Vampires have gotten a bad rap lately. The number of games featuring vampires this generation can be counted on one hand, and outside of the Castlevania games, most of them are pretty abysmal. While everyone’s attention seems to be fixated on zombies these days, Realmforge Studios looks to reintroduce vampires of the bloodsucking – not sparkling – variety back to the masses with their upcoming stealth/action game Dark, and I recently got a chance to sit down and see if it has any bite.
To do so, he’ll spend a lot of time at the local vampire meet-up/nightclub Sanctuary. Think of Sanctuary as a sort of hub world for all the missions that you’ll be sent on. You’ll chat with other important vampires who will send you off on your various missions. Interacting with these characters will be familiar to anyone who has touched a Bioware game within the last few years, as the familiar radial dialog wheel allows you to choose from various options to move conversations forward. After talking to a few different notable blood-suckers Eric is whisked away on his first misison.
A vampire isn’t a vampire without the ability to suck blood, and doing so in Dark fuels all of your abilities with blood points – referred to in the game as Vitae. Sucking blood takes time — almost too much time — and leaves you vulnerable to attack. In a pinch, a quick stealth kill move will suffice, but this will prevent you from sucking their blood to refill your Vitae.
You’ll also have other death-dealing abilities like the Shadow Kill, which teleports you to a targeted enemy and kills them instantly. Other abilities are more passive, like Distraction, which allows you to move behind enemies unseen. Being a vampire also gives you certain special traversal abilities. One lets you see the blood flow of any mortal enemies, acting as a sort of infrared vision. Using this ability lets you see through walls, allowing you to watch guard movement and plan accordingly.
Dark features a bold, yet understated, use of cel-shading, giving the entire game a nice comic book vibe without looking overly cartoonish. Punctuating missions are several cutscenes, all designed to look like a highly-stylized motion comic. It’s got a really cool, almost cyberpunk take on the vampire mythos, with dingy alleyways peppered with stark neon signs.
It’s been some time since we’ve gotten a decent vampire game to sink our teeth into, and despite some technical issues, Dark may finally satisfy that craving. With a campaign lasting around ten hours, two different endings based on choices made during the game, a New Game+ mode which carries over abilities earned during the first play-through, and the possibility of additional challenge rooms to be added to the game – development time willing – gives Dark quite a bit of promise. There are some great ideas in here, and hopefully Realmforge gets a chance to polish it up in the few months before its late April 2013 release. Dark will be published by Kalypso Media on PC and Xbox 360, with a possible version on Playstation 3 as well.