I’ll start by saying that video games revolving around the concept of darkness with the inclusion of supernatural powers based on shadowy magic and lead characters that wear hoods are right up my alley. I’ve always been a fan of games that cater to the evil genre because there’s something to be said about looking at a story through an “antagonistic” point-of-view instead of the cliché “heroic” side. That being said this brings me to my review of Dark; a third-person, stealth action game accompanied by role-playing elements (although I use the term accompanied as lightly as can be).
The main character is a recently turned vampire by the name of Eric Bane, whom has no recollection of who he is or what happened to him prior to the start of the game. Right from the start the game is at a disadvantage for setting up the story with a dried up, horse beaten, cliché narrative element. I like to think that all these characters that suffer from amnesia in the beginning of their story must have attended the same party where the drinks being served there had a roofie or something because no one can remember anything before hand. Aside from a generic origin, the cutscenes where Eric “impresses” the audience with his monologues can make one snooze off if you try to take his narration seriously.
Not to mention a patient who just had a lobotomy done can do voice acting better. It comes off too droll and can make you cringe when the characters try to be funny; for example: when Eric hits on the main female character after she dismisses a vampire myth by saying not all vampires sleep in coffins and that she prefers a “soft mattress” he responds with: “Can I see your mattress sometime?” To even emphasize how bad of a writing job that was the lead female character responds with a pitiful: “Oh, that was a pathetic pick-up line.” I don’t know if I should be applauding her response or grieve at how terrible the writers are that they have to call themselves out on their own mess.
Mundane voice acting aside, I really liked the graphics and thought they were interesting to a world filled with trying to recreate the most realistic features. They have a style similar of Dishonored and Brink, in where the characters have a comic book-esque look about them and the cell shading gives a dark (har har) aura to the game. It, however, falls short when the mechanics seem dated and could very well be mistaken for an original Xbox game. The way the characters move and the clunky movements during combat make the game more of an unfinished 2007 demo than a full fledge game. Combat is strictly ripped out of the “How To Make A Stealth Action Game” handbook and relies on the simple understanding that when an enemy sees you you’re in DEEP shit and when an enemy doesn’t see you you’re THE shit. But that’s all it offers, it doesn’t even try to advance the stealth aspects by making it more interesting or complex, you just wait behind a cover until the enemy turns their back on you and then you leap over to them and kill them; then you must drag their body out of sight before one of their comrades sees the corpse. I mean, at least with the Batman Arkham series there was more to just waiting for your enemy to turn their back; you had a multitude of gadgets and methods of disposing of them that made the experience more memorable. Here it’s a standard formula that gets meticulous after the tenth fellow that forgets “darkness is not your friend”.
Maybe I dragged that a bit too much, but it pains me when I find a game with a dark theme story and an interesting premise only to be struck down by poor graphics, terrible voice acting, and mediocre gameplay. This is 2013, those kinds of things shouldn’t be an issue; the larger concern should be HOW to make a game unique and to create a style that both works for the game and fits the narrative perfectly.
Until next time, this has been GB, one cheat code closer to your heart. ▽
GB is a little punk obsessed with pop art, video games, and music. He also an illustrator illustratrator for The Ink and Code. Find out more about him here.
For more video game reviews by GB, check out his blog.