Darkest of Days is flat out offensive. This isn’t on account of the loads of enemies to slaughter; I’m not Native American, I don’t have any German in me, and I think all of my ancestors got out of fighting in the Civil War due to flat feet. No, Darkest of Days is offensive to me as a gamer.
That may seem like strong wording, and it may make it seem that Darkest of Days is a horrible game, and that isn’t entirely true. I mean, it is bad, quite bad at times, but that isn’t what makes it offensive. Plenty of bad games come out and find their way from store shelves to the back of game collections. What makes this so incredibly frustrating is the potential contained in a rushed and unfinished mess.
Get the plot – In Darkest of Days, players control a soldier mortally wounded during the battle of Little Big Horn (yes that Little Big Horn, one of the biggest military upsets not named Agincourt). Before the soldier joins that big prairie in the sky, he’s whisked away by a guy who is clearly from the future. One can usually tell by the power armor. Here the player meets the higher ups in the KronoteK organization, currently tasked with keeping the timeline intact after their founder goes missing and various anomalies start appearing. Coincidence? Players will just have to find out.
It sounds like sci-fi pulp and it is sci-fi pulp. The plot draws players in the game, and the reward for that interest is a big smack in the face. Despite the plot and the incredible possibilities, it turns into an excuse to shoot a automatic shotgun in WWI, and even that happens too sporadically to be interesting. I also hope everyone likes active reloading, because it is a familiar game play element during this campaign. There is a reason the gaming world isn’t bursting at the all-cotton uniform seams with civil war titles, and this proves why. With all those possibilities gleaming like a carrot on the end of a stick, players just traipse through the trenches of WWI and the American Civil War for the majority of the game. The archaic weapons feel terrible, and the lack of animations for the weapon jams makes things incredibly tedious (and they jam a lot). This game would be more aptly called a First Person Reloader. Sound fun? It shouldn’t.
The crazy thing is that the game almost comes around in the last few chapters. The level design pulls itself out of the Pits of Boredom with a couple interesting things. The setting changes and the plot takes a step forward, granting players a short breath of relief as though they have stepped out of the darkness. Perhaps the previous couple hours were an extended tutorial, or maybe a way to weed out the weak for the real game? The feeling doesn’t last, though, as the terrible AI in this game just doesn’t let it save itself. I can’t even think of a witty analogy for the poorly programmed AI. Its all Shell and no Ghost (See? You thought of one after all! -ED).
Enemies either stand around until activated by the player or focus entirely on the main character while ignoring every threat staring them in the face. Thankfully for them, those threats are too busy poking their rifles through their armpits and shooting in the sky for threatening ducks. Teammates simply wander off when they are done playing their part in the story. This is not an exaggeration. AI characters occasionally stand around like they have finished a scene, visiting the craft service area for a hot roast beef sandwich. I want to offer a cash prize for the most Keystone Cop level of ridiculousness video found on Youtube. We can call it the Squandered Opportunity Award.
That’s what this comes down to. It would take pages to fully describe the missteps here. Entire swatches of the game feel tacked on like a Lady GaGa poster in a college girlfriend’s dorm room. The entire upgrade system is an afterthought, the menus were probably mailed in near the end in development, the aesthetics time traveled forward from 2004, and the way historically important characters are captured in bubbles in order to uphold the integrity of the timeline is in such need of a suspension of disbelief that it will be hard to not pause the game and chuckle at its expense.
I love sci-fi, and I can suspend disbelief for lots of things. Battles where not a single soldier questions why this stranger is suddenly standing next to them with a super-gun for instance, and even taking pages out of The Prisoner and shooting floating balls at people to capture them. In the name of enjoying a game, I can even suspend disbelief for the incredibly obvious paradoxes that occur thanks to the haphazard development of a once-promising plot. The only thing I can’t disbelieve is the disappointing pain this game inflicts.
Maybe I can go back in time and stop myself from playi-.. Oh hi me. What are you doing here? No. I already posted the review. Yeah, sorry. This is quite the time paradox. You just want to go get a beer or something?
Awesome. I make a great wingman.