Genre Action, Adventure, Platformer / Platforms PC
Developer Allgraf / Publisher KISS ltd
Back in 2009, the gaming world was introduced to a pretty unique concept, in the form of Minecraft. The idea was simple: you can build whatever is in your mind – from spaceships, to underground laboratories, castles, cars, ancient temples, torture chambers, whole cities etc. – using blocks, LEGO-style. Sure, other aspects like crafting and survival were also implemented, but the sheer idea of a game limited only by your imagination became a phenomenon in our industry.
Naturally, other developers took this concept, and started expanding upon it. One of these studios is Allgraf, with its game being called Darkout. Darkout is a 2D action/adventure platformer, focusing on exploring, crafting, and building. While it has its moments when everything “clicks,” for the time being, Darkout simply feels clumsy, and incomplete.
The game’s basic premise is that you are a survivor who crash-lands on an unknown planet, filled with hostile aliens. It’s not the most original plot, and it also doesn’t get any deeper, but there are some audio-logs scattered throughout the world, which give you a little more insight on the current events. That said, a game which focuses on exploring a never-ending world doesn’t really need a story, so the whole survivor plot can easily be forgotten.
Darkout initially tasks you with the creation of a character. Your options include choosing a name, a gender, and the color of your suit. After that comes the creation of your world. Here, you are allowed to choose its name, size, and randomness. Darkout features two difficulty settings: normal, and builder. Builder seems to be the equivalent to Minecraft’s creative mode, as – among other features – all crafting options are automatically unlocked, enemies deal you no damage, and crafting is instantly done.
At the beginning of Darkout, you are given a few essential items with which to start your adventure: an axe, a pickaxe, and a shovel – necessary for traversing and gathering logs – a gun, some torches, the very important Combinator (I’ll get to that in a minute), and a few others.
Your first task consists of building a shelter. Unfortunately, the initial tutorial does a minimum job at instructing you around Darkout’s basic surviving features, after which it abruptly ends, leaving you to figure out for yourself the other basic concepts of the game. Having to look-up how to teleport in this kind of game, or kill the most basic of enemies really says something about how poorly the game is presented. Couple that with quite a few bugs related to its interface, and Darkout’s first impression is not a positive one.
The game’s main feature – building – consists of two other components: crafting, and researching.
A few basic items can be crafted on the go (like wood), while more complex ones (like beds, tables, wardrobes etc.) can only be done while standing near two devices: either the Combinator, or the Furnace. Unfortunately, during my playtime, I’ve encountered a huge glitch, which prevented me from accessing the Furnace, and in doing so, crafting more complex items. I had to restart the whole game three times before it would appear. I honestly find it weird that such an important item like the Furnace is not available from the get-go.
Not everything is craft-able from the very beginning, and that’s where researching comes into play. You can research new items (like arrows, windows, jars, guns etc.) by using research points, which are obtained by doing pretty much anything, from digging, to killing aliens, obtaining different materials etc.
As I’ve mentioned in the beginning, when Darkout “works,” it can actually be fun. Going on a search for materials like logs, coal etc. – in order to craft new items, from which your suit can also benefit – and randomly stumbling over some ruins or a new cave can feel quite fulfilling. Your safe-house allows you to sleep overnight, avoiding most of the aliens – even though they’re pretty moronic – and also store your items, if the inventory gets full.
Besides the bugs, I’ve also encountered a few puzzling choices. For once, the camera always follows your cursor, which can be downright frustrating if you choose to click on the UI buttons, instead of using the hotkeys. I also don’t like the fact that there’s no way of instantly going back to your safe-house, other than dying. Sure, you could place your only teleport beacon, but then you’d have to get back to your last position by foot, which can be quite tedious. The game also doesn’t always make sense – why can’t I use my pickaxe to kill the aliens, but I can with the sword? Additionally, the lack of a map is disappointing.
On the presentation side, the game does an admirable job at portraying the procedurally-generated worlds, even though its protagonist could use a bit more fleshing out. From the plants’ shiny colors, to the background, the caverns, the lightning, it all looks convincing enough. The soundtrack doesn’t particularly stand out, and I would have also liked to hear more ambient sounds.
Even though Darkout is advertised as a base game, it honestly feels like an Early Access title. The tutorial is bare-bones – at best – the game is filled with way too much bugs and glitches, and a few odd choices and omissions deter from the overall enjoyment. On the plus side, crafting, researching, building an even bigger house, exploring the environment, stumbling over new structures, items, and enemies can all provide a good time (when they all actually work). It also only costs 11,99€/~15$, so there’s that.
+ Crafting & Researching
+ Exploring the Environment
+ Convincing World
– Incredibly Bare-Bones Tutorial
– Way Too Many Bugs & Glitches
– Odd Choices & Ommisions
The Score 6.5
In addition to being a PC editor, Vlad Pintea is also a chief of news and reviews here at Analog Addiction, and sometimes he even speaks his own mind. You can contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, on Skype (vlad94pintea), Steam, Facebook, and Twitter. Have a good day, and remember: stay calm, and keep on gaming!