I purchased Dark last year, full of optimism. I’ve been a huge fan of the urban fantasy genre for years (you can thank Buffy for that), but I’ve always found the genre to be sadly underrepresented in the video game medium. So, when I heard about Dark – a stealth game with vampires – I was ecstatic. Since the Legacy of Kain series died off, I couldn’t remember the last time I had played a video game where a vampire was the main character (Skyrim’s optional vampirism notwitstanding), and to have it in a legitimate urban fantasy setting for once was incredibly appealing.
The game itself started off well, with a promising story, and a tutorial that showcased what seemed like strong gameplay. However, by the second half of the very first level, it became apparent that the game wasn’t exactly… polished. Eric Bane, the hero, has numerous abilities at his disposal (which are unlocked by spending experience gained through killing enemies, and completing locations), but many of them don’t actually work – especially in the situations where you need them to the most. The game has numerous glitches, which end up causing the gameplay to devolve into an exercise in frustration – with trial and error becoming the only way forward.
Saying that, in the moments when Eric’s powers do work, and the AI acts how it should (rare though they are) the game does reward you with a feeling of pretty immense satisfaction. There’s nothing quite like leaping off a railing to sink your teeth into a security guard below, then telekinetically grabbing his nearby friend and choking him to death, all in one fell swoop, but sadly situations like these are few and far between, as usually you’ll find abilities refusing to be activated – especially when there are enemies around with which you could actually utilize the abilities.
Dark is, sadly, not a game I would recommend. It’s well designed, with some beautiful graphics, but as a whole it’s incredibly poorly implemented – to the point of being by far the most frustrating game I have ever played on the Xbox 360. What had the potential to be a lot of fun was sadly lost amidst a fog of glitches, bad lighting, faulty AI, and poor choices. This is made all the more depressing by the fact that, to my knowledge, there are no other urban fantasy games like it on the Xbox 360. I know of a few games that were planned, but none of them ever came to fruition.
Dark’s premise had a lot of potential, but sadly the final product was just incredibly underwhelming. My only hope is that this game’s failure doesn’t deter future game developers from re-visiting this concept, with – hopefully – a bit more success. With properly integrated vampire skills, and better use of light and dark in the stealth gameplay, this could have been, at worst, a passable game. But with a bit more thought, and some proper playtesting, it could have been great – and I sincerely hope that the Playstation 4 and Xbox One get to see a game like this released, only… better.