DARK PC Review
I remember seeing DARK on Steam pre-purchase a while ago and thought it looked like an interesting blend of the vampire and stealth action genres. When it was released on July 3 I picked it up and started playing immediately. Everything was going well until I got further into the game and hit some bumps. I’m sad to say that DARK didn’t quite meet up to my expectations.
In DARK you are Eric Bane, a newly turned vampire on a mission to find the one who’s responsible for turning, and drink their blood. Without the blood of your maker you brain will deteriorate and you will turn into a ghastly ghoul. There’s a problem though, you have amnesia, and all you really remember is your name. There is also something peculiar that happens to you, you get visions of what appear to be an angel. With the help of Rose and the other vampires that reside at the vampire club Sanctuary, you start your journey sneaking through the shadows.
To add to the RPG element of DARK, Realmforge used vampire skills instead of weapons and gadgets. To unlock skills you must kill enough enemies and use the experience gained to purchase new skills. Depending on what state your enemy is in before you kill him will effect how much experience you get. If they have no idea you’re there you’ll net more experience points than if you alerted them prior to their death.
Unlike most vampire mythology that you might be used to, Eric is anything but invincible against bullets. That’s why you have a large selection of powers to choose from to help you stalk your prey though the shadows. The powers are split into three different categories, inherent, vampiric, and passive. The inherent skills are basically freebie skills you will automatically get when you start. They are like the equivalent of the starting gadgets you would get in any other stealth action game. The vampiric skills are, as you guessed it, skills of the bloodsucking nature. They’re the skills that let you distract, confuse, and kill your enemies. And the passive skills deal with your health, how much blood you can store and your sneaking ability. For the most part all of the skills you have access to are upgradeable and the cost varies from skill to skill. Despite the decent amount of skills that are available, I only found myself using a few, and the extra skill points I had were spent on skills I rarely used. The skills also have cooldowns so you can’t spam them unfortunately. To activate skills you must use blood that you have drained from your enemy, or otherwise known as Vitae in DARK.
I liked the art direction they took for DARK. I’m a big fan of cel shaded games like Jet Set Radio Future and games by Grasshopper Studios. It’s not very often you see cel shading in games these days, so I was happy to see it utilized in DARK.
Now I want to talk about some of the hiccups I encountered while playing DARK. A big thing for me and probably for everyone who plays video games is that you want responsive controls, but with DARK there are some big things that bothered me. When you attack an enemy you have two options, one you can either just instantly kill them and be over with it by pressing the left mouse button or two you can drain their blood by holding down the left mouse button. That’s all fine and dandy, until you need Vitae to use your skills, and when you attempt to drain your victim they’re instantly dispatched instead of providing you with the fuel needed to access your skills, then you’re effectively up the creak without a paddle. There has also been instances where I would start draining a victim and it would randomly stop and I would have to start again. That is the kind of thing that can get you killed quick. Animations in general seems laborious and rough in nature. I’d also had the misfortune of getting spotted after killing someone in sneak mode, after the killing animation ceased it would have me standing up instead of returning to sneak mode.
The other thing I really disliked was the fact that when you try to hide a deceased enemy’s body your only option is to drag the body. This made the act of concealing a perished foe a frustrating task all it’s own. The general lack of mobility available in DARK only served to complicate matters worse.
Despite the three levels of difficulty it all pretty much seems the same. I think the only thing that changes with the difficulty is the range at which you can be spotted. Other than that the enemies seem annoyingly hard. When you get spotted there’s pretty much no time to react before everyone starts lighting you up with automatic gunfire. This unforgiving fact had me restarting missions from very small mistakes. There’s plenty unforgiving game experiences I’ve enjoyed in the past, like Dennaton Games‘ Hotline Miami. The difficulty in DARK didn’t seem to hold any specific significance, and that’s what made it annoying.
The voice acting is also sub par at very best. The only voice I really liked was Eric’s, other than that they all seemed over or under acted. The other characters in the game weren’t all that interesting or fleshed out whatsoever. NPC’s had an extremely limited amount of dialogue options, which was strange because the opportunity to interact with them was almost always readily available.
DARK is a mess of glitches, poor voice acting, clunky animations, and general disarray. From the trailer I had high hopes for this game but it fell well short of my standards. DARK saw an eleventh hour release date delay, but it seems the only thing added was Oculus Rift and old school 3D support. Realmforge should have spent that time shoring up animations and enemy AI instead. Unfortunately games can’t get by on the art direction alone.