Darkest of Days is a new First Person Shooter from 8monkey Labs that tries to differentiate itself from the pack by focusing on more than just the over-used World War II time period. Instead, it looks at gameplay in World War I alongside three other time periods from a very different perspective, that of the future. Is this a present-day hit, or a historian's nightmare?
The story in Darkest of Days is all about time travel. KronoteK, a futuristic corporation, have manage to build a time travelling machine that allows users to travel back into the past. It was designed to be used for historical purposes, but when the creator goes missing, history starts to change. It's up to Alexander Morris, and Dexter, to try and correct these changes so that history maintains itself. They are specifically tasked with saving some individuals who have been appearing in odd locations and the player can then choose from a selection of missions, although they all have to be done at some point.
As with any story about time-travel there are numerous loop holes that can instantly be created. However, Darkest of Days does a relatively good job of keeping some sense of control although some liberties are taken. The player must carry about a weapon that's suitable for that time period, but at times he's given more futuristic weaponry. It's not too much of a stretch to imagine that one of the hundreds of soldiers around would see this weaponry and remember it - this would surely change history. The story isn't overly engaging either, and while the plot twist at the end is rather well thought out, it's executed in a poor fashion. It's just difficult to care about the events that are unfolding.
The gameplay is equally unappealing, mainly because of some poor weapon choices. There's a reason that most first-person shooters based on historical time periods are relatively recent and that's because the weapons are fun to use. Even those that are slightly older and focus on cowboys and indians still don't force players to use one-shot rifles from the American Civil War. Having a 5-second reload after each shot of a rifle really detracts from the experience, and it just makes the gameplay really boring, as progress is unnecessarily slow.
The actual feel of using the period weapons isn't overly tight and doesn't feel overly enjoyable. However, using the futuristic weapons is actually exceedingly fun. There's enough imagination in there to make them feel unique and using them in old time periods feels extremely liberating. There's nothing like mowing down a 50-60 opposition troops in a few seconds. It just poses the question, why didn't the designers include more sections of this nature? Whenever period weapons were used, it just felt as though the game was limiting itself, and this is a real shame as there were some really fun moments to be had with the futuristic weapons.
It's possible to upgrade weapons, but it's fairly limited. During missions, there are key figures which must be preserved in order to maintain the balance of history and these must either be ignored or taken out without causing their death. Every time one of them is killed, a player is awarded less upgrade points at the end of the mission, with the maximum points awarded being three. It's possible to upgrade both the period rifle and side-arm in four different categories, but the changes feel negligable. Aside from this there's no real progression outside of the story.
Graphically the game feels a bit dated. There's a good amount of people on screen, and some nice particle effects, but the actual textures just arent up to the standard that people expect. There are also a lot of invisible walls present in levels, and although they appear expansive they're actually very linear. The sounds is ok, and the script for the voice acting can be quite funny sometimes, but animations on characters are generally poor.
Where the game fails miserably is with the replayability. There is essentially nothing on offer. Nothing unlocks upon completing the game and the only alternative option comes with difficulty. The auto-save system is also implemented very badly as there is no real menu system for selecting missions and there's no continue option. Players effectively have to load up their game from a list of auto-save checkpoints which aren't overly descriptive.
Darkest of Days is a game that essentially shoots itself in the foot. The sections of the game that are fun are marginalised and the majority of the game focuses on boring period sections. It's a real shame, as the futuristic weapons are what defines the title and players seldom get the opportunity to use them. The presentation is also very lax and the story, despite having an interesting premise, falls flat. Darkest of Days isn't overly endearing and shows that tampering with history isn't necessarily a good thing.