Ah, stealth. The art of sneaking around and using nothing but your reactions and wit to overcome the towering obstacles in your way. There’s nothing quite like a good stealth game. Great stealth like Metal Gear Solid, Tenchu, Hitman, Deus Ex and not so much these days but Assassin’s Creed and Splinter Cell is hard to come by in this day and age. Enter Dark, a new stealth-based game published Kalypso Media and developed by Realmforge Studios. Now Dark might sound like an amazing prospect to the uninitiated. It’s a vampire stealth game. That means using the shadows to your advantage while teleporting toward your prey and sap their rich from their veins. Sounds amazing, right? Very, very wrong. More on how terrible the game is as we go on.
The story centres around Mr. Eric Bane, a poor gent who just so happens to be a newly turned vampire. Get this, he has amnesia! The story is riveting already. Eric soon learns that his transformation is not yet fully complete. In other words, he hasn’t even reached his final form. In order to avoid becoming one of Nosferatu’s minions, Eric must drink the blood of his sire. The game then becomes who’s who of tired clichés. Such as angels appearing to him, leading young Eric down the righteous path. It is the angel that sets blood-sucking Eric Bane on a journey to recover his lost memory, a journey that will either see him revert back to his human form, stay as he is, or turn into a hapless ghoul from a Blade movie. Dark’s story is as dull as anything you have ever played. The characters you meet along the way do nothing to stimulate the story, or evoke any kind of emotion from the player. It’s as if there is no personality in this game whatsoever.
Enough story bashing, let’s talk about the awesome gameplay. Or how it’s not awesome at all…not even a little bit. So this is a stealth-action game, that means lots of hiding, sneaking, and quiet killing. You’ll find an abundance of furniture and chest-high walls to call your home due to this. Moving in and out of cover is easy enough. You can lock on to a piece of cover while already being in cover, and simply teleport straight to the next bit without being seen. The issue with this is that sometimes the game will simply bug out and throw you to the far right, far left, on top of, or literally inside the piece of cover you’ve intended to hide behind. There is a nifty feature called vampire vision. This allows you to see through walls and slow down time to help attain what your plan of attack will be. This is the only part of the game that works as it should. It’s not innovative or new, it just works.
The problem with the stealth in Dark is that there is no surprise, only routine. Games like Splinter Cell or Deus show that sometimes having a plan of attack may not be enough. There might always be one enemy you’ve neglected to highlight who can send your entire plan astray. So having an escape route and or means of cutting off any kind of alarm system is key. Not here, there is only route learning and killing. Plus most of the other top stealth games I mentioned before have several means of completing a mission or route. To this day I’m still seeing things I could’ve done on Hitman: Blood Money and Absolution that I had absolutely no idea about. In Dark, there will only ever be one option, or the other. The main problem with the stealth aspect of the game is that it’s so repetitive it becomes a borefest. There may be one saving grace that could attract certain niche market of gamers. The game can be hard, very hard. But that’s not because of any kind of actual difficulty implemented into the game’s system. It’s because sneaking up behind an enemy and simply stealth killing them is a chore. The button prompt to kill your foe doesn’t appear until you are basically touching their backside, and sometimes you actually are touching their backside. This prompts all of Dr. Evil’s henchman to sound the alarm and shoot you with their…”lasers” (there are no lasers, but there’s gotta be something fun associated with the game). No, they just raise an alarm and shoot you dead because there is nowhere you can hide where they will not find you. There is no plan B, there is only succeed at this thing, or die a slow vampiric death.
We’re not quite finished yet; Dark has broken another one of gaming’s golden rules. RPG elements where they do not belong. Getting through areas without being detected and getting kills will award you with XP. For every thousand points of experience, you earn something called a ‘power point’ that will allow you to upgrade whatever power takes your fancy.
There’s not much to be said for how the game looks. There is a comic book/noir type feel to the game. This basically means cel-shaded with neon lights, for the modern era. It’s not great looking; it’s just not bad looking. This is probably the most positive thing I have to say about the entire game. The voice acting is bad, real bad. It’s not the kind of bad you can forgive like a dub gone wrong on a Japanese game, or voice acting so terrible it’s funny like Shenmue. The delivery was poor, like the actors were mumbling the words to themselves with no emotion as if they were at home reading a novel in their armchairs. I actually find it quite shocking that somebody oversaw the work that went into this and didn’t think to say “hey guys, do you mind sounding like people when you read these lines”. But then again, with the lines they were given, I’d probably phone it in too.
To sum it up, Dark is a horrible bore of a game. A genuine contender right alongside The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct for the worst game this year. The story extremely boring and predictable. The only fun came from me switching it up between doing a horrible Tom Hardy impersonation every time the name Bane was mentioned, and pretending the character was actually called Eric Bana. The gameplay is rigid and broken. Stealth barely works, and when it doesn’t, combat doesn’t work either. The sounds and voice acting are some of the worst I have ever heard in a game, and it’s just a 9+ hour agonising struggle to get through.
If you’re a stealth enthusiast, just play any of the other stealth games you’ve already completed a thousand times rather than this. You’re guaranteed to have a better time. If you’re a vampire enthusiast, just watch Twilight. Seriously, Twilight is a much better time than Dark.
Basically, stay away from Dark. Do not buy Dark, and kill Dark with fire.
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