Dark Void Review

It’s a tough world for any new video game IP. If you’re not contending with New Sequel X, you have to get your game into the minds of gamers as something that they should be interested in and spend their hard-earned money on. There’s always the chance that a new game can fail at the cash registers, and minimal-risk decisions by publishers can leave creative minds with few chances to build original worlds to share with others. It can seem like an uphill battle for some developers, which is possibly why we are seeing fewer and fewer new IPs in the videogame industry.

Airtight Games has seen fit to brave these unfriendly skies, though, and have brought Dark Void to the masses in an attempt to combine air, ground, and vertical combat into one fluid, jaw-dropping experience. The question is, do they succeed in creating such a game?

Flying the unfriendly skies

Dark Void places you in the boots of ace pilot Will, who believes he is on a routine delivery flight across the Atlantic. That is until former love interest Ava reveals herself as the one having the packages delivered. While flying over the Bermuda Triangle during a torrential storm, an unknown ship flies in front of Will and Ava, causing them to crash. They then wake up in The Void, a Land of the Lost -type world. As Will, you will don a jetpack, investigate how you ended up in The Void, and blast the Watchers back from enslaving humanity in a 1930s-style serial adventure.

If that synopsis interested you in any way, then I have some bad news: That is about as much story you get in this game. The world in which Dark Void takes place in is an extremely interesting and beautiful place that feels like it was ripped from those same 1930s pulp adventure shorts that played on the silver screen a la Indiana Jones and recent movies like Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. The problem is that the game never fully explores any of it. The story is paced poorly and important events feel like they happen off camera and never fully involve the player. Characters leave and return as if nothing happened and you feel pushed from fantastic set piece to fantastic set piece. It feels like the developers wanted to put you in cool situations, but couldn’t find an interesting reason or good enough way to get you there. I felt rushed through the world and confused as to what was happening. Nothing felt urgent and the story never captured me. The interesting characters and world exist without a narrative to tie them together.

It’s a shame really, because the gameplay itself is some of the most fun I’ve had playing a video game. Airtight Games previously worked on Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge on the Xbox and their flight experience pays off in this game. The game is composed of three equal and impressive systems: Air, ground, and vertical combat. Air combat has you flying around with your jetpack, peforming barrell rolls and loops, shooting down enemy saucers or hijacking them mid-flight. There’s a satisfying feeling when you fly up to an enemy, throw him out of his plane and then use it to shoot down the rest. Ground combat is akin to Gears of War as you take cover and engage in stop-and-pop gameplay. Vertical combat is the same except you are hiding behind cover as you climb structures and jetpack around your enemies to deliver some pain. Once all three of these systems work together, the game really comes together and Dark Void becomes something entirely different then most video games on the market today. An early example of this is when you have to take down a shield generator. As you fly towards the generator, you have to fight of enemy saucers. Once inside, you scale the generator, taking cover under platforms using vertical cover. After destroying the generator at the top of the structure. you have to quickly escape, flying straight out of the generator the way you came in, in an explosive moment. It’s a truly amazing feeling that combines everything the game is trying to achieve. There is no shortage of levels and experiences like these and Dark Void honestly delivers on its “Fight Anywhere” mantra. There is total freedom in the levels and you can approach the battles however you want.

Melee attacks are satisfying and cool to watch

Graphically, Dark Void is an impressive game. Using the Unreal Engine 3, the game renders wide-open environments with an exotic beauty that feels just right for the game and the world it is presenting. Giant mountains and crags jut up like towers and looked aged and worm. Ancient ruins are right next to wonderous technology, making you feel like you are in a world lost in time. The character models also evoke the adventure serial feel, like illustrations on the front of a pulp comic, and their animations are fluid. Will in particular stands out as you soar around, his body moving appropriately under the momentum of flight. Yet with a graphical and visual style that really stands out, it makes you wonder how Airtight Games let the game out the door as the buggy mess it is now.

There are numerous audio and graphical glitches that plague Dark Void. Character voice over will skip and sometimes cut out all together. The orchestral score will sometimes stutter or cut out as well during gameplay. This is a downer as the epic tone set by the music is often killed at the slightest sign of any action. Levels will also glitch and have trouble loading. Will will get stuck in the geometry and textures will fail to load. The game also occasionally fails to communicate your next objective, leaving you confused as to where to go next.

Dark Void is a strong first effort. The combination of flight, ground, and vertical cover combat provides a fun and unique game that is not replicated by anything else out there today. If only the bugs and audio glitches were ironed out and the the narrative were as strong as the gameplay, Dark Void would be a great game. As it stands now, it still has some barriers to overcome.


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Author: Matt Erazo View all posts by

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