Dark, the game that aggravates you, the reason why? It’s potential. Not only could it have been a big hit this summer but it could have changed how we think about stories in games. In fact it is so bad in some places that Splinter Cell: Double Agent on PS2 easily could have topped it in the fluency of game play. Although not initially made clear, you’re a vampire and the game revolves around the end goal of unleashing your powers to drink the blood of a head vampire to become a “full vampire” as, if you don’t, you’ll be stuck as a simple half-wit that eats people.
What actually gave me the slightest spark of interest in Dark was it’s interesting, book-styled narrative. Occasionally you’d hear a crisp poetic speech about what’s happening or how you’re feeling and it really did pack a punch. Unfortunately the clunky movement mechanics of the main character (Eric) are so bad that they actually detracted from the great narrative. Things even got so bad that I was considering whipping out my PS2 instead of continuing. Moreover, the suffering doesn’t end there, not by a long shot. The extended cutscenes delivered voice acting that sounded like Eric was coughing up a lung rather than delivering an eloquent speech, it was as though someone had taken Shakespeare and morphed him into a hood rat leaving us with Eric. These scenes have been often so over dramatized and poorly voiced that I get bored before I’d even started actually playing the game.
I was expecting some innovation with the vampire aspect, maybe some added stealth action? Yet again I was bitterly disappointed. The repetition was dire and you rarely found a new obstacle to overcome other than how the enemies were spaced out. Commonly it’d be a simple wait and see what pattern they take then *boom* bite their neck. The vampire element of the game really didn’t show off much, the skill sets available weren’t particularly bland themselves, the game just didn’t give you a reason to ever need to use them. In most cases a majority of your enemies posed little or no threat at all, just adding to the shock and bore of the AI system; eventually I found the AI laughable I could run in front of a guard then quickly go back and he didn’t see a thing, funny for a while but shocking for such a recent release. The real problem with Dark was that as you progress through the game the cracks in gameplay only get bigger, not helped by the upgrade system which renders Eric godlike and ultimately undefeatable and thusly removing the immersive “fear” aspect.
It’s not all doom and gloom, some mechanics such as tearing the occasional guard’s throat out was incredibly satisfying and allowed a glimmer of hope to shine through only to be blocked out by the sound Eric munching on gravel as he lumbers awkwardly around some oblivious enemies. There are certainly some admirable positive qualities to Dark that ironically don’t come into the light because of all the overshadowing problems.
That’s what really had me annoyed at Dark, a fresh concept was brutally buried. The game’s innovative narrative idea was just obliterated by the poor game play and as you play the game you notice how if all these little kinks were smoothed out you’d have a fantastic game at your fingertips. If things like the cut scenes, voice acting, AI and repetition were acknowledged and sorted then Dark would be gold. Unfortunately that’s not the case, Dark proves to be a game that’s depressingly close to greatness but slips haphazardly into the sin bin. This is especially unfortunate when you consider the recent dip in Vampire-based games, this was something the industry certainly needed and is testament to just how poorly Dark performed in reaching its potential.
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