Delayed Reactions – Dark Void: Meh, Close Enough
For people who like:
The Rocketeer, the storyline of Resistance, Independence Day, Uncharted, V, War of the Worlds
+Jetpack is easy and fun to use
+Ground combat controls are solid
+Story is interesting
+Vertical cover provides variety to the traditional run and gun
+Pretty scenery while flying
+Collectible journals give interesting depth to the setting
-Dull scenery while on the ground
-Transitioning between gameplay modes can be jarring
-Too few guns and upgrades
-Every element of the game feels like it should have been larger
-The game ends awkwardly and abruptly
I always feel sorry when a game gets an average review. An average review means a game was fun for some and crap for others. Now how do I know where I fall? How do I know which “average” titles will fit my personal interests well enough so that I can forgive some of the smaller flaws and still come away satisfied? Taste is completely subjective and different to everyone, and sometimes you have to trust your attachment the subject matter and give a game a once over, despite its critical indifference. Because of this, I decided to play Dark Void, and no, it is completely average… So much for that… To be fair, I had fun and it was worth playing, but come on.
After a quick flight tutorial with Guy Red Shirt taught me that jetpacking is fun, rocketing into walls at full speed is bad for your spine, and that I could die at any minute, I assume control of Nathan Drake, the Prince of Perisa, some guy named Will who has just crash landed in the Bermuda Triangle/alternate void dimension. Shortly thereafter I am attacked by robot aliens. As any guy with a gun would do, I start shooting them back.
The shooting works fine, though the arsenal you get is unimpressive. Your main machine gun holds a lot of ammo, which is good because that’s all you get. I spent most of my time switching between the alien weapon(s) because they were the only weapons that any of the hundreds of similar looking blue glowing robots would actually drop ammo for. Though I could, I didn’t want to drop my machine gun because it seemed to be more effective than the alien guns.
Eventually, in a cave, I am introduced to Nikolai Tesla (who finally gives me a jetpack) and rebel resistance members that inhabit this void. As expected, the aliens are trying to break the dimensional barrier and invade the earth. I must fight with the rebellion because I am, as though you couldn’t have guessed it, the prophesized chosen one.
Ok, while the story isn’t that original, it’s told in an interesting way. The characters, while somewhat shallow, are entertaining and well portrayed. The weapons, while too few and with too few upgrades, are fun. The jetpacking, while repetitive, is fun. Just about everything I like about this game can be followed with an “except for _____”. It feels like this game was supposed to be much bigger in scale than it came out to be, as though the studio forgot to tell the developers what the release date was and they were forced to release what they had.
The game is broken up into episodes, and I genuinely wonder if the original intention was to release the game in episodes. It feels like the game has content enough for one episode, but when pressed for a full title, they were forced to fill episodes 2 and 3 with repetitive stuff and call it a game. Even the exposition feels incomplete and the game ends with a cliffhanger. Great.
There are only 6 weapons that the player can swap between and a full playthrough only allows the player to unlock the first upgrade to a few of them due to the ridiculous amount of “Tech Points” needed to unlock them. It may even require 3 playthroughs to get all the upgrades. Normally this wouldn’t be too much of an issue if there were more than 2 upgrades per gun. Upgrade it once and you’re halfway done. It gives the player very little growth through the game. There are only about 3 or 4 different ground enemies to fight as well, so with the same guns over similar terrain, the combat screams for more of something, anything. Enter jetpack.
The player can freely switch between ground combat and aerial combat. This can be a great deal of fun switching between ground fighting, picking enemies off from the sky and dogfights, but there are so few areas of the game that really make use of strategic ground to air transitioning that it almost makes the player feel like “What’s the point?”. It’s really unfortunate, especially because there are some genuinely awesome things the player can do with the freedom of a jetpack like this. It truly is completely free to your use. Want to fly down a hallway with a jetpack instead of walk? Go for it. I hope you like sudden fatal impact. There’s little risk of accidental triggering of the pack, so it never feels in the way. There are moments when the player gets to freefall for over a mile, then switch on the jetpack mid air. This is truly awesome and fun, except for…
There is an issue with transitioning, like from standing/falling to flying, or from vertical cover to anything at all. The camera isn’t exactly smooth or subtle. The camera shifts awkwardly and ends up where it wants to most of the time. When engaging the jetpack, it’s easy to misjudge the angle of take off and firmly plant your rocket propelled rag doll into the crest of an unfortunately placed wall of death. This is only an issue now and then, but it’s still annoying and takes you out of the game.
Overall I have to say I enjoyed my time playing the game. While the flaws were plentiful as described above, the story was engaging, the flight was fun, the gunplay worked. And despite the number of flaws, none of them really killed the game for me. There were enough interesting things that kept me entertained and forgiving of the obvious problems. I actually would recommend a playthrough of this game. Try it as either a rental or a $20 – $30 dollar purchase somewhere down the line and you’ll find yourself having an ok time. Don’t expect to be mezmorized, just enjoy it for what it’s worth, much like you would a random popcorn summer blockbuster.