There really isn’t a better (or nicer) way to sum up Dark Void. It’s a rare example in recent memory of a game which turned into a chore to finish. And when that happens, it pretty much defeats the whole idea behind gaming. You can very well imagine how boring a review for a boring game would be. What would be more interesting, however, is to try and re-construct the meeting between the developer and the publisher, where Dark Void got the green signal for full steam ahead. Before we begin though, it is important to clarify that while Dark Void is boring, as a game, it is technically adequate and playable. With that said, lets get cracking, shall we?
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Two guys wearing Airtight Games t-shirts look completely out of sorts in a menacing corporate office dripping with pure evil. The door opens, and it’s none other than Satan himself, wearing a suit. Or maybe someone who looks like him.
So, I’ll get straight to the point! We had a bit of play testing done on Dark Void, and the results haven’t exactly been…
Look!! Flying Kittens outside your window!
Really? (turns around) Where?
Uh! They flew away.
Oh.. Ok! That would make an interesting video game, no? Kittens flying around the city?
Yeah! it would sell like hot cake on the Wii!
You are right, hang on for a moment. (makes a quick note in his PDA) So what was I saying?
Nothing at all.
Ok! So… what’s Dark Void all about?
Well, it’s about the Bermuda Triangle. Basically it’s a sort of a rift between worlds, and there are these aliens called the watchers, and then there are these primitive dudes who worship the watchers, and then there’s this bunch of dudes who are fighting the watchers. And then there’s our protagonist William, voiced by the omnipresent Nolan North, by the way, who isn’t really as generic as his name suggests… he’s uh… special! You’ll see when you play the game.
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I don’t play video games, but I love watching them on YouTube. Anyway, so how does all this come together?
We aren’t really sure. You see, mystery is the flavour of the times. So we’ve tried to keep things as vague as possible. In fact, we have also strewn around a bunch of diary and journal entries which serve the double purpose of being the in-game collectible and adding more vagueness to the story.
Did you guys put an Achievement for collecting all the journals?
Excellent! Now what is this whole deal with vertical cover?
To be honest, it’s the regular cover system; except that it’s vertical. Basically, at specific points in the game, the player has to either climb up or down a structure. He can take cover behind conveniently placed ledges, designed only for these segments to shoot enemies who also use these ledges for cover. I wouldn’t tout it too much if I were you.
But does any other game have vertical cover?
No, but like I said, it’s just regular cover with…
Nonsense! We are putting this on the back of the box. So do you have the usual third-person shooter mechanics present in the game?
Oh yes! We have a full fledged generic third-person shooter in place. You move from one segment to another, take cover behind some rocks or walls, aim and shoot at some enemies. Oh! And they shoot back too!
Interesting. Do they employ different strategies while attacking?
Oh! Of course they do. They also take cover and peak out from time to time to shoot back, but not before giving you a sufficient amount of time to shoot back. In fact, these watcher dudes, who you fight pretty much through the game, can jump between cover quite efficiently. And to keep you on your toes, some of them charge at you as well.
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Ok. And how about flying? How has that panned out?
Oooh! Oooh! Oooh! That is easily the best part of the game. We got this nifty jet pack in the game which the player uses in specific levels to fly around and get into full fledged aerial dogfights. The player can use the guns attached to the jetpack in exciting battles, and even hijack enemy ships in a fun mini-game and turn them against their own friends. Over time, you can even upgrade the jetpack, like other weapons, with stronger guns and homing missiles. Not just that; you can pull off acrobatic moves if an enemy is on your tail. All in all, it makes for extremely exciting gameplay.
Second guy: (In a low tone) Probably the only exciting part about the game.
Ok. So all these gameplay elements; how well do they blend together?
Well, you can use the jetpack to hover during shooting segments to get the tactical advantage. In fact, some enemies do the same as well.
That’s all? Suppose I want to take full flight during a shooting segment and use my jetpack guns to blast the buggers?
Well, you’re going bounce off from wall to wall to your death. It’s quite funny actually; wouldn’t look out of place in the Roadrunner Show. See, for the sake of variety, we’ve kept overlap between segments to a bare minimum, even though we do feel it might have made the game more exciting if everything was integrated better.
Oh well. I kinda like the term ‘seemless integration’. Do you?
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(Makes a note on his PDA) Let’s talk graphics now. I saw the game and frankly, it doesn’t look that hot. You said you have Nolan North in the game. Can’t you make it look like Uncharted 2?
No we can’t.
Second guy (in an undertone): Blame it on the engine
Ya! It’s because we’re using Unreal Engine 3. Building a game engine from ground up might have yielded better graphics, but Unreal Engine 3 is awesome, isn’t it? So we used that.
Can you build a game engine from ground up?
Can you give us more money and time?
Don’t take that tone with me!
Sorry, but how does it matter? How it plays is more important.
Second guy: (snigger)
The Unreal Engine 3 does have its advantages. Like most other multiplats using the engine, the game will look better on the Xbox 360, igniting rabid fanboy wars. Fanboys fighting about our game can’t be bad.
I guess so.
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See, you have a great idea, but it just feels half baked and generic in every aspect. The different elements, while they sound great, feel gimmicky. Now that is perfectly fine with me as long as they look good on the back of the box. But these stupid reviewers are going to tear us apart. I’m not exactly sure about it.
Well, we can put Nikola Tesla in the game. Would that help?
A real world historical figure. Hmm… go on.
Oh! And we will get Bear McCreary to compose the soundtrack of the game. He also did the soundtrack of Battlestar Galactica.
(Getting excited) Battlestar Galactica was awesome!
Oh yes! In fact, the music is what made it so awesome. Otherwise who cares for all that stupid Cylon-Human crap. They were there for the music!
I’m convinced! Now… about that flying kittens game…
(+) The flying segments of the game make for a thrilling experience
(+) Excellent background score
(+) The gameplay is mostly adequate, if extremely generic
(-) The much touted vertical cover feels extremely forced
(-) No integration whatsoever between different gameplay elements
(-) Simplistic enemy AI
(-) Confusing and underdeveloped story
(-) Mediocre Graphics
Title: Dark Void
Developer/Publisher: Airtight Games/Capcom
Genre: Shooter/Flight combat
Platforms: Xbox 360 (Rs 3,499), PS3 (Rs 3,499)
Reviewed on: PS3