Distorting Dimensions: Darkest Of Days Demo

By John Walker on August 12th, 2009 at 10:00 am.

We mentioned the time travelling madness of Darkest Of Days yesterday – the game in which you travel through history, undoing the damage another naughty temporal traveller has done, ensuring certain people live, while many others are mowed down by completely inappropriate weapons. Well now you can see it for yourself via the pleasures of a demonstration module.

So how is it? It’s, as you might have guessed, a bit mixed. It’s impossible to shake the feeling that you’re playing a reasonably impressive mod. But still, a reasonably impressive one.

The engine, made by the team, again sits in that awkward position of: decent for a small team, but falling short of the competition. And of course since it’s being sold as a full price game, that’s likely going to draw some hefty criticism upon release. But demos are free, hooray hooray. And this one’s a decent length.

Beginning with a snatch of Custer’s last stand at the Battle of Little Bighorn, it confusingly forces you to be injured or something, and then drags you 300 years into the future. A peculiarly voiced lady computer tells you what’s the what, and then you’re sent to a training camp to learn to fire weapons. Return from that and you’re given a pretend choice between fighting with the Russians in WW1, or diving into the American Civil War. Only the latter is available, and then you get your first taste of how it all works.

And how it all works is an interesting combination of on-rails (sometimes literally) shooting, and checkpoint-based advances. At first you’re given a pair of contemporary weapons, slow to reload and forcing you to play authentically. Then once you’ve got far enough it goes, “screw that!” and hands you a machine gun. Which is a lot of silly fun.

It’s smartly paced – the machine gun would be meaningless if you hadn’t been faffing about with the pokey-pokey one-shot pistols before. But the change of pace gives the latter stage more impact.

However, the problems are many. The engine is clunky, and with V-synching on, for me, became a spluttering mess. More ridiculous is the jump, where you appear to be on the moon. It’s over-generous with your aiming, and under-generous with your health, and while lots of the details seem lovely – the horses especially – it looks a good couple of years out of date.

Still, I enjoyed myself once it reached the level proper. It couldn’t have been a more restricted corridor, but the set-pieces, if on a daytime TV drama budget, rather than a Hollywood movie, were entertaining enough. You can get the 740MB demo here.

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50 Comments »

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  1. Howard says:

    Gah! Much downloading for one morning! It’s in the queue…

  2. Howard says:

    Also LOL at “High speed violation of Geneva Convention”. That alone justifies the download =)

  3. Bossman says:

    I think the engine is actually quite impressive because it does let you have dozens of enemies and friendlies on screen at once. I think that’s more important than flashy graphics.

  4. Jockel says:

    Looks as if could be fun. Getting the demo through Steam now.

  5. MrBejeebus says:

    I wish the rest of the game felt as cool as when he appears in the portal…

  6. Howard says:

    That was…barking. Pretty good fun, but barking…

  7. l1ddl3monkey says:

    Adequately proves why the invention of the machine gun put an end to the “Infantry Line” formation.

  8. Saul says:

    Awful.

  9. Serph says:

    On the contrary, I thought it wasn’t bad at all – it’s definitely not “AAA” but it’s a lot better than a mod. I would buy it, just for the fun factor. My only complaint is that nobody seems to notice when you’re using a superpowered weapon from the FUTURE…if I used a machine gun in the 1800’s, even my own side would probably be scared ****less…

  10. Teis says:

    @Serph: thats my thinking. Also, imagine a flametrower in 1800. Half the region will disband in terror, enemy and alied togueter.

  11. Schmung says:

    Doesn’t seem to like my PC much, but pretty damm fun actually. Heartily bonkers.

  12. Cirdain says:

    I was mild-ly impressed

  13. chaosgasket says:

    I like that all three of the soldiers in the picture are the exact same guy… apparently time-travel also encourages cloning.

  14. jon_hill987 says:

    From the screaming on the Steam forums (should be taken with a pinch of salt I’m sure) it seems that the devs have seen fir to cut out a large chunk of their potential audience by making PhysX a requirement to run the game. ATI users are therefore forced to view a slideshow. A unified hardware physics API can’t come soon enough if you ask me.

