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New South Wales, Australia
Game Developer, Composer & Gamer.

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Friday, September 3, 2010

Review #2: Darkest of Days

Platform: PC    
Type of controller: Mouse+KB    
Install time: Approx 5mins  
Dependancies (Included in installation): Prereqs  
Notes about installation: Originally this game didn't work in my version of Vista (nVidia OpenGL driver kept crashing. However it works flawlessly in Windows 7)

Game website: http://www.darkestofdays.com    
Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darkest_of_Days


My thoughts about the game;
Darkest of days was something that i had been interested in play for a long time, however because it didn't work on my 64bit Vista i haven't had the chance to play it for over a year....

That aside, first impressions of the game are quite good, from what i had heard and read you are sent back in time to "correct" the mistakes of history. You fight in olden day battles with either period or futuristic weapons.

This game delivers exactly on that promise, however don't be fooled into thinking that there are going to be a variety of different time preiod battles to fight. The story is set out like a tree based story, meaning for the first few chatpers you choose whether to fight and look for someone in the American civil war, or look for a different person during the first world war (Russians vs Germans -- You are posing as russian soldier)

The game doesn't stray from these 2 time periods very often, which is a shame because there are many other great historic battles that would be awesome to fight in but probably would of made the game take alot longer to develop and also much larger in terms of GB size.

One thing i must mention before i get into the technical stuff about the game, the first surprise was the "leader" of the group you work for seems to be a computer by the name of "Mom". The voice of this computer is actually an Australian woman who the voice of i knew immediately but couldn't think of her name... It turns out this actress is actually the voice on the government phone line of "Your call is important to us, please hold and an operator will be with you shortly to take your call".. Not sure how she landed this job i mean the developers aren't Australian and frankly it's a weird choice for the character aswell because it just doesn't seem to fit the profile of this computer. I won't spoil it but you will find out what i mean if you play through the game...

Developer standpoint;

The difficulty in this game is quite good. I play most games on easy, not because i suck but because i like to progressively finish a game, if it's worth it. First i'll complete the story on easy, then medium, then hard. However it's rare these days for me to go back to even finish it again on medium.

Enemies on easy are still challenging on this game, but not so much that it becomes bullshit for an "easy" difficulty like many other games do these days.
Even on easy, you will still die occasionally and the game is kind of punishing if you go in guns blazing and rush everywhere. Some missions you can do this others not so much.

Animations and visual effects
The animations are top notch... well right up until the characters actually stark speaking... then you will see the lip syncing in this is horrible.. But the actual character design and the way they move around the world is quite good. Another thing this game's engine was designed for was rendering hundreds of AI characters onscreen at once, all with their own individual AI and pathways... Considering this game doesn't lag at all (on my i7 i have everything on max and @ 1080p) is a real testament to this engine.

The game shows this off in a subtle way aswell, with the American civial war parts especially...
At Custer's Last Stand you get to be in a massive row while you line up opposing the rebels on other side of a ditch in a cornfeild.. that part for me was like i wanted to clap for the developers for doing a great job. They also disable the ability to run around at those points and just enable you to look around which i thought was another nice touch to make it seem more historically accurate.

The visual effects are also pretty impressive, the environments suit the time setting and the explosions and debris are about as good as you would expect from a not-quite AAA title.

The environments for me worked very well, parts where you're chasing indians through a gulley and in creeks was very immersive. The forests and cornfeilds and even the trenches in the WW1 scenarios were all very well made. I don't think i noticed anything "wrong" with the environments at all, i thought everything was quite well designed.

One thing i should note about the environments, especially the "headquarters" part which is in the present timeline, is bloody clipping. Yes for those of you who read my Kane & Lynch review you will know that i hate it when developers just slap in player clips around the world and expect you to just not walk there..
The main one that annoys me in this is at the friggen headquarters, i mean that is where the player is going to spend the most time... And they cant even fix the little pad thing where the big time bubble thing appears before every mission.

For those of you who haven't played it, the time bubble thing is in the center of the very small HQ room, sitting ontop of a circular platform which has 3 steps going to the top of the platform at 4 sides of the circle... Now you would think you can just walk up those steps, oh no you have to fucking jump up every time... i found that the most irritating part of this game..

Sound design
The sound design in this game (with the exception of the voice of the computer), is also very well done.
The period weapons actually sound like period weapons, and the futuristic guns have that distict futuristic style that many of you may be familiar to from games like HL2 or Halo...

The one sound that i thought was really awesome and actually has scared me on occasion, was the "snap" of the time bubble thing appearing... You never know where its going to exactly appear at the end of a mission, and sometimes you go to where you think it will appear and it snaps right behind you and makes you jump (especially if you have loud surround sound like me lol)

Story and character development
To give this game credit, time travel stories are always going to be full of plot holes and parts that don't make alot of sense.
This game has those same problems but overall masks them fairly well. The main problem i have with the story is it's quite cliche however i give it credit for being an original time travel idea, albiet a pretty corny and cliche one but original none-the-less.

The character development in this however is not quite up to speed and i've struggled to find any sort of caring for the main character. Like some other games such as Half-Life, the main protagonist is mute, at least for most of the story. You are a "Mystery of time" like other members of KronoTek (the organisation you work for).
There are some great original ideas for the consequences of going back in time and changing things, however they don't exactly make alot of sense and the consequences aren't that drastic.
In relation to the above, the way the game handles these history altering actions is quite original however the way it punishes you is not as drastic as you might think. All that really happens when you kill someone with a historic importance (they have a blue aura), is a couple of time travelling soldiers appear and then try to kill you. Now if you do this early on the game they will most definately kill you. But in the later stages of the game, you are given the ability to kill these soldiers because of some intel you have obtained. So if you have any futuristic weapons and you kill a historic VIP and those soliders appear, you can just kill them and take their guns, leaving no consequence for your actions apart from a descreased number of XP at the end of the mission.

Closing statement
This game is worth playing however i wouldn't pay too much for it. I would say this game is worth about 15-20USD at the most, but it's definately entertaining and fun to go back in time and fight in olden day battles with both period and futuristic weapons.
One last thing about this game that is unique and that i found to be a little confusing at first but when you get used to it you will probably think its a nice addition;
The reload system. It's a little difficult to explain but you know those quick time events some games have where you have to press a button at a certain time when a bar reaches a certain spot? Bowling games and sports games have this alot.. well the reload system in this game has that, it's a radial green bar in the middle of your screen, and when you press reload, the bar starts to fill and you can press Mouse1 when its at a certain spot and it will reload quicker than just pressing reload and not worrying about the bar.
However if you do press mouse1 and its not inside the little spot the gun will jam for a short time and you wont be able to fire at all, so make sure you practise with this mechanic at times when you wont be shot to peices because of a gun jamming.
All in all i would say it only takes about 3 or 4 missions to nail this feature and you wont need to worry about jamming again (it's not like FarCry 2 thank god)

Story: 4.5/10  
AI: 4/10
Sound: 7/10
Voice: 6.5/10    
Controls: 7/10    
Models (Characters): 6.5/10  
Models (Props): 8/10  
Textures: 7.5/10  
Technical Complexity: 6/10    
Replayability: 5.5/10    

Total: 62.5/100

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