2Dark is the latest creation from the mind of Frederick Raynal, the creator of Alone in The Dark, and his new studio, Gloomywood. It’s a stealth-horror-adventure game with survival elements…so, let’s get our bearings.
You play as Smith, an ex-detective whose children are kidnapped in the beginning of the story through a non-interactive cutscene. Smith is then pulled back into the dark, gritty innards of the city of Gloomywood, hunting for any clue he can find to lead him to his children. It won’t be easy as you’ll have to traverse the many hellish and macabre realms of Gloomywood’s worst serial killers.
2Dark has a very interesting art style that consists of a 2D top-down perspective with small 3D voxel characters that mesh with the lighting and environment seamlessly. It lends a very eerie feeling to the game overall, since a big part of the game is the lighting effects. Without light, the game is literally too dark–what I mean is that you can’t adjust your gamma or the brightness of your tv/monitor to fix it. The darkness works almost like a fog of war mechanic, except instead of disappearing when the player explores, it is affected by light sources.
You start out each level with a flashlight and a lighter as the only two light sources you have. Upon exploring you’ll find batteries for the flashlight, a candle, or maybe even a lantern–all of which provide a different lighting effect. A flashlight is a long beam that cuts through the dark like a knife, where as the lantern adds a large circle of light around the player. One thing for sure is you never want to let yourself get down to just your lighter, since it’s a tiny light source that makes it very hard to see.
2Dark is full of these tiny details. When your flashlight begins to run out of batteries, the light will start to fluctuate from bright to dim just like an actual flashlight would!
Now, moving on to the mechanics that really stand out in the game. Stealth is interesting as you must stay out of the light and, also, keep quiet. This is monitored by the color of your inventory (red for visible and blue for invisible), and also a sort of ripple that radiates out from your character showing you how loud you are and how far the sound you made reaches. This mechanic plays both ways, though, as enemies make the same sound ripple, which makes it easier to track them in a pitch black room.
The problem with walking around in the dark, though, is that each level may have traps laying in wait. I’ve fallen down holes, been impaled, stumbled into enemies I didn’t know where there…. One thing, for sure, is that you don’t want to just rush headlong into any situation. You can also make noise by using the voice commands for speaking with children, but instead using them to lure enemies into a trap themselves.
The inventory mechanics are also somewhat intricate. If you find a container, you have to open it to see its contents; if you want to reload your gun or flashlight, you have to drag and combine items. Drag the batteries to the flashlight and voila, it is recharged. Combine cigarettes and a lighter and you save the game. Saving too much can be bad, however, as it will give Smith a pretty heavy cough, which you don’t want in a serial killer’s den since noise attracts attention.
Dead bodies left lying around can frighten children that are following you, but they can also alert enemies to something being awry if you don’t move them out of sight. I say that because there isn’t a way to actually dispose of a body like in Hitman or other games, but it isn’t intended for you to kill a ton of people. This is a stealth game, after all.
Which leads us to the combat mechanics, which don’t have much to them. You start every mission with your .38 revolver which gets the job done in most situations. Other than firearms, you have melee which is the most dangerous form of combat in the game since you die much quicker than most NPCs (again, it is a game with heavy stealth mechanics). It can be frustrating–for instance, I was out melee’d by someone with just their fists when I had a katana. This shows just how much weaker you are, and that it’s smarter to just stay out of trouble as much as possible.
The last and best option you have if you have to get rid of someone is to hit them from behind–that’s where you get maximum damage, and it’s usually a one hit kill. Some of the melee weapons also double as tools, like the crowbar. You can use that to open crates, pop locks, and also crack skulls if the need arises.
The gameplay overall feels like it moves very smooth. The character movement works well with standard dual stick controls. The only problem I ran into was, at times, your body can block what is directly in front of you, and you can end up walking into a trap in you’re not careful. The aiming system works well for the most part. Since you don’t have a reticle, it relies on a simple lock on method. Whatever you’re targeting will flash red, whether you’re throwing a candy or firing your gun.
When rescuing children you have the option for them to follow, or, if a child is too scared, you can pick them up and carry them. A nice feature to the kids following you is that they follow your movements precisely, which can keep them from falling into traps–a fate that would be very real if they had their own path finding elements.
You have a basic goal, but the game doesn’t give you much to go on for each mission. All you really ever know is to infiltrate, investigate, and rescue. Your only objectives are to rescue all of the children and gather all of the evidence you can. This can lead to confusion and frustration at times. I ran into this problem on a couple occasions, once because either I missed the tool tip or there wasn’t one informing me that I could break padlocks with the crowbar. The other time was when I had one child and one piece of evidence left in a room. This room had two hostile NPCs in it that never really left. I’m not sure if this was a glitch or how it was intended to be. I got lucky since one got stuck in an animation. I was able to kill the other one and collect my items to finish the level. Maybe I missed something, but it seemed to just be that the characters weren’t quite doing what they normally do, which is understandable since it’s a new game–there’s always bound to be bugs. Other than those two times, I was pretty well and good.
You can find clues as to what you need to do around the environment, you just have to take the time to be thorough. I wasn’t a huge fan of the game’s storytelling, either, which is done via voice overs during a loading screen. It ended up feeling like an off-handed attempt to give Smith just a tad more character. Other than the brief voice overs, you get the rest of your story from reading current newspapers and other things you find during the mission.
Though it is classified as horror, 2Dark isn’t quite that scary. It’s eerie, and it’ll definitely make your hair stand on end from time to time due to stress and tension. Since it’s top down and you can see your environment, there isn’t much room from jump scares. What creates that tension, though, is being able to see what is ahead, and not knowing how to handle it–a feeling a lot of games don’t quite capture. It makes you feel uneasy and nervous which is perfect for a game about a retired detective with childrens’ lives on the line.
For anyone that enjoys stealth and horror I’d recommend you give this a go. It’s definitely worth checking out.
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