Dark PreviewPublisher: Kalypso Media
, Xbox 360
Like any trade show, GamesCom is always a tiring and stressful affair, with missed meetings and powercuts and even stolen PCs this year as well. Frankly, it’s a miracle that anyone makes it to any of the meetings on time in the crush and confusion, let alone is able to process any of the information that’s being thrown at them.
Anyway; it’s not an ideal place to show off a new stealth game, as you can probably imagine – though that’s exactly what Kalypso were trying to do this year with Dark.
‘Dark is a vampiric stealth game in a cel-shaded style,
’ one of the developers yells from the chair next to us, just to be heard. On the table in front his colleague is playing through a demonstration of the game which currently shows the main character walking through a nightclub that acts as a hub between missions. We ask exactly how stealthy the game is – is this a linear thing like Splinter Cell or an open experience like Thief? Is this really just an action game with shadows or is it something more? Are there guns?
‘There are no guns,
’ comes the answer, along with the fact that the game is linear but with plenty of room to experiment. In this cartoony vampire noir, the plot of which is still shrouded in mystery, you’re given bonuses for evading encounters rather than attacking foes head-on. You can play the entire game without killing anyone, the developer says airily.
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Key to achieving this is the range of mystical vampire abilities that protagonist Eric Bane receives as a newly turned vamp, allowing him to instantly teleport short distances, confuse enemies or pounce unseen from the shadows. Each of these shadow abilities - of which there are eight to accompany the eight missions – is powered by blood, however and, as you can probably guess, that’s a resource which comes solely from killing enemies or loitering civilians. There’s a nice interface set-up here then, where in order to complete levels perfectly you need to have never been seen, which means you’ll need to use your powers carefully – but since abilities are powered by blood…
Dark’s levels are worthy of comment too, with the nightclub hub we saw seguing into a skyscraper office block when Eric’s mysterious mission takes him up against a company called GeoForge. Starting at the bottom, Eric has to climb GeoForge’s tower and reach the penthouse, where an ancient analogue to Vlad the Impaler runs the corporation to evil ends. There’s a surprisingly chilling sequence when Vlad’s room is finally uncovered and the clinical décor suddenly changes for the grisly – Vlad keeps a trophy room to display the various remnants of his victims.
Vlad isn’t the main villain of the story, Kalypso says, but he’s certainly a important character in the story; using a private garden he owns as a hunting ground for various prey he captures and haunts.
This ‘Skygarden’ as Vlad has dubbed it will come to play an important role in the story too, apparently – though for now its left unseen and Eric instead returns to the nightclub once more as the screen fades to black. The duo of designers turn expectant faces back at us and ask what we think. What do
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Well, the first glance is encouraging enough for what is probably one of the smaller teams staking a presence at the show this year – there’s a fierce sense of style to the look of the game especially. The actual design may not be the most ambitious thing we’ve ever seen admittedly; we can’t say that this looks to be the most stunning third-person action-stealth game we’ve ever seen, but it’s about par for the course. We also like some of the more subtle touches that are woven into the game, such as the deliberate change of colour palettes within levels to keep things fresh, as well as the restraint in the design. More isn’t always better.
Before the team can start whooping and cheering though, we admit that we do have concerns – foremost of which is whether there’s the game will be able to stand out in to an increasingly jaded market. As we approach the end of this console generation, can Dark really stand out against a backdrop of ever more outlandish ideas and designs? Admittedly, we don’t present the idea quite that bluntly, but the question hangs in the air regardless – and no convincing answers are immediately forthcoming from the pair.
[i]Dark will be published by Kalypso Media at the start of 2013 on Xbox 360 and PC. Until then, check out our GamesCom 2012 coverage
for more news and previews from the show.