Dark might look cool with its cel-shaded graphics, but that isn’t enough to make this game good. Although it tries very hard at being a good stealth game, unfortunately it doesn’t quiet get it right, just like everything else this game brings to the table.
You play as Eric Bane who has recently been turned into a vampire, but he doesn’t know why or by whom, because he has amnesia. That is when Eric finds out that everything he thought he knew was wrong and that our world is full of vampires. It is all pretty standard stuff, but he at least gets some neat powers to use. The story is pretty dry. Eric is in search of the vampire that turned him and it seems interesting at first, but the average stealthy game play gets in the way of that and the story basically flat lines early on.
The story quickly falling apart is only made worse with the characters in the game. Everyone, including Eric is lifeless as can be and it feels like every voice actor was doing this as a favor to the developer and wasn’t even getting paid. That is also hurt by the horrible writing in the game, most of the things that are said feel off and out-of-place. There is a conversation wheel, that is reminiscent of Mass Effect. It seems like this was their way to give depth to the characters and flesh them out some, but even this is written bad. To end a conversation you click on “Go away”. At first I didn’t want to click it and have the other character get mad at me.
Dark is a stealth game above all, even though there are RPG elements to try to be more diverse. You get no weapons of any kind in playing the game and there is no using of enemy weapons at all. It is you, your sneaking and your vampire powers. I do give credit to Realmforge Studios for sticking so tightly to the stealth mechanics. After all I really do like stealth in games, but when done right. The AI in the game is either too stupid at times or too good and leaves the sneaking to be sort of a guessing game. There are times you can kill a bad guy almost right next to his buddy and he is never the wiser about it. Other times you can go from cover to cover and be spotted ten feet away. You have a vampire meter type thing that lets you know when someone starts seeing you and for sure sees you. It is basically a circle on the screen that goes from white to red depending on how well you are seen. This is explained away because you are a vampire. Everything you do makes noise, until you level up some of your vampire powers, but just like all the other problems sneaking. So be prepared for them to only hear you when it seems obvious they shouldn’t.
The RPG elements to the game help you learn to sneak better and take out enemies better. You get experience points for killing people and the quieter and sneakier you do so, the more points you will get for each kill. Experience points go toward skill points that you use to upgrade vampire powers or to unlock new ones to use. Game play wise this is the strong point, though it doesn’t help the game as a whole much. There are some cool powers that help you defeat enemies from far away, even one that is much like a force choke-hold Darth Vader style. There are also powers to help you get around without getting into confrontations. You can only use these so often before having to replenish your powers by drinking the blood of the living baddies around you. Which also means you can not drink the blood of those that you have killed. So you always have two choices basically, kill the bad guy or drink his blood. This seems to be Realmforge Studios’ answer to making it more of a challenge to being a vampire.
The controls mostly feel clunky, unless you are simply moving around the environment, but anytime you are attacking someone in any way or even using some of the vampire powers it seems everything with the mechanics turns into a challenge of its own. Even dragging bodies around out of sight of other enemies turns into a chore, because the game goes from third-person to first-person for no reason at all. This is a mess if you are in a hurry to move a body before some other enemy comes back. You either watch were you are going which means the body you are dragging can catch on stuff or you watch the body and can end up hitting a wall behind you. Timing is everything, Eric doesn’t take much damage and it is easy to be seen when you sneak behind a guard and he suddenly turns around. Killing can be simple, seeing most enemies die with one hit, but it is trying to get that hit off a lot of times that gets you killed. You have to be right on top of an enemy to get the okay to punch them by having the icon in the bottom corner show up. Then sometimes you have to push the button a few times to get it to register and by then you could be killed. It works the same way with sneaking up on someone and wanting to drink their blood, but by the time the game registers it the guard has already turned around and now you just need to kill him before he kills you. It should be much better.
The cel-shaded comic book look feels nice for this game. It really works and it makes the game have a really cool aesthetic to it. The graphics give some light to the dark world around you in a way that you really notice it. However this does get brought down by the characters bringing no life to the game what-so-ever. At times character lips don’t even move when talking and by now that seems like something that all games would do away with. Also there is the camera, which again when you are moving around in a non-harsh environment is fine, but can get shaking in enclosed areas and there is times that walls and other things can get in the way of your view.
Dark tries really hard with the stealth, but doesn’t try hard enough nor with anything else that it does and that makes it for a bad game. There is some moments of hope with sneaking up on people and some of the powers are fun to use, but never enough and mixed with problems those few times are forgettable. However, it is a game that I think with enough work could have a really cool sequel and would like to see Realmforge Studios take another swing at this IP. I do not want to see a series with potential shelved because the first game wasn’t great.