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Dark Preview (PC)

Suspending belief is an important concept in game design. If you can’t provide something credible, something that gamers can take on face value without questioning too much, then there’s something wrong. Sure, there may not actually be Vampires in the world, but it’s easy to accept the fact that they can’t stand sunlight, or that they don’t have reflections. Dark is a stealth game about one man’s struggle with the fact that he was recently turned into a vampire. It's old school, it’s anti-action in the sense that there’s no blaze-trails or beating ridiculous odds, but I can’t help but feel it has a bit of a credibility issue.

Perhaps I’ve just played too many videogames or think about these things too much, or both, but there are some things about Dark that make it hard to suspend belief. Despite being a Stealth game, the game world (which looks like it uses a bit of cell-shading) is fairly lit up, and shadows don’t really play an important part. Mob line-of-sight seems incredibly short, so much so that a guy just across the way doesn’t seem to notice when you body slam their co-worker into the ground into the ground. Further to this, apparently subtly feeding one someone is more obvious and loud then killing them. This would make perfect sense, except ‘killing’ them usually involves doing a suplex or something. You can see why it’s like this way – players are being offered a choice: do you go for the quick kill or do you take a risk and feed, which nets you more xp and vital blood points to power abilities. Its simple Risk vs. Reward, except the ‘easy’ option is a bit too stylised. Also, despite decades of evolving game design, the person on the other end of the radio never seems to notice that the person they are talking to suddenly goes silent because you just killed him – what’s with that? Like I said, I think too much.

I think I was a monster hunter in a past life... with long hair

Dark is very much a back-to-basics game, and the developers have tried very hard to recapture the ‘root’ of the stealth game. Despite my previous protestations, the cell-shaded look combines with the comic-book style perfectly, presenting the player with a highly stylised world that’s not boring. As for the stealth part – it’s all down to you. There are no guns for Eric Bane (protagonist, voiced by Geralt of Rivera) to use, no weapons... you simply have to use your natural strength and guile, as well as the array of Vampire abilities you can unlock over time. Vampire abilities range from doing a shadow leap – going from one spot another instantaneously, to Vampire vision so you can scout out the area. Abilities require blood points to use, which you can get by feeding on moral enemies as we’ve just mentioned. A standardised RPG system allows you to level up and develop, and offers some flexibility in terms of what route you take.

Traditionally, Vampires have always been good at laying the smackdown

You’ll need a bit of skill to master this game – the basics such as sneaking around and taking out opponents are easy, but learning the movement controls, line-of-site for various enemies, and what to do in a pinch are going to be more difficult. You can’t just blast your way through mobs as there are no weapons, but you can’t just sumo your way through either. Your abilities have limits, and many of your enemies WILL have guns. Despite a lot of RPG elements, this isn’t going to be a huge game. The Century Nightclub forms the only central hub, and is the only place in the game where you are truly safe from attack. The main elements of the story will be here, and you’ll get most of your missions from here. Dialogue wheels will accompany all of your conversations with the other NPC’s big or small, and they’ll be plenty of cut scenes, plenty of narration by Eric to really immerse players in the story aspect of the game.

In light of the recent announcement of a new Thief game – Dark is in an intriguing position. It’s the quintessential middle-of-the-road title, lacking the budget of an AAA game but not being an Indy either. It’s lucky that it’s probably not going to be around at the same time as the new Thief, as it’d probably pale in comparison. Although there is the whole Vampire thing, but it’s not that… obvious. Stylistically this is a very goth-centric game, but the powers you use have been in other non-vampire games, so if you’re not really into bloodsuckers just think of it as supernatural instead. Dark is due out on PC and Xbox 360 in June 2013.

Most Anticipated Feature: There’s not really a single thing that really excites us at the moment. IT looks like it’s going to be an ok game, nothing more.

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