  15. Schmung says:

    oh right, that would explain the issue I’m having then.

  16. postmanX3 says:

    I didn’t really like it.

    Guns were stiff, AI was brain dead, and I crashed countless times. Oh well.

  17. BobJustBob says:

    The options screen has three PhysX settings and it says it only uses the graphics card for the top two. The lowest is the default, so it should be using the CPU for all those whiny ATI people.

    My biggest complaint about the demo is that you can’t use the number keys to switch between weapons. Have these guys ever played an FPS before?

  18. Sajmn says:

    The installer tries to do all kinds of weird stuff when installing, including checking out the My Pictures folder, accessing startup and Thunderbird, debug privilages and some other stuff. Good thing I have a nice antivirus to catch all this stuff.

  19. DK says:

    “My biggest complaint about the demo is that you can’t use the number keys to switch between weapons. Have these guys ever played an FPS before?”

    You can switch weapons with the moust wheel. Have you played an FPS before?

  20. -Spooky- says:

    “Vorsprung durch Technik” .. true true.. :D

  21. ids says:

    Just horrible demo. Graphics and game play are much outdated. But the story idea is ok. But i just find horrible over all

  22. Jockel says:

    I didn’t have any problems with my Ati card ( Radeon 4770 PhysX on low – 4xAA / 8xAF) but the graphics aren’t that great either. The game itself was ok, would be more fun if you didn’t have to bother with the old guns at all. Will this be a full price title? I might get it if there’s a sale on steam or something.

  23. HidesHisEyes says:

    Didn’t have any real problems here with graphics or anything.

    Demo was fun but lacked serious polish. Not something I’d pay £20 for but something I’d definately play.

    I liked having to start with the old weapons, i thought that worked well.

  24. Saul says:

    Look, let me elaborate on that “awful”. The graphics are outdated, no doubt, but I can easily live with that. The situations are kind of interesting, although being forced to run in a particular direction rubs me up the wrong way. T

    he story concept itself is great, but it’s just implemented so horribly. Nothing is explained in a way that makes it interesting (“You have to save certain people from the past!” “Why?” “Because!” “Why me?” “You just seemed like the guy to do it!”). Both the script and the voices themselves are completely embarrassing.

    If this had been released ten years ago, then maybe I’d be interested, but really, there’s no excuse these days for such a shithouse story.

  25. jon_hill987 says:

    @BobJustBob: Like I said, the screaming should be taken with a pinch of salt, it was the Steam forums after all…
    I haven’t got an ATI card or played the demo yet so I have no idea just how big a problem it is for these people but if the lowest setting uses the CPU and they still struggle then it seems they need to upgrade rather than complaining.

  26. Dead Fish says:

    I liked it despite the dated look. The first mission probably wasn’t the best way of showing the game’s concept, though, because none of the soldiers react to your time traveling shenanigans. They should start running away as soon as their mates are being mowed down by that machine gun.

    Instead of imitating a Call of Duty, maybe they should be looking more towards games like Painkiller.

  27. dragon_hunter21 says:

    Just something for those of you looking to get more out of this demo: If you kill the guys with the blue aura, two or three future soldiers pop out of nowhere. The’re reasonably easily defeated, and you can pick up their guns, which include a burst-firing pistol and some sort of automatic rifle with a scope. Still, I’m sad that I can’t play with the flechette gun in the demo.

  28. Jad says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed that. Yeah the graphics are a little old, but seriously, who cares? Also, there are more enemies on the screen than in most recent FPSes.

    I think calling it a “reasonably impressive mod” is a disservice. As we discussed yesterday in the Rage thread, mods are really hard to do nowadays. If it were a mod, I’d say it was a incredibly impressive mod.

    And if were a mod, it would be a mod of a Call of Duty game. I loved the COD games, so I had no problem with the on-rails, invisible-walls, scripted nature of Darkest of Days.

