The purple-est game you’ll ever play.
A departure from what we’re used to from Realmforge Studios, Dark is a stylized action game that is trying to make vampires cool again. A noble cause, if you ask me, but you can’t just get by on style alone, can you? The vampires of Dark are promising stealth action with RPG elements but, while you get these things in principle, the rest of what is hiding behind the striking visual style isn’t quite as deep as we were hoping. Let’s step into the Dark.
When you start Dark, the first thing you’ll notice is the visual style. Characters and backgrounds are fully 3-D, but are finished in a cel-shaded style that really gives Dark an interesting overall feel. What really struck me about the graphics is the way the artists were able to convey a sense of darkness, since this is a vampire story and all takes place at night, while still using vibrant colors to set each area apart from one another.
Dark follows the story of Eric, a man who discovers he has been turned into a vampire and thus invited into a group of good-leaning vampires who all happen to work in a nightclub that will serve as the game’s hub in between missions. The setting may seem cliché to fans of 90’s era vampire movies but, considering where movies and TV have taken vampires lately, this could be a good thing.
Eric will embark on a series of missions to try to discover why he was turned into a vampire, and what other sinister things the more evil vampires are up to. These missions are structured to require you to sneak around, trying not to be seen as you take out your enemies quietly. The problems with Dark, unfortunately, start here.
For a vampire, who seems to be able to take care of himself when it comes to punching enemies to death, Eric is surprisingly limited in how he can move around. You won’t be able to jump, or climb, or even hop over low walls. All Eric will be able to do is walk or crouch and, considering the large enemy-filled environments the game throws at you, this makes the action take on more linear paths than you would expect. Even the one power, Shadow Leap, which could help you get around is cumbersome to use and can’t be aimed over low walls while in a long piece of cover.
You will be able to upgrade Eric’s powers, with experience being awarded for kills and bonuses for not alerting any guards, so there is some designed incentive to staying hidden. Unfortunately, you’ll want to stay hidden because the gameplay falls apart when you go to face an enemy head to head. There is no melee combat system at work in Dark, you simply take out enemies with the same one hit kills you do when they are unaware of you. When enemies know you are there, this attack sometimes lands and sometimes doesn’t. You’ll simply have to hope you don’t absorb too man bullets before you can close the distance. If you do die, you’ll have to repeat large sections of the game as checkpoints are few and far between.
Ultimately, Dark doesn’t produce the level of fun or immersion that can match the great visual style. Players are simply too limited in what they can have Eric do and this makes Dark become quite dull, quite quickly.
There are no multiplayer modes in Dark.
Dark’s striking and interesting visual style is quickly dulled by its under-designed and basic gameplay. When you start the first level, you may find yourself thinking that Dark could be a fun stealth-action game but as the complexity of the levels ramp up, the combat and character abilities fall behind. If Realmforge Studios had spent as much time designing the other elements, as they did designing the visual style, Dark could have been a good game. Instead it will end up in more bargain bins than game collections.