Sunday, 1 July 2012

Dark Void: Game Design Review

The humourous review over at Zero Punctuation actually praised it despite other sites giving mediocre review. I decideded to try it for myself wondering what sort of experience I would get. Perhaps its because I haven't played any recent AAA games like Assasin's Creed or Crysis 2 but I actually quite liked the game.

Like the B-grade movies that it copies, Dark Void starts off as a very standard 3rd person action cover based shooting adventure game. But then once you're comfortable with the shooting and meelee, it quickly adds the jetpack allowing you to jump to different levels and then once you're comfortable with that it gives you the prototype jetpack allowing you to start flying around its environments attacking spaceships through

A lot of the positives and negative were actually quite well-covered in the Zero Punctuation review so I'm really expanding upon the basics

What I liked about the game:
Jetpack action! - I can understand where the critics are coming from. As a shooter, it isn't very good, but if you're playing this and judging as a Gears of War cover based shooter than you're playing this wrong! The key point of the game is that this is an arcade action game with jetpacks. The whole focus of the game is to shoot a couple of robots, fly in with your jump jet, punch out one or two stragglers and then boost off to a safe haven and rinse and repeat. And the action is fastpaced as a result. And because of the jetpack, unlike other cover based shooters, you're never really stuck behind cover. It's Gears of War combined with Tribes, Crimson Skies and Megaman.

Mission variety - The levels and missions are suitably different and varied enough. In particular once you get the prototype jetpack that allows you to switch between ground based shooting and flying, the battles get way more intense. You'll have to fly into enemy buildings, deactivate them and then fly out while they explode, or fight off landing troops before taking to the sky to blow up transports and then landing back to mop up remaining troops

I thought the Vertical cover concept was quite clever as its used to break up the other normal gameplay  sections. Basically vertical cover has you shooting down or upwards with a cover based shooting mechanic. However because its vertical, you fall or boost immediately to the next piece of cover. In essence it's like cover based shooting but extremely condensed so you're either in a 'safe platform' or close enough to melee the enemy.

Beginning is well-paced - As mentioned in the introduction the game opens up new abilities and weapons just as you get comfortable with the old ones.

Ending wasn't what I expected - Most B action movies end in a happy ending, hero gets the girl etc. Fortunately this had a pretty dark ending which I felt was much better.

Epicness - When the game opens up and give you the prototype jet pack then the real epicness of the game becomes aparent as you fend off ground troops in one movement before taking to the skies and attacking the transports that are bringing them in. There are several situations where the situation will 'get out of hand' so to speak and those are the most fun. When a ground battle turns into an air battle before returning back to a ground battle again to mop up the survivors; that's when the game's at its most intense.

Music - The music is suitably epic and inspiring and never over powering but always suiting the atmosphere of the game.

Game is very short- I found it a bit too short and the plot points just come and go very easily. There definitely needs some holes filled in.

Needs more artistic direction- Like King Kong the game there aren't enough variations in the locations or art direction to make it feel different enough. Further the dull palette doesn't really help it either.

More integration between flying and ground- It's difficult to strafe or attack ground enemies from the air and I think there needs to be more ability to actually affect ground units while flying. A simple scenario could be for example, being able to take out some ground turrets or tanks from the air to make it safe for your troops to assault your position.

Really needs a sequel - The game ends aroudn the time of the start of World War II. Seriously, this is begging for a sequel.

Journal collections is pointless -There are journals which provide you with more backstory written by various characters but I found the journal collection completely pointless. It just seemed very out of place suddenly having all this text that you can read in the options menu. In keeping with the B-grade action, I think they should have used 1930's pulp fiction comics to fill the backstory and unlock in game abilities or at least new costumes.

Overall a fun action game. It's definitely worth a rental and feels like a game that should be better loved and noticed by the crowds, much like many film cult classics.

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