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Promising dungeon crawler Dark And Darker hits early access after being kicked off Steam

Light at the end of the tunnel

A Dark and Darker screenshot showing a treasure chest with teeth.
Image credit: Ironmace / Chaf Games

The curious journey of Ironmace's medieval extraction sim Dark And Darker continues with the launch of an early access build. You won't find it in one of the usual places, however. As Kaan reported in April, Dark And Darker was pulled from Steam following accusations of copyright theft from publisher Nexon (Ironmace's founder Terence Park and a developer Ju-Hyun Choi are Nexon alumni who worked on a similar fantasy game, codenamed P3, in 2020-2021). With legal proceedings on-going, Ironmace have released this tense first-person dungeon crawler via their own Blacksmith launcher and third-party store Chaf Games. It's a bit more ceremonial than letting people torrent the test builds, at least.

In Dark and Darker you slip on the boots of a familiar fantasy class such as a Barbarian or a Wizard and sally forth into a dungeon for treasure, while dealing with traps, locked doors, marauding monsters and, worst of all, other players, towards whom you're ushered by a battle royale-style shrinking circle. There's no mandate to engage in PvP, but when you've got a bagful of gold, it's hard not to be suspicious of strangers. Loot, after all, is only yours if you exit the dungeon with it, though there's a permanent progression tree with perks to soften the blow if you come a cropper.

A torchlit passage in Dark and Darker
Image credit: Ironmace / Chaf Games

Alice0 had a crack at a test build in December, summarising it "as a game whose risks, dramas, and disappointments I can see making for fun Twitch viewing". She drew encouraging comparisons with Escape From Tarkov. Me, I want to see this as a multiplayer Draugr barrow from Skyrim, though the opportunity to ambush players and nick their stuff puts me more in mind of Rust. Sadly there's no voice chat in the early access build to help differentiate friend from foe, which sounds like it'll make for some tense staring matches as you sit around the campfire between spells of pillage.

There are a couple of Dark And Darker editions to choose from - the Standard Edition for $35, which nets you the early access build and final release together with some in-game Bluestone Shards, and the Founder's Edition for $50, which includes all of the above plus access to upcoming test builds, an eerie blue torch, the Hold the Line emote and the ability to play a skeleton, which might not endear you to any strangers you encounter in the tunnels.

The equipment menu from Dark and Darker, showing pieces of armour
Image credit: Ironmace / Chaf Games

The early access build also features an in-game shop, which is Ironmace's "attempt at being realistic with the business of running an online game but trying to find a way to do it without resorting to random loot boxes and FOMO items." Still to come: umpteen unspecified features, bug fixes and a leaderboard system. Let me know how you fare with this one, if you're taking the plunge. The tale of its creation is fascinating enough. Perhaps it'll even make our list of the best RPGs.

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