It will probably come as no surprise given Ironmace's ongoing legal dispute with Nexon, but the studio announced today that the planned early access release of Dark and Darker has been delayed.
"We truly hate not being able to communicate as freely as we usually do, however due to the sensitive nature of our current situation, we can’t divulge too much information right now," Ironmace said on the Dark and Darker Discord. "I know this isn’t the announcement everyone wanted to hear but we needed to let our fans know that the Early Access release has been delayed a bit.
"Just know that we are working on a ton of things to ensure the game gets out to you as soon as possible. We ask everyone to hold the line just a little longer. Thanks!"
A release date for Dark and Darker hadn't been announced, but Ironmace has previously said it expected early access to begin in late April or early May, followed by a full launch in Q4 of this year.
A demo for Dark and Darker became a major hit on Steam during the Next Fest that took place earlier this year. Even though it was an alpha test and clearly not ready for release, tens of thousands of players embraced the game during its brief availability on Steam. But as its popularity grew, so did the intensity of Ironmace's dispute with Nexon, which accused the studio of building the game using concepts and assets stolen from one of its cancelled projects. That led to the demo's removal from Steam, forcing Ironmace to distribute its final pre-early access playtest build via Bittorrent, an effort that was surprisingly successful. The studio also finally fired back at Nexon in earnest in April, saying its allegations are "nothing more than anti-competitive bully tactics designed to put a small indie firm out of business."
Popular opinion seems very much on Ironmace's side but that doesn't change the reality on the ground, which is that it is facing some very serious allegations leveled by a major game publisher. That's a big problem, especially for a small studio, so it's understandable that Ironmace would have its attention focused on the dispute, rather than on meeting an arbitrary Dark and Darker release target. I've reached out to Ironmace for more information on the delay and a possible new release target, and will update if I receive a reply.