Darkout Review (PC)

There’s a lot of ambition tied into the somewhat humble package that is Darkout. It’s a mixture of crafting and survival–something in which 2013 has seen a rise–all set within a science fiction world. Placed into the boots of a shipwrecked astronaut on an alien planet, players must search for resources in order to protect themselves from the hostile nature of the world. Thus digging, scavenging, and confusion begin.

There are a number of important factors at the heart of Darkout, with one of the key factors being the game’s day/night cycle. In the dark, the world is full of dangers, which puts huge importance on utilizing the relative safety of the daylight. The night’s hostile environment makes having a well-lit shelter a requirement rather than a luxury. The whole concept of darkness being a threat is carried off nicely, as venturing outside without a light often results in a quick death, so planning your day is essential.

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One of the problems with the light mechanic, however, is that it sometimes just doesn’t work. There are a few occasions in which enemies will creep past the light (especially in buildings) which can lead to cheap hits and subsequent deaths. There’s no obvious reason why this happens, but it’s a major frustration and raises question marks about how well the lighting system actually works.

Elsewhere in Darkout, crafting and scavenging make up a large bulk of the game, with players digging, catching, and chopping things to gain resources. Various items and building materials can be crafted together to create shelters and other constructions. The buildings start off being expectedly basic but as the player invests more time into the game, the available building types become more extravagant. The high-end items, meanwhile, do feel genuinely satisfying to build and use, due to the effort put in to obtain them. As a result, it makes the game feel less of a grind. When the more sci-fi-like weapons and items are obtained, Darkout becomes a whole new experience. Exploring becomes a lot more fun and the game generally feels more fair, as opposed to the somewhat one-sided early portions of the game.

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There is a major issue, however, with the crafting in Darkout: it’s incredibly difficult to understand how to create items. The tutorial is quite poor and feels more like a hint rather than a guide, which often leads to the player randomly clicking things in the hopes of getting something right. It’s an issue that brings the game to an annoying halt and deters the player from truly enjoying their experience. The lack of a detailed tutorial also extends to the latter parts of the game, creating yet another stumbling block. The UI doesn’t help things either; it goes from being being clunky and unresponsive to feeling like an active struggle to manage items.

Gathering resources is also a long and repetitive chore–another victim of the poor tutorials and UI issues. In numerous cases the player will have to switch tools every few seconds to gather a different resource. Granted, it’s a small problem but it’s also an extremely annoying process that slows the game–and the player–down even further. Gathering resources is at the core of Darkout, which makes the slow nature of the process have a large impact on the overall enjoyment of the game. Subsequently, the issues result in the appeal of exploration being utterly lost.

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In terms of production values, Darkout is rather solid. The alien jungle jumps off the screen thanks to a crafty colour pallet that gives the game a bit of life. Enemy and character models are adequate and do a fair job of being relevant to the surrounding environment. Plus, the manner in which the colours bounce off of each other makes Darkout not just an average visual performer. It’s not stunning, but it certainly looks nice.

Darkout is a game that will only reward those who have time and patience. The slow grind during the early and middle stages of the game will test the resolve of the player, while the late stages will reward players who stick around, with various fun items such as jetpacks and combat suits being offered. The problem, though, is the steep learning curve and grind that will inevitably turn off a large amount of people. Darkout has quality, but it only occasionally shines through. It doesn’t offer much that’s new or refine anything that has already been seen in other construction games. Darkout requires a lot of effort in order to truly enjoy the game, and that’s where it stumbles and falters. It’s ambitious and it’s deep, but ultimately, it’s frustrating.

 

6/10

 

 

 

Sean Halliday


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