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with your health, and while lots of the details seem lovely – the horses especially – it looks a good couple of years out of date.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.