Friday, February 10, 2012

Sketched Game: Dark Void and game length

Sorry this is late, I actually finished the game last week(and really late if you consider the game came out in 2010), and I've been a little sick *cough cough* but I wanted to talk about Dark Void.  
You play William Grey in the midst of WWII when you're sucked into a portal and go through another dimension filled with robots and tribes people. Pretty soon you find a jetpack and some guns and proceed to shoot robot aliens in the face to save WWII or something.

It's strange.  It didn't have anything special, the gameplay was mundane, the graphics are subpar, the soundtrack was bland, and the story I couldn't care less about, but overall I liked it. Mostly it has to do with it being short and not very annoying. Not annoying can get you far with me, and though it did have some annoying parts, they weren't so annoying that it took me hours to redo them(except for when it froze and I had to rebuy a new version, but that's more on Gamestop than Dark Void

Which reminds me, DON'T EVER BUY USED GAMES FROM GAMESTOP ONLINE. Out of 9 games I ordered, 3 games were faulty. That's a one-third fail rate. Unacceptable Gamestop! In-store pre-owned games have all been fine, however.

I remember at one point when I had to activate a certain something and it was slightly annoying, and I remember thinking to myself, "oh great, I'm going to have to do this twenty more times just so the game can be two hours longer, right?" but miraculously, it was only one or two times and then it was on to the next event.  I can't stand when studios want to make a game longer and just decide you need to beat that one boss or find that one item X amount of times in order to do so (LOOKIN AT YOU PROTOTYPE).

I find I'm more likely to play shorter games these days. About 12-18 hours seems like an acceptable amount of time I find I enjoy playing games. There are a number of games I've started and still need to play, but can't bring myself get back into them because I know they'll probably be more than 30+ hours to beat. (Then there are games I won't even consider buying because I know they'd take too long when I already have so much to get through. 

With Dark Void, I heard it was a shorter game and I could feel the pace moving pretty quickly. It did feel like they had to cut the game short for production purposes rather than a design choice(I didn't even get to use a new weapon they introduced in the next to last level!), but I'm thankful for the length it is. 

Were it a better game, I would consider replaying it. I've replayed Bioshock and Resident Evil 4, and I've recently restarted Dead Space. They all have a manageable gameplay time and they're just that good.  On the other hand, Fallout 3, though I love, I would never be able to play a second time through.  I've logged over 140 hours.  I feel like these days developers have to justify that 60$ price tag by adding 5 million hours to the game.  I'm sure it's easier to make more levels of the same game and re-color the same enemies rather than make a whole new game with new assets, but I do wish they had smaller games for cheaper prices.

Getting back to Dark Void, it's a pretty unremarkable game. It's got the same kind of over the shoulder third person cover shooter gameplay any number of games have these days, except not as fleshed out with a lack of weapons and variant enemies.  The only thing new is being able to use your jetpack to go up or down a level, using the floor/ceiling as cover. It's vertical cover based combat.  It's fun, but not remarkable.

It's pretty fun flying through the air on your jet pack, which is surprising since when I first started playing I immediately remembered I HATE flying games. They just never feel as fun as they sound. "Flying on a jetpack and shooting robot UFOs in the face" sounds a lot more fun than slowly gliding through the air, trying to get a target reticle on the enemy who ALWAYS winds up in back of you.  And it's never fun when you forget to take off properly and end up smacking your face in to the ground, dying instantly. I think we call that a DERP take off.

It also suffers from including two of the most hated gameplay elements still in practice today, quicktime events and escort missions.  Nearly a third of the game is dedicated to escort missions, and they are never fun. At best, you are just thankful you didn't have to redo the level over again. How is it 2012 and escort missions are still around?! No one ever likes escort mission! You do not get to complain about how your game has low sales when you put escort missions in them. The Quicktime events aren't as bad as they could have been, like they were in Vanquish. They're used in pretty much every level in the game, but since they pop up regularly, you start to see the patterns. 

The soundtrack is pretty terrible. I can't remember the last game I played a game where I disliked the soundtrack so much. While the music in the cutscenes is at least passable, the gameplay soundtrack is the same bland jungle drums loop they use for every single level. EVERY SINGLE LEVEL FOR EIGHT HOURS. Did you not pay your composers enough? Those guys are important! Then they have the audacity to end the game with an 8 bit version of the main theme, which I actually liked. Where was that? Why couldn't I hear that during some of the game? And to top it off, they run out of music halfway through the credits. Very unprofessional, Dark Void.

The story was...I don't even know. It was all over the place. It definitely felt like they started strong, then midway through had to scramble and cut cut cut. Things just sort of happen that have no bearing, and you'll go through one cutscene, then a text box will pop up "3 months later" and go straight into gameplay, with the main character still in the same clothes.  I wouldn't bother with the story. At one point one of the characters tosses you a helmet, saying "I think you'll need this" And it effectively does absolutely nothing to the gameplay except now your guy is wearing a helmet. I think it was supposed to be this big story turn, but really it just comes off as "You gain a helmet! No one cares!"  And there's some weird stuff about destiny at the end, which doesn't fit at all, and just makes me feel that the Void is really the Matrix. 

Honestly, I don't see how anyone could have though this could be a 60$ game, or even 50$. 30$ at most, on release day, but it's still not worth more than 20$. Thankfully you can pick it up for $10 or less!  So I did have a number of things to gripe about, but again, it's short and not too annoying, and fairly enjoyable. It was good enough for me to want to finish it, and good enough to go out and buy another copy when I realized the one I had was broken(When I realized two thirds through, that is. GAMESTOOOOP!) So I'd recommend picking it up if you have the time and curiosity. 

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go spend my 150th hour playing Fallout 3.

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