Dark Void


posted 1/19/2010 by Charles Husemann
other articles by Charles Husemann
One Page Platforms: 360
I remember the intense sense of vertigo I felt the first time I saw Dark Void's vertical cover system.  The developer from Air Tight Games was battling his way up the side of a mountain, picking off the robotic Watchers as they peered over the edge of their cover.  A quick shot to the head sent them falling hurtling down the mountain.  He tracked one of them falling down the mountain to show off what the engine could do and I instantly felt the familiar pit in my stomach as my acrophobia kicked in.  Flash forward a few years later and that pit has returned as Will Gray, the protagonist of Dark Void, catapults himself down the side of a cliff while avoiding fire.  It's a simple move as he grabs the cliff with one hand and throws his feet over the edge like a well armed gymnast but somehow seeing the distance to the ground manages to trigger the acrophobia I've had since I was a kid.

In Dark Void you play the previously mentioned Will Gray, a cargo pilot who's just trying to get by during the early stages of World War II.  He's your standard Han Solo kind of hero who seems tough on the outside but always ends up making the right decisions when the chips are down.  On what should be a routine cargo mission he flies through the Bermuda Triangle and is transported to the Void.  In the Void he finds other human beings (including Nickola Tesla) who have likewise become stranded in the Void and are fighting off the Watchers, an alien race bent on enslaving humanity. 

It turns out the Watchers had controlled the Earth in the past but were banished to the Void by a group of humans that had rebelled against them.  Now the Watchers are trying to escape their prison and retake control of the planet. 

What I like about the Watchers is that Air Tight Games has created a nice mythos and backstory for them.  As a race, the Watchers start out as small larvae and grow into larger, much deadlier opponents over their lifetime.  In order to augment themselves they have built various armored powersuits that they use to enslave humanity.  They start at the lowly pawn level (i.e. the storm trooper/cannon fodder level) and if they survive long enough they grow and can pilot larger and larger suits.  When they reach the elder stage they learn the ability to change shapes which allows them to enter the human world or even infiltrate the survivor camp which adds a bit to the plot. 

The writing in the game is also solid and not derivative.  Without giving too much away the writers have crafted a unique alternate history World War II that feels fresh and new.  The only thing that really took me for a loop was that they decided to include Nikola Tesla for some reason.  The press document included with the review copy of the game indicates he's there to provide a mentor role to Will and to leverage some of the "geek mystique" associated with Tesla but he sticks out in a world otherwise populated with fictional characters.  This might be just me but I might have created a fictional character to fill this role instead.

Another interesting decision is not to refer to the Axis powers by name but rather to call them the fascists through out.  I'm not sure if this was done for localization reasons or not but it also stuck out a bit. 

The game is broken out into three episodes with four chapters in each episodes.  Each episode takes about two to three hours to complete so you're looking at around six to either hours to get through the entire thing.  I finished in around seven hours on the normal difficulty which felt a little bit too easy.  In those seven hours Will only met his digital maker five or six times so adjust your expectations accordingly.  The final boss fight was solid but I was hoping for a bit more of a challenge.  The game doesn't feature any co-op or multiplayer which kills the replay value of the game a bit.
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