I donâ€™t mind bad games. As Iâ€™ve said before (probably the one and only time Iâ€™ll ever mention Darkest of Days ever again) I review, therefore I play stuff that has the capacity to suck.Â The game industry is one of the fastest growing fields on the planet with new developers striking out and making names for themselves with shoddy imitations while veterans try and churn out yet another payday courtesy of their flagging franchise. I get it, not everyone can have the next Half Life or Bioshock up their sleeve; thereâ€™s only so much inspiration to go around. What I canâ€™t stand, however, is a good game that goes bad.
Enter Dark Void, a game chronicling the exploits of WWII cargo pilot William Gray as he battles the enigmatic Watcher race in their bid for world domination while they make their escape from the prison of an inter-dimensional rift between worlds. When Will teams up with the local rebellion he gains access to a state of the art jetpack designed by famed inventor Nikolai Tesla which allows our hero to take to the skies and bring the fight to the Watchers and their shiny saucers of synthetic doom.Â What ensues is a mediocre adventure with a ridiculous plot, sorry production quality, broken fight mechanics and a gameplay experience that is so completely like every other game out on the market that it somehow manages to slingshot around hyperbole and become one of a kind.
Dark Voidâ€™s main marketing attribute is the supposed ability to fire up your jetpack on the fly, meaning you can tackle opponents virtually any way you choose. This freedom is immediately revealed to be a falsehood as it takes nearly half of the game to even get your hands on the jetpack and then each level is tailor made to pigeonhole players into either ground or aerial combat, but never really both.Â Both forms of combat tend to grate on nerves equally with the ground based duck and shoot mechanics playing out like a poor manâ€™s Gears of War while the air portions get a bit more creative and annoy through a incredibly steep learning curve and inexplicable death.Â A lack of any definable health bar coupled with a somewhat wonky camera only serve to make matters worse.
The game relied on quick time events a lot more than I expected, and while this can often be very annoying in otherwise polished titles, when experienced in tandem with Dark Voidâ€™s haphazard mechanics and production this partnership makes for a teeth grinding exercise in third-person futility. First, the button sequences are always the same, never switched up or reconfigured to keep things fresh. Secondly, many of the events involve madly waggling the analogue stick back and forth a bunch of times, which has absolutely NOTHING to do with the animations on screen. You see Will getting choked to death, and he escapes with a wild kick, a well placed sucker punch and an angry swear; what does that have to do with waggling? Equally annoying was the vehicle hijack mini-game, again because it is the exact same experience every time you initiate and when you end up doing this dozens and dozens of times it starts to get on your nerves.
Not to be outdone, Dark Void also manages to stumble along on various technical levels. Visually, there isnâ€™t all that much to impress, which is actually surprising considering all the things that have been lost in the Void and that the Watchers are an alien race who have been in existence for thousands of years. Mundane cliff walls, generic jungles and recycled corridors plague what could have been a visually diverse experience. The character designs are pretty solid, but there is no next-gen flair to be seen and Â I was noticing the flaws more than successes Â due to texture popping, characters sinking into the map and enemies glitching out of existence. Speaking of flight, I found the jetpack segments to be exhilarating at first but these promising (and key) sequences quickly suffered from the same mediocrity that plagues most of the title. What seems creative at first quickly loses its sheen after repeating it for several hours.
There was little AI to speak of, and although your allies never really get in your way they do little to help matters either. Enemies pop in and out in predetermined animations that are fairly easy to predict while some of the smaller spacecraft proved so logic defying in their movement I just left them to my allies to sort out somehow. Â I actually enjoyed the ground combat more than the aerial stuff, which really says something when the gameâ€™s key marketing ploy involves a jet engine strapped to your back. There were a couple of moments when the AI seemed to shake themselves out of obscurity and put up a decent fight while I popped in and out of cover, boosting into the air whilst raining fire down upon my mechanical enemies and finishing things out with a clothesline melee to the face. Moments like these were few and far between, although the much touted vertical combat sequences proved intriguing for a bit until the recycled animations and combat cues quickly settled in once again. Such a shame considering the possibilities for combat from a different point of view.
Donâ€™t even get me started on the story. The dialogue was ridiculously bland, the camera work a hack job, and the plot some unintelligible mish-mash of sci-fi/pulp action that in better hands might have ended up remotely watchable, compelling even. Nolan North (who some might know as loveable rogue Nathan Drake of Uncharted fame) tries his best to bring the heroic Will to life, but be it through his performance, the direction, recording equipment or maybe just a bad day at the office, even his previously stellar voice work suffers throughout. There was zero character development within the piece, most of the story is predictable or confusing while I found little there to compel me to finish the game.
You might be asking yourself if there is anything really redeemable about this game. Well, it has a kick ass soundtrack which I fully intend to be picking up if it’s released anytime soon. Okay, and like I said the combat occasionally comes together in a pretty nice way but only if you put a lot of time and effort in. Those first moments of flight are pretty impressive and hard to replicate, as are the first few vertical combat portions of the adventure. Unfortunately, the stale story and broken bits mean that these otherwise notable experiences cannot save Dark Void from an untimely end.
So, to recap; Dark Void had a lot of promise, but poor presentation and low quality control leads to a game I’d be a bit wary of. There really is no single quality which truly sinks or saves the game, dooming this title to drown in a sea of obscurity. This is a true travesty considering what potential the game had with an amazing premise, promising characters, visceral game mechanic and alien setting. Too bad what they say about gravity is true; what goes up must come down.