From indie developer Allgraf.com comes Darkout, a 2D sandbox exploration and crafting game. It’s an odd little genre but one that’s increasingly popular following the success of Terraria. It’s clear there are plenty of people out there that really dig this kind of thing, but it’s not for everyone. I’ve always felt as though I was just handed a pile of busy work with no real payoff at the end (but maybe that’s just me). Still, Darkout is enjoyable to an extent but even I could see that it does little to shake up the genre.
There isn’t much narrative drive behind you but it’s not really needed either. The basic set up is that you have crash landed on an unexplored world and must survive as long as you can while trying to find a way home. After salvaging a few basic parts from your downed ship, a tutorial guides you through the first few steps of mining, crafting and construction. Even though the worlds are procedurally generated, the crash site thankfully provides a nice, flat area to build your first home every time. From there it’s just a matter of exploration and resource hunting.
The raw materials are pretty varied, ranging from the water and wood to coal and tar. The sheer number of items that can be crafted is impressive but each serves a purpose. The earliest items are basic construction materials, furniture and clothing, and from there the sky’s the limit. It takes a significant amount of exploration to get the rarer items to make the fancier things, but there is plenty to keep you occupied in the early stages of the game. As well as crafting, Research plays an important part. Most new items must first be researched before they can be made, which also annoyingly requires raw materials.
But it’s not all passive hunting and gathering: there are enemies to contend with. The native wildlife are an assortment of aggressive neon pests coming in many forms such as spider or floating jellyfish. The combat is pretty terrible and is just about usable. Melee weapons will be your tool of choice for most of the early days, so get used to awkwardly jumping and running into foes in a vain attempt to hit them. They can be avoided of course, but not if you need their warm, gooey insides for your latest creation.
The neon enemies aren’t the only obstacle to overcome, either. Darkout, as the name suggests, focuses heavily on the contrast between light on dark, or at least tries to. The world exists in perpetual night mode with plants providing the only natural source of light. The neon glow of these, as well as that of your torches and lamps, can repel some weaker enemies but not all. Light sources also become essential when you don your miners cap and head down underground.
The whole neon aesthetic is a bit overdone, and looks kind of cheap. When used in a retro way it’s got a kitschy charm, but in Darkout it strays dangerously close to Batman Forever territory, where no man wants to go again. Your character is modelled in 2.5D which is oddly out of place with everything else. The background, items and enemies are all firmly in 2 dimensions but you seem to stick out like a sore thumb against it all. It’s helps visibility a little but it’s too much of a sacrifice in the looks department.
VERDICT: There’s plenty to keep you playing in Darkout and the developer is quite active with the community, listening to player feedback and making adjustments accordingly. The opening tutorial could use some work as it’s a little confusing with so much to learn to get started. Fans of the genre will definitely find more enjoyment but, to the average player, there isn’t much here to strongly recommend.
AVERAGE. The epitome of a 50/50 game, this title will be unspectacular but inoffensive, charmless but amiable. We aren’t condemning a game by scoring it a 5, but we certainly aren’t championing it, either.
Review code provided by publisher.