Before Dark even begins, it spends a couple of hours staring into the mirror and hating its wannabe-vampire self for still having a reflection. It’s That Guy at the goth club, desperate to fit in, its clothes and makeup a copied uniform rather than a personal statement. Just for starters, its protagonist is called ‘Eric Bane’. Please let that sink in.
Specifically, what Dark wants to be is Vampire: Bloodlines – a stylish, vicious trip into the night to both join and face off against the undead, simultaneously revelling in and complaining about living the alternate nine-to-five. Dark’s got the clubs, the electronic music, the neckbiting and the endearingly ludicrous powers – such as jumping effortlessly between shadows. Unfortunately, where Bloodlines was an amazing, sprawling RPG, Dark’s ambitions are limited to being an endless stealth level so scrappily designed that the first stage has you hide from enemies behind glass. Almost as silly is the fact that this is a stealth game called ‘Dark’ where the dark plays no part in avoiding detection.
Instead, trial and error wins out. As Eric Bane – snigger – you technically have some handy powers, such as regenerating from bullet wounds, seeing through walls and creating distractions on the fly. His curse isn’t a thirst for human blood, but game controls that rip every scrap of enjoyment out of using them, and enemy placement that makes getting through areas more a question of dumb luck than effortlessly executing a clever plan. Even vampire abilities don’t help much. The Shadow Leap power for instance, a pale imitation of Dishonored’s Blink, is fiddly to target, rarely allows for shortcuts that would actually help, and is infuriatingly noisy until powered up. With this many enemies around, whooshing all over the place is all too often just a way to get into trouble faster. Guns cut down poor Eric Bane – snigger – in seconds, keeping him a coverskulker even after using skillpoints to unlock his advanced powers.
Part of the problem is that the levels are designed more like mazes than actual locations, with some individually interesting areas trapped in a sea of endless boxes and locked off paths. On Easy mode, unlimited saves make navigating around them easy, if cheesy – especially when enemies are hilariously susceptible to one-hit kill punches from around a conveniently boxy corner. On harder difficulties, you’re reliant on abusing AI glitches to save time and avoid repetition, as checkpoints are spaced too far apart.
Even when things go as they should, the clunky controls and thoroughly uninteresting story linking each glorified box factory together make being a terror of the night about as tempting as being a night watchman. Eric Bane – snigger – needs blood to avoid a literal fate worse than death. No amount of it can stop his game being anaemic.
- Expect to pay £30 / $40
- Release Out now
- Developer Kalypso Media
- Publisher Realmforge Studios
- Multiplayer None
A work of sulky blandness that does itself no favours by latching onto better games and cooler vampires.