I played The Darkness (original) and I loved it! I felt there was room for improvement and was eager to see what they would do next. Unfortunately that’s not how the story goes in The Darkness 2 (by the way this is an over used expression in the game’s dialogue). Now, not only did the developers not improve the game, they made it worse. I’ll explain more a bit later. First, let’s focus on the brighter side of my judgement! Ha! Get it? Bright!
Story (SPOILER ALERT)
So for those of you who have never played The Darkness (original) let me catch you up to date. It is a first person shooter inspired by a Top Cow Production comic book series titled: The Darkness. Our main character, Jackie Estacado, is a hit man for a crime syndicate. He has inherited an ancient elemental power called The Darkness. In the first title, Jackie comes of age and is introduced to the dark power. Through a series of unfortunate events, Jenny, his love interest, is murdered. That’s where the new story begins. Jackie’s motivation is driven by Jenny’s love. Jackie is trying his hardest to contain The Darkness ever since the death of Jenny. A secret society known as “The Brotherhood” tries to take The Darkness and Jackie is forced to embrace it in order to protect both the ancient power and himself. There was enough conflict created by the struggle between Jackie’s inner darkness and the mysterious remnants of Jenny to keep me interested all the way to the end.
What really grinds my gears are the over used expressions: “You know the type” and “You know how the story starts”. Every time I heard one I was immediately pulled out of the experience. It’s not a big deal when to have one character over use the expression, but it is when all the characters are saying the same thing! It gave me the impression the writers were being lazy. This is just one way the developers went backwards.
The graphics are done in a cel-shaded display. The developers state that it’s to retain the comic book ambiance. I think that’s a spin on them being cheap and lazy. I feel even though it has a dark tone, it is still missing that gritty essence from the original. It feels a bit campy in my opinion. I first saw the graphics in the demo and became instantly weary. Sure enough, it lacks the depth of the original. Once again another failure to improve.
Game play and controls
The original game had open world aspects I loved to explore. It created an eerie sense of wonder and freedom that the game has lost. The Darkness 2 is so linear that I felt guided through the game. This makes me feel safe compared to the original game where I was on the edge of my seat. Each level is set up the same. We are given an introduction to the next stage where we first interact with various NPC’s. Then through a monologue we are emersed into the next level. It was so repetitive because it is such a basic form of level introduction. The Darklings are one of my favorite additions to the game; they are a race of mischievous dark imps that Jackie can summon and control. This time around we are given the option to control only one rather than the four in the original. What this imp lacks in numbers he makes up in personality! He is a foul creature who’s company gave relief while playing this boring game. In the original The Darkness is used to navigate on the ground like a snake; the ability was required to get through obstacles on a regular basis. It was also a bloody alternative from using a ranged weapon, which helped save ammo. A similar ability was to posses your Darkling to turn off light switches. I probably only made use of it three times; not at my own will either. Only at certain parts of the story I was forced into this mode. The game is known for its quad-wielding attacks. The controls remained the same as far as I could tell. The only problem I had with them was when using all four limbs I could only strafe left and right, back and forward. I was hindered from looking up, down, left, right, etc. This took away from enjoying the game. I thought the developers would expand on the controls and try to make them fluid. Once again, the game lacked development!
Level progression and upgrades
The Darkness 2 has a RPG-style leveling system. You obtain a type of experience point called Dark Essence via a kill. The more gruesome the kill, the more Dark Essence extracted. You can then exchange the Dark Essence for abilities on a skill tree. To be honest, I didn’t put much time into upgrading. The game can easily be played without spending anytime upgrading your skills. This is what made me really disappointed. In the original game you obtained your upgrades based on the game progression. Similar to games like Legend of Zelda or Darksiders. In addition you were required to use your upgrades to interact with your environment. For example, I mentioned earlier the ability to navigate freely as The Darkness, to use it to overcome physical obstacles, etc. This integration of game progression and upgrades was not as efficient nor did it flow as well as the last. It’s like they wanted to make a bad game.
The Darkness 2: Vendettas is a very weak multiplayer mode that leaves no interest into wanting to play it again. The mode consist of a very short CO-OP campaign. You play as one of four unique characters each wielding weapons buffed with Dark Essence. Its a very bland series of missions recovering relics infused with Dark Essence. During the CO-OP, the game fills in the small details that were left out during the course of the story line.
What I thought was the biggest downfall for the original game was the length. It was very short and I wanted “moar” quad-wielding madness! Ironically, I couldn’t be happier with the length of this game. It was so horrible, I was glad to see the end. To be exact, I wasted a little over 6 hours of my life.