Kyle E. Miller
E3 2013 Hands-On Impressions: DARK
Yes, the title is in all caps.
06.13.13 - 2:57 AM

Stealth tends to be an option these days, but the developers of DARK want stealth to be the best way, if not quite the only way. An action-oriented approach may be possible in this game, but I've played it, and I can tell you that it's going to be tough. The protagonist (whose voice sounds like my favorite Witcher's) has no weapons, gadgets, tools, or machines to help him sneak and slide past enemies. He is, however, a vampire.

The story begins with a raid by the anti-paranormal military group M17, of which the protagonist is a member. During the routine raid, the squad is wiped out, and the protagonist is left feeling ill in a nightclub, alone. Rose, the owner and soon-to-be persistent guide (what would we do without one of those?) helps him recover and explains his new supernatural state. From there, he goes seeking the blood of an elder vampire, which must be imbibed before too long or else he will transform into a ghoul: a mindless undead beast.

The RPG elements are quite light. Indeed, the gameplay is as simple as the cel-shaded graphics, but that doesn't have to be a bad thing. This could allow players to master the few abilities over the six to ten hours the game offers. The protagonist levels up (and yes, stealth kills net more experience) and earns skill points to invest in a small selection of abilities. Some of the simpler ones allow him to feed on enemies or do a Dishonored-like dash behind cover. Other abilities require blood points (read: MP) and offer more powerful alternatives such as a Vader-like choke attack.

I tried two of the levels and while both were similar, I was told that certain areas differ in their parameters. One level, for example, features vampire enemies that can sense any use of vampire abilities. Thus, sneaking through that level might prove even more difficult than the others. The stealth is simple, but everything you might expect in a stealth game is featured here, including detectable corpses, corpse dragging, noise obstacles, distractions, and even an infrared-like vampire vision. Most importantly, there's a circle to indicate enemy awareness — a must in any stealth game.

DARK may be light on the RPG elements, but that could work in its favor, as could the relatively simple presentation and gameplay design. The short length may ensure that no one tires of the gameplay as well. The controls could use a little work, but Realmforge Studios is running out of time, as DARK releases on July 9th. Check back next month for our review.