I had the opportunity to head out to San Francisco this past week to get a closer look at an early build of Kalypso Entertainment's
upcoming title DARK
, which was rumored leading up to E3 2012
and, eventually, unveiled with a demo video at the show. Several months later, Kalypso
was ready to show an early Alpha build of the title and give a much closer look at the world of DARK.
The game centers around the primary character of Eric Bane, who wakes up as a vampire, having just been recently turned into one, but having no recollection of who turned him or how it even happened. Eric finds himself in a nightclub that is filled with vampires, wondering who he can turn to for help with his new life. Ultimately, he finds out that there is far more important things than just a life of adjustment. Just like in mythology and fiction regarding vampires, the rules are the same here: Eric has to find his creator, the vampire who actually turned him, and feed off of his blood. If he does not do this, he will turn into a half-breed known as a ghoul, which players will encounter as enemies throughout the game.
The demo allowed me to view two early stages of the game, one of which being a tutorial. As with any early build of a game, there are some good points of the game and some things that need some work.
THINGS THAT ARE LOOKING GOOD
True Stealth System
Stealth games aren't really stealth games, and, honestly, never have been. Rarely have there been games where sneaking is at an absolute premium and is forced to do so. I can come up with titles such as Amnesia: The Dark Descent
and the early Hitman
games. After that, though, most stealth titles still give you the option to run and gun through just about everything. The beauty of DARK
is that there aren't any weapons to try and just do a victory charge through everything. Players will have to utilize cover at almost every turn. Vampiric powers become a player's best friend, such as doing teleportation, vision enhancement (more on that later), and incredible strength to kill enemies quickly. The challenge in this game is going to be avoiding enemies, especially in large rooms. If a gamer gets seen and can't find cover quickly, then Eric will fall quickly.
Vampires = darkness. This is not really groundbreaking news, but the environment has a dark feel to it throughout the entire title. Even in the nightclub, there is an overall creepiness to the atmosphere around Eric. With only two levels viewable at the event, I look forward to seeing what the development team comes up with in later stages of the game.
Plethora of Vampire Powers
If I'm going to play as a vampire, I better have a nice collection of abilities at my disposal. DARK
proves to give a player just that as one progresses through the game. The experience system, while a work in progress and nothing set in stone, is designed to reward players with more powers the better a player progresses without causing a ruckus and being as stealthy as possible. I only got to play with a couple of the powers, mainly the teleportation ability and the enhanced vision, which allows a player to see the circulation of enemies to give them away through any structure. Keep in mind, though, that it will only work on the living...
THINGS THAT NEED WORK
The battle system
I was assured that this is still a work in progress, but there is a lot left to be desired with the battle system. While I enjoy being able to sneak up behind an enemy and kill them quickly as one should be able to do with a sneak attack, it shouldn't be a quick kill in a panic. While enemies can repel and parry attacks from the front, I found that it didn't happen very often and Eric could basically punch his way to a hiding spot easily. I feel as though a true melee system needs to be implemented for this title or, at the least, make it a bit harder to get out of a pinch. A stealth title should be difficult as all hell, not easy to get out of a pinch and dive behind some boxes.
The alert system
Another piece that I think still needs some fine tuning, I don't like the fact that it takes a few seconds for an enemy to realize that a vampire is about to come rip his head off. I would like to see maybe a second or two before an enemy sees Eric and not what seemed to be five to six seconds. A ring appears on the screen with an arrow that points in the direction of where Eric is being spotted from. If I'm walking towards an enemy and I don't look to be in the same type of uniform as that enemy, then I should be getting shot at. I want to see this reaction time shortened up before launch.
There are a couple of things I had highlighted from this trip that I wanted to comment on, but couldn't put them into either category because they just haven't gotten to the part yet. Character models are still in the process of being cleaned up, though they looked pretty good from what I saw at the event. The animations for speaking haven't been added in, so it was strange seeing the characters talking, but not speaking nor having the lip movements with the words. Voiceovers are being added in at a later date, so there is no word on a voice cast just yet. Dialogue was being handled by subtitle, which is alright, but outside of playing a Zelda
title, I don't think any game can survive in this age of gaming without having voice actors.
Ultimately, it's too early to really tell what DARK
is going to end up being in the final product. There is a good base for a story and character development set in place, and it will be interesting to see just how the story actually progresses throughout the title, which is expected to have over ten hours of gameplay and the need to play through more than once in order to unlock all of the vampire powers. The items I've listed that need work are the ones that stick out the most. I can't make a final judgment on a game that is probably only 60-70 percent complete, so there is definitely time for improvement on these parts of the game. If that happens, then DARK
could be one of the early sleeper titles to pick up in the first quarter of 2013.
Note: Kalypso paid for airfare, lodging, and provided food for this trip.