Repost: Dark Void Review

Dark Void has a lot in common with that old Disney movie, The Rocketeer. They were good foundations that tried to follow through on grand ideas, but fell short. In the case of Dark Void, the story, characters, and setting are all solid foundations that are interesting and fun to experience until the game basically felt like it ran out of ideas.

It’s sad because the game had a lot of potential for the one-man rocket aerial combat situations which arrive a little too late and don’t help to keep the game’s foundation secured. Dark Void is more of a rental than purchase, and the missions that were enjoyable early on quickly become tedious.

The story of Dark Void takes place during World War II where Will, the protagonist, is swallowed in the Bermuda Triangle with Ava, the stereotypical feminine interest with some attitude. Upon waking up, he discovers he and Ava are in another world and the first missions are about escaping from the Void and traveling back to Earth.

About halfway through, Will decides to help the resistance in stopping the Watchers from invading Earth, who are now funneling World War II by sending spies to Earth who replace leaders of countries.

It is a natural, but expected plot twist. It is possible that one of the issues with the abrupt dissonance of the game is that the latter half of the game tries to cover a lot of ground a bit too quickly. Included in the problem are the cutscenes that barely connect plot points together and don’t create the necessity to make each character vital.

I did enjoy the visuals of Dark Void, the one-off cartoon style which has a lot of realism in the environments, but use a comic book style for the characters. All the main characters are detailed and extremely well animated during cutscenes, the emotions of characters are easily realized. The secondary characters aren’t introduced properly and are usually grayed-out, they’re present but not really important.

With the Unreal engine, the game does look really good in motion, but once Will takes cover, the environments show jaggies and other anti-aliasing issues. And while I did enjoy all the different classes of enemies, the fact that they only really are distinguishable through color unless they are standing in Will’s personal space was a little annoying.

It is during flight battles that the game is the best. The 360 degree movement looks amazing from any angle, especially when pulling aerial 180s and seeing the environment zoom past. The camera does stick a little close, but tailing an enemy craft is exciting, especially after upgrading the jetpack.

Again, it is during the aerial battles that the sound is the best as well. During some of the indoor battles, enemies behind Will did peek through the speakers, but overall the sound is mostly front loaded. The voice acting is great, Nolan North playing Nathan Drake playing Will. It is a little disappointing for that reason because any rogue-type character that Nolan plays will sound like Drake.

The cutscenes had some of the best audio in the game, the Ark taking off was a fun scene to watch, though it was a little short.

As for the gameplay, the ground combat is mainly based on a cover system. The run and gun tactics will not work in Dark Void. Along with cover, Will gains six weapons in the game, though players will mainly stick with two or three. These weapons along with the jetpack can be upgraded, but it isn’t possible for everything to be maxed out on one play.

The couple co-op mission with Atem, another main character, are more frustrating because his AI is all about running into groups of Watchers and die, causing players to fail. Another annoying issue is when a mission restarts after death; the spawn point can be from a very early point as the checkpoint saves are usually after big fights.

Aerial combat is what Dark Void marketed, and when it happens, it’s both frustrating and the best part of the game. Though during the first few battles, it takes a long time to take down enemies. During some of the aerial platforming, boredom sets in because Will is forced to travel in tunnels that are barriers. The goal is fly straight and don’t die.

Also during aerial combat, Will can quick-time enemy ships and take them over. It is fun the first couple times, but soon becomes too repetitive and boring. Quick-time events also take place during most of the big confrontations and it would have been nice for some variety. A lock-on would have also been a plus because attempting to trail the enemy ships is a bit difficult.

Dark Void is more of a weekend game, not that long especially if one escort mission was removed from the title. The aerial combat is fun and the core of the game, but doesn’t have enough time dedicated to it to expand beyond the standard “destroy all enemy ships.” The plot takes its plunge during the last third of the experience and could have been expanded to include a little more substance.

Had the cutscenes explained more of the overall plot and the end of the game not so quickly setup a sequel, Dark Void could have become a much more substantial title that would elevate it above its “average” status.

Review copy provided for review purposes

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