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DARK Hands-Off Preview

No Sparkly Vampires Here

By Whitney Bulna on 4/27/2013
 DARK is the upcoming stealth action RPG centered around Eric Bane, a newly-turned vampire and former member of M-17, an elite special forces team. Eric does not know why he was turned into a vampire, or why his former agency has suddenly begun hunting and capturing vampires. Eric is given a slew of new powers that enable him to move through the shadows and prowl the night, looking for answers. I previewed a 20-minute demo of  DARK, and it left me wanting to see more.

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The story begins with Eric trying to find his creator. Eric must drink the blood of his creator in order to prevent becoming a ghoul, an uncontrollable, savage form of a vampire. There are no weapons in the game, so Eric must rely on his vampiric powers, or try to avoid enemies altogether. The game is more oriented towards being stealthy, rewarding players with more experience if they remain hidden.  DARK creates an environment where players must plan their attacks rather than bursting into rooms, guns blazing. Experience points help Eric level up by adding skills to his arsenal, some of which were displayed during the demo.

The demo starts off with one of the early missions where Eric investigates a local museum, looking for the elder vampire. When he arrives, M-17 is already there rounding up vampires. Eric is assisted by Rose, who runs the sanctuary for vampires (which also serves as the in-game mission hub). After finding a dead security guard, Eric crouches down behind a van and showcases his first power: Vampire Vision. This allows Eric to detect living beings through walls and objects, similar to the stealth vision seen in  Dishonored or the  Batman: Arkham series. It was obvious that this power would be very important considering the emphasis on staying hidden and avoiding conflict.

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The demo then turned to showcasing the various skills Eric can develop. Skill trees include Inherent Powers, which are standard powers like Instant Kill; Vampiric Powers, which can be bought with skill points to enhance action-oriented skills; and Passive Powers, which are always active when chosen. Each skill can be further leveled through its own skill tree, allowing Eric to become more powerful over time. Obfuscation, for example, allows Eric to partially transform into a shadow, which makes it harder for enemies to see him. Other powers allow Eric to control enemies' minds or confuse them for a period of time. The skills are oriented towards players of all types, including those who may not want to take a stealthy route.
Vitae serves as Eric's "stamina," which can be filled by drinking blood. Players can choose how they want to manage this element, whether they decide to fight through levels and use up Vitae or quietly drain the blood of victims and save it for vital parts of the mission. It's a common trait of RPGs, and it adds another layer to the already-robust characteristics of  DARK. After assigning several skills to hotkeys, Eric honed in on an enemy and decided to drink him dry, which earned him 20XP for an enemy kill and 60XP for a unaware enemy kill. Like most stealth games, Eric can drag bodies and place them in less conspicuous places in order to avoid detection. The last thing he'd want is to have his cover blown by a patrolling guard.

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Eric then used his Shadow Kill skill and quickly teleported to the next guard, killing him as soon as he became visible. I imagined some pretty cool scenarios with this skill, like aerial attacks from rooftops or surprise attacks from around the corner. Creativity is something that seems encouraged in the game. He moved on to the next guard and broke his neck from a distance with the Shadow Grip skill. Again, I imagined the possibilities of combining these skills together and stealthily destroying my enemies. The demo then showed off what happens when enemies see you, which made the scenario all the more exciting. If Eric takes damage, he can convert Vitae into health. This is vital when faced with several armed enemies, as seen in the demo. After taking down a group of enemies, the demo ended.

Each level can take about an hour or more, depending on your play style. The whole game will be about 8-10 hours, and is single-player only. Considering the various different scenarios that can play out, it is obvious that multiple playthroughs are encouraged. If you enjoy stealth action games like the  Assassin's Creed and  Batman: Arkham series, so  DARK may be right up your alley.

DARK is due to release on June 11, 2013 in North America on Windows PC and Xbox 360 for $49.99. For more information, check out  DARK's  website and follow Kalypso Media on Twitter. Don't forget to check out the official gameplay trailer for  DARK, which can be found below.

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JohnWittenmeier on May 09, 2013
Despite some of the minor complaints I've had myself and heard about the aesthetics and tone, this game should at least be mildly interesting and an interesting experiment as well if nothing more.
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