June 23, 2008 // 10:32 pm
- Repeat after me: Operation Darkness is not a good game. Operation Darkness is not a good game. There, you just saved yourself some time and money. This is a videogame rife with bad design, bad programming, bad sound and bad graphics. Did I mention this game is bad?
Don't be misled. It sounds pretty great on paper. Operation Darkness is a turn-based strategy RPG set in World World II, but this isn't your daddy's war. This one pits you and a band of super-soldier werewolves against the Nazis and a clan of vampires. It's like Shining Force meets Brothers in Arms with a twist of Van Helsing.
You'll take a squadron of supernatural soldiers into battle; meticulously move them across the grid one at a time to take down Hitler and his band of undead monsters with guns, bazookas, magic fireballs and werewolf slashes at your disposal. That's Operation Darkness on paper. Reality isn't so kind.
The game could be fun, and there is some depth to the strategy here with cover and stat-based move systems, but getting to it is painful. Operation Darkness runs the full gamut of bad and outdated design. This genre isn't exactly cutting edge which makes these flaws both surprising and unforgivable. There are so many aspects of Operation Darkness that are frustrating for no good reason that it's hard to imagine the game going through any sort of impartial play-testing before it was shoved onto shelves.
For starters, the camera is a complete disaster. When it's not lost underground or in a building, it's providing the absolute poorest viewing angle I've ever seen for a turn based strategy game. Just figuring out where you are compared to the enemy is an ordeal. In fact, the whole idea of moving strategically is a chore and requires a series of . That is a pretty big problem in a strategy game that requires advance planning.
And in case you're wondering, even with the inclusion of supernatural beings in World War II, the story is corny and boring.
Here's the big test of patience: If one of your characters falls in battle and isn't revived before the end of the fight, he or she is gone forever. Make a mistake or get caught unaware when the game tosses surprise reinforcements at you and that guy you just spent 20 hours leveling up is gone to be replaced by a generic character at level one. There's only one guy that can revive other characters on the battlefield... and he can die and be wiped out forever.
There are no items that revive fallen comrades either, only an auto-restoration skill that will use health items (of which only a limited number can be carried) automatically when your health runs low. It's a system that ensures you'll be restarting missions whenever people start dying and cursing your heart out until you master the game. Or until you just give up. Some may call it hardcore. I call it bad design.
Even the little things were done poorly here. Buying items such as health packs -- something you might want a lot of given the unforgiving nature of the game -- has to be done one at a time. That equates buying 10 health packs to over 20 button presses. Also, saving in the midst of a long battle (another option that would remove some frustrations) can't be done. That saving option is doubly missed because the game tosses extra enemies in at the end of each battle that you have no way of preparing for in advance. So much for strategy. I could go on but this game doesn't deserve that much of your attention.
Then there's the added bonus of Operation Darkness being one of the worst looking games on Xbox 360 to date. I've played PSP turn-based strategy games that have this beat in a landslide. The menus are crisp and the 2D art that accompanies dialogue had some work put into it, but the game itself is as ugly as they come. It doesn't run issue-free either which says wonders about how poorly the engine was put together. Little more can be said about the audio. The sound effects are drab and lifeless. The voice acting is quite terrible. The music is generic. The only positive here is that most of the story sequences are voiced.
You can take Operation Darkness online to play co-operatively with up to three other players, but it's hard to see why you would. Players import three characters from their single-player game into the battle, who can then level up in the online match. But it all seems pointless. When we saved our game after playing online and then loaded up a new game, none of the experience we earned online was kept. So have fun doing that for no reason.
Closing Comments: Gaming should be about having fun. Operation Darkness teases that with werewolves, vampires, Jack the Ripper and more crazy beings that have no place in World War II. Then it slaps fun in the face until it runs home crying. Everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong.
Video is available HERE
courtesy of IGN.