Another playtest for Dark and Darker has come and gone and it has left me with a dark and desolate void of which no other game can seem to scratch that itch.
The wizards at Ironmace have created a challenging, immersive and sometimes terrifying dungeon crawler. If you enjoy cautiously battling your way through goblin-infested mines or demon-filled crypts, then you should really keep an eye out for Dark and Darker. The main aim of the game is survival. Skeletons, zombies, and far worse roam the abandoned crypts and gold-filled halls you must navigate through, searching for a way out. Secrets and traps are hidden throughout the dungeons as well as the other players and parties hunting for treasure. You’ll have to fight valiantly- or at least be cunning if you’re hoping to survive the ever-expanding darkness slowly claiming the coins and corpses left in your wake.
Delving into the dungeons isn’t without its dangers. If the monsters and players aren’t dangerous enough already, there’s also the constant threat of the dark and dangerous forces pushing the action toward the middle of the map. Venturing into the dungeon in the hopes of finding rare items only to be struck down by another burly adventurer or have your means of escape taken from you at the last second were the moments of heartache that kept pulling me back in. Every time you venture into the dungeons you risk losing all of the equipment you bring with you, as well as anything you might find along the way if you fail to escape.
A variety of classes to choose from mean that you can plan your perfect team. Fighters, barbarians, and clerics are just some of the staple classes available. Gathering a party and playing with your friends is absolutely the best way to experience this game. Thankfully it is possible to roam around as a lone wolf and attempt the dungeon alone. Which I’d recommend, because who wants to die repeatedly to hidden traps with their friends watching? Not me. Not again.
The gameplay loop in Dark and Darker is satisfying, with the thrill of gearing and selling up after successfully escaping the dungeon. As with similar games in the genre, such as Diablo 2, the equipment can be found in varying degrees of rarity, making each discovery feel exciting. However, the risk of losing everything in the next adventure is always present, which can be daunting for players who may have struggled to escape just once. Each new piece of equipment, assuming you can use it, must be carefully weighed against the possibility of losing it on the next trip. Should I choose to hide it away in my storage or use it to better prepare for my next adventure and hope for the best? The occasional ruthless loop of gearing up only to be beaten early can be frustrating and push players away, but in Dark and Darker, it adds a new layer of complexity to the gameplay that kept me heading back for more.
Admittedly the game isn’t a graphical marvel but it is a game with a real focus on immersion. The cautious and precise movement, navigating dark corridors and trap-filled rooms, dealing expertly with the foul fiends that stand before you. No sooner do the unusual noises start. They might be heavy footsteps, perhaps spells being prepared or maybe, something you can’t quite figure out. Then someone or something blows open the door, charges into the room and suddenly it’s chaos. Wonderful chaos- spells flying across the room, swords clashing and arrows flying. The constant vigilance of listening for echoing footfalls, or spells bouncing down a corridor keep you on the edge of your seat, clawing onto the mouse for dear life.
Dark and Darker is currently in the early stages of development and there is already a lot of excitement for it. The Ironmace team have already demonstrated solid gameplay mechanics and atmospheric crypts. However, it’s apparent that there is still something lacking within the game, although these play tests are just a small preview of what’s to come. Unfortunately, there is no solid release date yet, but if you enjoy the thrill of battling monsters and searching for treasure while immersed in a torch-lit dungeon, Dark and Darker is one to keep an eye out for.