How Dark is 2Dark?
I came to 2Dark with absolutely no working knowledge of the Alone in the Dark game series. I knew of the series’ existence, but that was by and large the limit of what I did actually know about the games. Because of this, I didn’t have any preconceptions of what I was approaching, and therefore didn’t have any expectations that could be left unfulfilled when it came to the time of wrapping my review. As I played though, It soon became very apparent that Alone in the Dark and 2Dark were going to be completely different games, and not having played any of the former games would hold no sway on one’s experience with the latter.
For those who are familiar with Alone in the Dark let me be the first to inform you that gone is Edward Carnby, the protagonist from the original 2008 game up to the 2015 installments. We are instead introduced to a protagonist known only as Mr. Smith who, after a camping trip gone awry (resulting in the murder of his wife and his children kidnapped) his only goal in life is to right the wrongs done to the innocent everywhere while hopefully finding his own missing offspring in turn. The game picks up exactly seven years after the events of aforementioned vacation, leading us to presume that poor Mr. Smith has been unsuccessful in his endeavors, yet still he persists. This, in a nutshell, is the premise of 2Dark.
2Dark starts with a great deal of promise. A stylized environment reflective of the bygone days of noir storytelling featuring a dastardly kidnapping ring hidden within a town already laden with crime and one washed up old detective who is tackling the one case he was never able to solve: who destroyed his family? All in all, this should make for some well thought out narrative, and I’ll be the first to admit that it really does. However, right as you begin gameplay, something about 2Dark begins to feel a little bit off.
Artistically, the mood and the design just don’t mesh. With the pixelated, washed out color scheme things are already hard to pick out, now couple that with a ¾ isometric camera angle, the all too constant shadows and varied yet pitiable light sources (almost all of which are poor, and those that are least so never last long) and you have yourself a mighty big problem when it comes to just trying to figure out where on earth you’re going! I fell to my death twice within the first three minutes of gameplay only because I didn’t know that what I was looking at in the space ahead of me, which was in fact, a giant hole.
The in between cut scenes are narrated with pretty good voice acting, but inside of the game you are met with weird floating text for character interactions that can actually overlap depending on where you are standing on the map, rendering important information almost unobtainable in certain circumstances.
One of 2Dark’s saving graces is that the stealth is done well enough to not cause any more problems than the standard application of stealthing creates in most games. There are long periods in which you must wait to pull off a kill, and because NPCs move around a lot you have to make sure you time your kills just right so as to avoid being obliterated yourself (because NPCs take a LOT of firepower to kill when approaching them head on, while you have the sustainability of a dried leaf in a hurricane). Most of the time kills can be accomplished easily enough, but there were a few instances in which I was at a complete loss as to how best to achieve them.
One thing I didn’t understand was that, although the game tells you how to kill and even recommends stealth kills over head to head combat, doing any actual killing deducts from your final score for each chapter. The reason this was perplexing (beside aforementioned reason), is that there are multiple instances in the game in which I cannot believe there was any other alternative, especially in the first real “boss battle” of the game. One might find this frustrating, and I would have counted myself as one such person, but if I’m going to be honest, the first chapter was so utterly exhausting that I didn’t even care that I only got two out of the five possible stars for my final grade. The second level was more forgiving in that regard, however it wasn’t long before each level, one after the next, had me going in circles trying to find the next solution to my latest inherited problem.
This issue is where 2Dark really falls apart as a game for me: the lack of clarity for what it is you’re supposed to be doing. Yes, as stated before, the overarching premise is to find and rescue children, but the question of how from one scenario to the next was a gnawing question in my mind more often than not, and because you are given little to no instructions as you play, the game can become very frustrating very quickly.
Mechanics that appear to be interesting and clever also fizzle and die as often as your light sources. Candies are given to the children when you find them so as to ensure they will follow you to safety, however, you can just as easily approach and speak to them, or simply grab them and drag them (with one hand) all the way out of the door. Candy can apparently also be used to flip switches or pose as distractions for enemy NPCs if you need to make a quick escape, but at the end of the day a quick knife to the back did the job better and faster.
Quick tip: Make sure you actually have a candy equipped before you try to hand one off to a child. Apparently the natural reaction Mr. Smith has when you left click/ press [E] with an empty hand is to punch someone. Likewise, a hand with an equipped weapon is for sure to kill a friendly NPC. I punched many a child in this game, completely on accident I assure you. Thankfully, candy worked to patch things over. Sorry, kids.
For all of that, I must say that 2Dark is a fun and interesting little game, but at the end of the day it wasn’t knocking my socks off. The game became repetitive, frustrating, and uninteresting all too quickly, and each level takes less than an hour to complete unless you run into a bug or a figurative wall when it comes to progression. Nevertheless, I’ve played better stealth titles that offered more varied gameplay, and unless you’re a big fan of the noir genre or enjoyed the Alone in the Dark series, you can probably write this small title off.
Final Verdict: 2.5/5
Available on: Xbox One, PC (reviewed), PlayStation 4; Publisher: BigBen Interactive ; Developer: GloomyWood; Players: 1 ; Released: March 10th, 2017 ; ESRB: M for Mature ; MSRP: $19.99
This review is based on a PC review copy of 2Dark given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.