Are you tired of vampires that “sparkle” yet? Would you like more action and less angst with your vampires? Realmforge wants to give you the vampires you crave and more in their new game, Dark. Will Dark be a game you can sink your teeth into? Let’s find out.
In Dark you play as Eric Bane, a freshly created vampire, who wakes in a nightclub suffering from amnesia. It doesn’t take Eric long before he learns the club he woke up in is owned and operated by vampires. The woman in charge, Rose, tells Eric that he is not a full vampire, yet. In order for him to become a full vampire he must feed on the blood of the vampire that sired him. If he doesn’t he will slowly turn into a mindless ghoul. Eric’s problem? None of the vampires who work at the club saw Eric being changed. Rose is quick to tell Eric of a rumor that if a young vampire feeds on an ancient vampire it could possibly complete the process. Lucky for him, she knows of a few ancients in town that have been causing problems in the vampiric society.
As Eric tries to make himself whole, he finds that there is more going on than meets the eye.
Controls and Gameplay
For a third person, stealth-action game Dark comes up a bit short on the action. There is no one thing to point at as being “the problem,” there are many. The controls for moving are fine, but targeting is a very hit or miss. You may try to target the guard closest to you, only to have the game targeting the furthest. Worse was when I had taken out a guard and, while standing over his dead body, tried to target another guard coming down the way, the game chose to stay targeted on the original dead guard. This made my attack on the other guard a complete mess. If this had happened once or twice I could easily place the blame on myself, but this happened all the time. A feature of the game is the one hit kill. With a quick tap of the attack button down goes the enemy. Sometimes this worked and sometimes it didn’t. There was no consistency.
I also found the enemy AI to be incredibly dumb. There were a couple instances where I was able to take out a guard while another just stood there and watched. On one level I almost created a conga-line of guards. I would attack one then, when all the guards came at me, I would run into a room at the start of the level and watch as the remaining guards would come close to, but never enter, the room I was in. Then, as the alert would die down and they would move back to their positions, I would run out attack the next closest one and run back into the room. Kill. Retreat. Repeat.
While Eric had a vast array of powers at his disposal, all of which could be upgraded, he had never learned to jump. But he could teleport. This makes zero sense when some of the places you can teleport to would have been easier (and quicker) to just have a jump button.
If all of that wasn’t bad enough the save/checkpoint system is by far the most painful. I have played plenty stealth-action games in the past; it’s a style of game I enjoy. I realize that a lot of moving through a level involves a bit trial and error. To keep the game from become a long dragged out process most games will have the ability for you to save whenever you want or have checkpoints fairly close to difficult areas so you don’t have to repeat large areas of action. The checkpoints for Dark are so few and far between I found myself playing for hours longer than I planned only because I knew if I quit I would lose all of the progress I had made. It was further aggravated by having to repeatedly go through cut scenes if I was killed.
The controls and gameplay were so bad that after a certain point I was too frustrated to quit. I didn’t want to give the game (an inanimate object) the satisfaction that it had managed to make me give up. By that time I had upgraded Eric enough to be almost god-like.
Graphics and Sound
One of the only redeeming factors of Dark is its graphics. Realmforge went with a cell shaded realism that gives Dark a graphic novel quality. It fits well with the way that the story is told; in a crime novel/pulp fiction narration way.
The audio? It really needed better development. I’ll give you a few examples. To begin with, the nightclub has only one song playing over and over on a loop. As long and as often as you are in there, it gets old quick. Add the monotony of some sound effects taking their turns playing in a set rotation. It gives you a disjointed feeling when you are watching the action of multiple things unfold and the sound effects don’t jive. Lastly, the voice acting was wooden and stilted. The pacing sometimes caused one actor’s lines to cut the others off.
When I first heard about Dark I was excited. A stealth-action game where the protagonist is a vampire, it sounded really interesting and the trailers I saw made it look really cool. The reality is Dark has a lot of great potential. It just wasn’t fully realized. It’s almost like a Realmforge ran out of time or budget. From a game players view, a lot of the problems felt like they just need a little TLC or a bit of polish; more checkpoints, better targeting, smarter AI, and better acting. Sadly, the story can’t even carry this game. As a player you never get invested in Eric. He has amnesia so no backstory. He never tries to remember or search for clues. His only motivation is to find an ancient vampire to suck out its blood, end of story.
Dark really feels like a game that has had its life sucked out of it, if it even had one to begin with. I give it a 2.5 out of 5.
Dark is rated M for Mature for Blood and Gore, Partial Nudity, Strong Language, Suggestive Themes, and Violence by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB).
For more information see the Dark website.