By Jason Parker (Ragachak)
Allgraf Studios has put together an interesting take on the “Build and Survive” model of PC game. The genre really got its start with Minecraft, where you build a 3D world that fits your vision, while avoiding villainous, sometimes exploding creatures that seek to undo all of your hard work. This idea was remastered with the game “Terraria”, which also is a survival building game; the difference being it is 2D instead, a side scrolling building game. While this season there are other games of the same variety coming out, Darkout really stands apart. Alone on a dark, foreboding planet, you, as the player, must create shelter and survive against alien creatures that thrive in the dark, and falter in the light. As I am not a seasoned player of games like “Minecraft” and “Terraria”, my ability to craft buildings is fairly laughable.
Limited Creation, Infinite Enjoyment
The character creation for Darkout is very simple. While this can be a downer for some players, that is not really what we are here for in this game. The customization comes from what you decide to build on the planet’s surface. In terms of housing you can choose to hollow out a spot in a mountain side, and hide from the creatures like a mole person, or build a Titanium Death Fortress atop said mountain to make a statement to the foolish aliens looking up at you in fear.
In character creation, you pick your name, the color of your suit, gender, and the “Difficulty”. This is a very important feature, so I do not advise skipping it. The choice between builder and standard will change your gameplay substantially.
As seen in the picture, “Builder” is a mode where you have unlimited capacity to build to your heart’s content. In “Builder” you do not have to research or farm materials. Your only limit is your imagination. You do however still have to make the space for your home. This can be used as a practice run to figure the game out, or, if you are like me, simply not any good at combating angry, dark alien creatures. “Normal” difficulty is just that: the regular game. I began on “Normal”, and thanks to the tutorial, I got moving in fairly rapid speed, only dying to the fiery crash site that is your pod twice.
Some Call It Slums, Some Call it Nice
The game’s brief tutorial teaches you how to farm for lumber, and craft wood blocks that you need to begin your first functioning house. However, there was some form of minor glitch, or perhaps I simply could not fathom instructions, and I spent the better part of a couple of hours simply trying to get a door to open and close!
I came back later, and magically, everything started working. Not one to complain, I began the arduous task of building my home, constructing walls, and a floor, because you have to have somewhere to stand. The end result of my first attempt is as follows:
Certainly not my proudest moment. This is where I learned the most valuable lesson in the game: the darkness is not your friend. I restarted, and tried my hand at another bit of geography, to make a home. I had a much better idea, and the landscape was not conducive to building. I wanted a cave! And why shouldn’t I? The ground is far more resistant to a barrage of alien hordes than anything my inept hands could produce.
It’s not much, but I call it home! From here, I had a solid door (that actually opened and closed!), a bed, and my combinator! The combinator is one of the items that allow you to forge materials that you will need later. In the above screenshot, it is the glowing item that I face away from. This is not your sole method of turning raw materials into usable goods; there is also a forge, as well as other sources that turn raw material into bars of metal that you can shape your future home with. From here, I went on to wander into the unknown, in search of adventure, and inevitably found death.
The crafting menu is very easy to use, and a Quick Tutorial guides you through the basics of using it. There is a crafting menu, and a research menu, where you discover new technologies such as building materials, raw resources, and things of that nature. One thing I did find that was very frustrating was you do not necessarily know what you need to start researching an item until you have the necessary resources to make it. There is a “hint” feature you can hit once every five minutes, but to me it was vague. It would say “You should get some vines”, or things like that. Research takes time, but once you have the knowledge, you can go farm up the correct materials to start making bigger and better homes.
It was a bit of a task to take a screencap of me fighting valiantly, as I wound up taking several where I met a grisly end, a crimson mist the only reminder that I existed at all. One thing that can be daunting, is when you die, you respawn wherever you crash landed. To combat this, when you build your home, you can build a bed. This allows you to rest and recuperate, as well as give you a better respawn location, especially useful if you built far off into the distance like I did.
Let There Be Light
One of the most amazing things about this game is both a game mechanic and a graphics feature: the light. I cannot stress how lovely the lighting features are. The planets exude a soft violet light that immediately fades away if you choose to dig them up. This light can be a boon, to help you fight off alien creatures, but can also be a hindrance, because you cannot build around them. Luckily you start with light rods that can be wielded as a weapon or placed as a light source. Simply having it out in your hand will give you a radius of blue light to see with.
The enemies you encounter are normally shrouded in darkness, and without proper light, this can mean a quick end to your adventure. There are floating jellyfish which shoot cones of thorns, wolves with sonic blasts, and little angry imps that jump and throw things at you. Most of these hit fairly hard. However, you can use your light to make them weaker, then go in for the kill. There are a variety of ways you can attack in the early stages of the game, such as bow and arrow (and better yet, when you have tar, fire arrows!), you can use a torch, or a light rod. When there is a forge, and metals, you can start making swords, and things of that nature. I had the most luck with a torch or a light rod, personally.
There is a sort of story to Darkout. It is not necessarily obvious at first, other than you have crashed on a strange, dark planet, and you have to survive this harsh new world. Scattered throughout the land are small glowing crates that you can smash. These contain a variety of items of use, such as weapons (where I found my bow), raw materials such as ore, or even containers, like glass jars or barrels, which you can use to put liquids in (like tar, to make fire based items). Hidden within these are also canisters, which contain blueprints for items, or data logs that contain important tidbits to the story. Collecting these will give a broader insight on what you were up to before the fateful crash that led you to this dark, foreboding world.
Final Verdict: Great (4/5)
All in all, while frustrating to start, this game was ultimately very rewarding. I did a stint in the “Builder” mode, to create something that I thought was kind of neat, using a variety of tools and materials, to show you the sorts of things you can make if you put in the time. To those people who enjoy to build and survive, this game will not be one that disappoints.
I was very impressed with the graphics for Darkout. Compared to the simplistic variety that Terraria offered, and the clunky, blocky graphics of Minecraft, Darkout stands out above its peers. While the personal character looks simple, the layout of the land is wonderful. The flora and fauna are beautiful, and the lighting effects wow me every time I see something different in them. Visually, it does not leave me wanting.
The controls were pretty standard for a PC title. WASD, et cetera. I found them a little stiff at first, and some of the jumping mechanics can be very blocky and unforgiving. Combat is a little rough at the start, but you adjust to how the game plays with little difficulty. Not amazing, but certainly not impossible to use.
The features for the game were not groundbreaking when compared to its peers. You can however, build some pretty fancy things, some of which is not in this particular build. Elevators, anti-grav, power generators, portable generators, and the thing that stood out to me the most: A JETPACK. That was very awesome. A little hard to use, but very fun.
The community for this game is pretty strong on the Internet. When I had problems looking for something, or finding a particular resource, I did not have to look far. There are several forums across the Internet, and even on the Steam community itself, where I can find the answers to the problems I have at any given moment.