There are a lot of games out there that know what they should do, and Dark is definitely one of those games. On paper the game has a conversation wheel, different stealth powers and an interesting art style. However, in practice, the game falls short. Is it a lack of quality? Is it a lack of attention? Whatever it is, Dark is just lacking something that should hold the fabric of the game together.
First off, vampires. The whole premise of the game is based around your character discovering that he is a vampire and must hone his powers. Again, this seems like something I would normally get behind on a stealth game. However, the story line turns out to be a bad gritty Twilight (I know, hard to imagine) story. Not in that there is a love triangle but more just that the story line barley holds itself together.
Dark, being a stealth game, also lacks all of the good qualities of a modern day stealth title. The AI is predictable in patterns, but unpredictable in when they will actually be able to detect you. This lead to me retrying sections over and over and over AND OVER again. A good stealth game has to communicate to the player the environment around them, and this is just not done well at all. With titles out there like Dishonored and Mark of the Ninja there are better examples of the stealth genre that are much more competent, and more coherent, than Dark.
So, if Dark doesn’t do stealth well, then it must make up for it in combat right? Wrong… there is a plethora of skills and upgrade trees for the player to mess with, but it all lacks finesse or even value. Once the main character is found it is better just to restart than to try to fight your way through encounters. The powers also rely on blood from your victims, which is tedious and obviously just a limited factor so that the player isn’t allowed to spam abilities. For the life of me I can’t understand this choice. Why implement such a limiting factor on powers and abilities and then throw a huge power wheel full of options at a player? The two ideologies of gameplay mechanics clash and the overall experience is devastating for someone that wants to enjoy an action or stealth game.
All of this, and I mean all of the bad things I have mentioned, are all backed by floaty unresponsive controls. Preforming moves to stay stealthed led me to accidentally alarming guards and other enemies. This is just an unforgivable offense when it comes to stealth games and has to be extremely frustrating for any player. At some points in the game I had to set the controller down and walk away in anger, making it hard for me to enjoy the game for longer than an hour at a time.
Dark is jam packed full of great ideas and is obviously made by a team that loves games. Unfortunately those ideas are not fully realized and are just not done right. Some more time and love put into the game could have done this game good. I look forward to seeing more from this team when they have time to hone their craft. Unfortunately that means Dark is a product of a team that needs to learn a little bit more about game design.
Maybe the game should have stayed in the dark for a little bit longer before release.