    Basically my only complaint is what others have said: not enough done with the premise. Enemies should be screaming in fear when I pull out the assault rifle. My buddies should be awed and bit frightened. “I’m glad you’re on our side!” or something. Your character should be more freaked out by being teleported into the future — at the very least your guide should note that the holograms you shoot in the tutorial are not, you know, ghosts.

    Anyway, I’ve always wanted to play an FPS in older time periods, but was aware of the whole “guns sucked back then” problem. This game neatly solves that issue, and for that it is a likely purchase. Maybe not at full price, but seriously, how could I pass up a chance to use a rocket launcher on Roman legionnaires?

  29. Morticus says:

    My hats off for attempting something completely different. I’m going to pick it up, just to show my support for a smaller studio taking a risk.

    What gamer hasn’t ever thought, “What would that war have been like with weapons from today?”

  30. Günter says:

    As mentioned in the most recent RPS podcast, mediocre FPSs are fun. This is looking like the best kind of Sunday afternoon mindless shooty-shooty, and I’ll probably grab it once the price goes down.

  31. Maccoy says:

    this demo was neat and made me want more…especially after watching the weapon introduction vid….im glad they dont take themselves that seriously….., sure the graphics where outdated..but not by much….and the game starts and loads in like 4 seconds…the reload spinny circle thing was a nice touch.

  32. Ben says:

    Loved this demo. The game has a very light hearted feel to it, from the initial training (Die, Hans, Die!) right up to being handed the machine gun in the fields. I was for the most part impressed with the graphics and animations, particularly the reloading on the musket, and the inside of those crazy time bubbles. I also liked the system of being able to reload faster, and the way I had to balance this chance with the risk of having my weapon jam on me. Definitely got my eye on this one, I can’t wait to take on some Roman soldiers with a combat shotgun!

  33. Misnomer says:

    There are some sections on rails and some not so much. You can fun from one side of Antietam to the other if you feel like it. Completely ignore your troops and just plunge into the Confederates…..well it works if you have the Assualt Rifle thing… In any case, the battle will go on with or without you. You are a time traveling freak and they have a war to fight. At one point I actually chased retreating confederates across the map just for jollies. While there is no dynamic AI to make them turn and fire, it is something you could never do in a AAA title like COD4.

    I think the lack of health is a good thing. I like that even though you are a timetraveling dude with future tech you are not a superhero. Quite a few times the game just puts you in your place.

    Not sure why everyone is complaining about graphcis. Equally looks as good as COD4 and has better motion blur and depth of field implementation. Not to mention the static background art and sky box are far less hokey looking. I suppose it is dated compared to Crysis and some other recent things….but it most reminded me a bit less pretty Far Cry 2.

    Top complaints from me are no prone, hold right mouse for iron sights, and lack of extra button assigning. Sounds like the Xbox 360 development striking kit again…just like with Fear 2 and Far Cry 2.

  34. Maj.Havok says:

    I kinda enjoyed this, I agree with most of the praises and complaints given, like graphics are a little on the weak side if compared to Crysis, but they are still not bad. As you get farther into the demo you get used to them, it was actually fun watching the corn being cut down as the bulllets ripped by. AI weak as well at times. But load times are amazingly fast and for only a 750mb demo it gives you a lot, compared to some of the 2.5gig ones recently. I will be looking for this game as a possible buy when it comes out.

  35. Tei says:

    I hardly playable with a fov designed to sit 4 metters away from the keyboard. My arms are not that long. Maybe this is a console thing, and no one figure out we the poorly PC players play 1 metter from the screen? Either way I feel like “tunner-vision”.

  36. a says:

    I enjoyed this a good bit. As has been said, it’s not really good or deep, but screw that, it’s fun. And there’s no way a mysterious monitor lady named Mother isn’t going to end up all evil.

  37. Serph says:

    Another thing I thought was strange was that they just plucked some random dude from Custer’s Last Stand and made him an instant Timecop. At first I thought I was an agent undercover or something, but apparently they just pick him for some reason. Would they really trust a random soldier to fix all their time-space continuum problems? Heck, they didn’t even show me their research complex!

  38. Lazerhawk says:

    You can kill Romans with a machine gun. Let me repeat that. You can kill Romans with a machine gun.

