by Sergio Brinkhuis
previewed on PC
Vampire with a cause
Imagine Deus Ex: Human Revolution against a vampire backdrop but without any weapons, period. Got it? Sounds pretty cool no? RealmForge must have thought exactly the same thing when they dreamt up Dark, their upcoming stealth-based Action-RPG that is set to bring the stealth genre back to its roots. Creative Director Christian Wolfertstetter and Lead Artist Victor Linke showed us their game with (understandably) barely contained pride.
Dark puts you in the shoes of Eric Bane, a former special ops guy turned vampire and desperate to become human again. Something made Eric this way and all leads point towards GeoForge, a global corporation specialized in renewable energy. What mysterious secrets is GeoForge hiding behind its do-gooder façade? And more importantly, what do they have to do with your ‘disease’?
As a vampire, you are not without allies or resources. Your main ally, Rose, owns The Sanctuary nightclub that functions as your main hub throughout the game. Like you, she is a vampire and she is well connected in the underworld. With her help and intel, you plan out your missions and work towards figuring out who really controls GeoForge and how to become human again.
Never bring a gun to a fang-fight
I mentioned there were no weapons in Dark, but that’s not entirely true. Being a vampire, Eric possesses supernatural strength and is deadly with his hands. He is also a master of shadows and his natural affinity for the darkness allows him to hide in even the smallest amount of shade. Using stealth, he prefers getting close to his enemies and taking them out silently from behind. While all those things are fairly standard for a stealth game, I’m still getting to the good part. You see, even when shadows are in short supply, Eric has a few tricks up his sleeve that help him keep the element of surprise on his side.
Eager to show us these tricks, Christian and Victor pointed out a guard standing near a burnt out car wreck, boasting that they could take the man down before he could make a ruckus. Streetlights shining brightly, there was no way to approach the guard unseen, except from the other side of the car wreck. That would leave the car in between Eric and his intended target, a perfect spot to use the Shadow Leap ability. Moving Eric into a cover position behind the car, Christian waited for a second guard to look the other way and had Eric leap over the car in a single smooth movement. Grabbing the guard by the neck, the man had no chance to resist. The deed was done so quietly and efficiently that none of the other guards were any wiser about what was going on.
A second guard could be seen leaning against the wall on the other side of the square, rendering the Shadow Leap ability useless. Eric disappeared in a wisp of black smoke, only to appear right in front of the guard who died before he knew what hit him. A broad grin on his face, Victor said “That was the Shadow Strike ability, cool huh?” and it was.
You gain experience whenever you use any of Eric’s eight special abilities. The experience is applied to the ability that you have just used so expect some to become more powerful than others.
Unlike your average TV vamp, Eric can’t dodge bullets and killing him does not require bullets to be made from silver either. Creating a distraction to lure enemies away from where you want to go is often a better play than meeting them head on. Stealth goes a long way and it is possible to finish the game without killing any other characters than the end bosses of each level.
When you do decide to murder everyone in the room, vampire vision is an invaluable ability that greys out the screen to give you x-ray vision, slows down enemies and highlights any warm bodies in bright red. Now you know exactly where to strike. The last kill has a fun little bonus where the camera zooms in for a fancy yet satisfying final blow.
Dark is brimming with fun features that seem small but - in contrast to our undead hero – really make the whole game come alive. Rose talks you through your missions, updating you as you get closer to your goal. We were told that she becomes something of a love interest for Eric, though I doubt that will pull your girlfriend away from RPat. Missions start off in a mundane (though futuristic) looking environment but end in locations that can only be described as otherworldly. And while the graphics won’t blow you away, the lightly cel-shaded style and deep, dark yet richly colored environments are certain to catch your eye.
Dark was one of the most surprising titles I had the pleasure to see at Gamescom and while it is still early days, I’m quietly excited to see more.