, towards your goal. Add in a few supernatural powers, and this should be a game that’s well worth your time, but both the sneaking and the supernatural powers fall well short of what they should be.
Almost from your first attempt at stealth, you’ll be met with more enemies than is really appropriate. It isn’t a difficulty issue, but how constricting it can be to be surrounded by enemies. Worse is the level design. Dark allows you to magically teleport across the area around you, but it doesn’t actually let you just physically jump between levels.
That means that if you have three flights of stairs and ten enemies between you and your objective, you’ll need to work through each one to complete a task.
You’re forced to take on a given situation in a single way. The whole point of stealth games, even going back to the original Metal Gear, was to let you approach things in your own way. Dark forgets that almost constantly, instead you must rely only on insanely tight timing. It feels like the stealth segments that are tacked on to Uncharted or the like, turned into a whole game.
Rather than acting as a ghost, zipping around a room and avoiding being seen at all – something you’d expect from a vampire stealth game – you’re more likely to have to “deal” with a few guards. This means one of two things: press the mouse button to knock a guy out or hold it to drain his body of blood. That’s your lot.
Individually, guards aren’t that bright, but when you’re surrounded by potential enemies you’ll soon get caught. Once you’re caught you might as well just restart from your last save point. Being caught means you’ll most likely die, but that’s largely thanks to a buggy, under-performing combat system, as opposed to it being an attempt at difficulty.
In the Dark
The stealth gameplay is clunky, but I could see a more patient person enjoying it for the sake of the story. I wouldn’t say it’s especially interesting, but it’s presented in a nice enough way and it’s “vampire” enough that it feels cliché rather than actively bad. It’s the “I’ve just turned into a vampire” story we all know and have seen explored a million times, complete with night club.
The graphics are decent enough, a dark cel-shaded style that lends a comic book feel. This is let down by some rather poor lip syncing and voice acting, which kind of throws the whole thing apart. RPG elements, especially in terms of conversation, add depth to the world. Actually watching and listening takes it away. Catch-22.
You’re also able to level up your character, Eric, and doing so does relieve a few of the problems that you’ll have with Dark. That’s not really enough though. If you have to work through what feels like a gameplay fault on the promise that that fault will later be removed, why play at all?
Dark – Conclusion
Dark feels like it wants the semi-noire, stealth style of Deus Ex: Human Revolution and the supernatural powers of Dishonored, but it manages to fall way short of both titles.That alone wouldn’t have been enough to avoid Dark, but there doesn’t seem to really be any reason to go out of your way to play it either.
Even if you have a specific interest in vampires, you won’t feel powerful enough to even enjoy that part of the gameplay, and there are better stealth titles out there. It’s another example of Kalypso pricing, and you’ll find you’ll need to spend quite a lot to buy it as well.
Dark feels like a game that should have been better. Omerta suffered from a similar problem. Dark has a premise that would seriously interest me, and it still does, not that this title did anything to help.
- The visual style isn’t bad. It’s not unlike The Walking Dead in many ways.
- It’s a vampire game that tries to do the vampire thing right. Tries.
- The story isn’t so much bad as it is tired. With the right frame of mind, you’ll enjoy it.
- There are only two combat options, and neither is especially fun.
- The stealth is terribly designed. Too many enemies, not enough options.
- Gameplay flaws you’ll “fix” later on by levelling up.
- Dumb enemies.
- No sense of power.
- Dishonored ends up feeling more of a vampire game.