  39. Sam C. says:

    @Serph: One of the bits of text on the loading screen says he was transferred to Custer’s unit at the last minute and his paperwork with the Army was lost, and he was supposed to die, but there was no record of his death – an odd way to tell the story, and I only caught it the second time I played through the demo. My question is how they knew about him if he was “lost to history”?

  40. Serondal says:

    @Sam C – Uh, because they MADE him lost to history, duh :P

    As far as flame throwers in the 1800’s freaking people out I have two things to say 1)Flame throwers freak people out regardless of what time peroid it is because they F@#$@# burn you alive 2)Flame throwers were invented in ancient times used by the Chinese and Greeks (hand held/pumped flame throwers) They were not even close to new in the 1800’s. Still I think people should be freaking regardlesss if you’re frying everyone around you alive with a flaming stick :P Hell if I saw that today I’d freak out and run away, so they should in the game.

    If they’re going to do another one of these they need to sign me up to write the story line , I think I’d make a huge difference to have a good story even if the graphics themselves aren’t the tops. For reals though if that future dude just poped out of thin air and started shooting people I think BOTH sides would attack him until he was dead. It’d be hard to convince ancient soliders you’re on their side when you appear to be a demi-god.

  41. Oak says:

    I’m pretty sure I wrote this game’s story when I was seven and acted it out with He-Man and Ghostbusters figures. And now it’s a video game, and I’m probably going to buy it, despite being a grown man who wears a tie to work.

  42. Scandalon says:

    I also liked the system of being able to reload faster, and the way I had to balance this chance with the risk of having my weapon jam on me.

    I’d just like to point out that this mechanic was introduced(? popularized at least) in Gears of War. The first one. On the Xbox360.

    (Not that this is a bad thing, I just thought it interesting/funny among the other posts that made reference to consolitis.)

  43. Tim James says:

    I almost want to buy the game just because it is the quickest I have seen in years between clicking on the icon in Windows and arriving at the main menu. I feel like showering the developers with gold.

    So it was the vsync making the engine lug? I need to be more careful with that.

  44. Sharpblue says:

    What a waste of my bandwidth dowloading this pile of garbage was. Aside from the time travelling concept this has no redeeming features whatsoever.

    The engine is clunky, ugly and poorly optimised; the weapons pack no pucnh and are very unsatisfying to use; the AI is totally retarded. i can only imagine the mess that the final product is going to be.

    Really there are so many more titles worthy of our hard earned cash i can see no reason to spend it on this. Shame as i was quite looking forward to some time traveley shootey shenanigans! =D

  45. Paul Moloney says:

    The literally-all-rails bit really killed the demo for me. I mean, if I want to play a lightgun game, I’ll play a lightgun game.
    Some good ideas, some nice humour, the reload mechanism is a nice touch, and I didn’t think it looked _that_ bad. But don’t think it will be on my to-buy list.

  46. Ninjas says:

    About the “rails” section– it would have been more realistic to be shot in the back for cowardice by your captain if you didn’t walk in formation towards the enemy, but I think it would have been less fun. I think it is a cool way to show what tactics in the civil war were like.

  47. ZeeKat says:

    I stopped noticing dated bits in the engine 2 minutes in game, I enjoed it a lot. +1 to “hurrah, at last some fun new FPS”, mowing down XIX century soldiers with a machine pistol is oddly satisfying. And movie at the end makes want to play it even more.

  48. ReturnToNull says:

    You know guys, instead of putting you on rails for the union charge, or injuring you in the Battle of Little Big Horn they could have just made you watch a cut scene for that entire time instead. Wouldn’t that have been fun?

  49. Tei says:

    Why strafe moves you 2 steps in every direction? why not one?.

    Also, like most console games, you play a GUI. Here you play the “reload” minigame.

  50. Wooly says:

    “Guns were stiff, AI was brain dead, and I crashed countless times. Oh well.”

    Jeez, what game were you playing!?

    The steam demo didn’t work for me, so I tried the non-steam version, & that worked just fine! Weird… Anyway, it looks like a pretty fun game!