World destruction comes in small shrink-wrapped packages...


Demo-lition: Darkest of Days

256px-Darkest_of_Days_cover I was inspired and perhaps a little curious by a feature on The Escapist called the “Demoman”, where a guy plays demos of games and reviews them. Why would you want to do this? I mean, these people mostly get free copies of a game for review upon request.

And besides, demos are going out of fashion according to some. Peter Molyneux says they ruin the gaming experience, and I’ve noticed how demos for high-profile games either come out after the full version is released, like in Wolfenstein’s case, or there’s no demo at all, like with Modern Warfare 2.

And not to mention that analysts now say that reviews generally are low on the priority list when it comes to a buyer’s decision on getting a game.

Now, I on the other hand like playing some demos, and for me it’s a good way to see what a game will be like before I go out and pay that terribly large sum of money. So I decided to play some demos I got off of the latest NAG DVD.


I’ll start off with Darkest of Days. Darkest of Days is an anachronistic-type shooter which involves time travel and such, going back between the past and future, and lets you gun down some Native American Indians in the opening mission, who’ve surrounded you, Alexander Morris, and the rest of the company, at the battle of Little Big Horn, in Montana, 1876. Yes, the one with Custer. After dropping a number of “Injuns” with a pistol and being wounded two or three times, a dude comes out of some weird bubble-looking portal and with some bad voice acting, tells you you need to get the hell out of there. Well, I dived for the portal.


After going through some “Where am I, why am I here” phase, you look around and your surroundings are vastly different from what they were moments ago. You start talking to another case of bad voice acting, some face on a screen named “Mother”, the brains behind the whole operation. After listening to an Australian or Kiwi accent for a while, you walk through another portal which takes you to a training mission, or tutorial with the best voice actor in the demo, a gruff American named Dexter. You are trained in the art of war, despite all ready being a soldier in the Union army during the Civil War ten minutes ago or so, although these weapons are from a different time period, the First World War. You learn to operate a pistol, the C96, and the Gewehr 98 rifle, as you take on some crimson-coloured German soldiers in trenches, who don’t shoot back, luckily. You also take the time to learn how to toss stick grenades at the Hun, as well as blowing them to pieces with some artillery in the form of a cannon. The last stop is learning to throw some green, glowing orbs called chasers at enemies that require a little bit of leniency. Enemies surrounded by a blue aura, as Dexter will tell you, must not be killed, otherwise it causes some nasty repercussions involving time and all that stuff. Characters who are killed who aren’t supposed to die will cause the future to be changed, and supposedly for the worst.


After this you go back to the American Civil War, in a battle between the Union and the Confederates, naturally, and start off with some Civil War era weaponry, like a musket and rifle. There’s a good bit in here where you join the ranks of Union soldiers in a charge towards certain doom through the corn fields, where the Confederates await on the other side. This almost feels like a Medal of Honor moment, similar to the D-Day mission where you’re in that Higgins boat bearing down on Omaha beach, except less scary. You don’t get shot in this sequence, and for the most part, the player-position is fixed, besides being able to shoot.


Okay, skip ahead through some more shooting of Confederates and you’re in a barn where you meet old Dexter again, this time in the past, who tells you that this is the battle of Antietam, in case you didn’t know, and the highlight of the demo is when he hands you a modern assault rifle from the future and tells you to kick @$$, in so many words. You run off and battle some more “rebs” in the corn fields, after hearing some more bad voice acting, and even up the score with your new toy.


Your whole objective this time is to rescue a guy named Welsh, a Union soldier who is one of these important-can’t-die characters who isn’t surrounded by a blue aura, but a fiery orange-red hue. If blue is bad, then it must be bloody hellacious if this guy gets killed. Toward the end, you’re going along your escape route with Welsh, and when things seem to be going smoothly, some guys similar to the one who came to get you earlier on at Little Big Horn, come out of another portal and begin attacking. Dexter says to get the hell out of there as your bullets do virtually nothing against their armour.

After jumping through another portal, you are treated to a Preview in an old movie type format (think one of those projector movies or reels) where you get to see some of the nice guns you get in the game, some of which you got to sample earlier on.

Okay, so you’ve had a nice story, as I just ran through what you’ll encounter in the demo of the game as far as story and gameplay go, so let’s look at what is good and what’s not.

- Bad AI

For most of the demo, I found that the enemies, and perhaps even your allies, weren’t particularly smart. You could be standing right in front of someone and they wouldn’t even be bothered to shoot you. Other times it’s not that bad.

- Bad Voice Acting

Yes, most of the voice acting and samples used in the game are pretty bad. The Australian sounding “Mother” is likely one of the worst you’ll come across. That accent just doesn’t fit, somehow. Dexter is the shining star in the game however. He seems to have at least some character. Most of the other people in the game, when they say things, sound out of place, like the sample is too loud. I don’t think the proper amount of time and effort went in to editing. It’s almost as bad as Operation Flashpoint, but not quite.

- Average Graphics

For the most part, the graphics, especially of the effects like smoke and that sort of thing, are quite good, but the character detail is average. This does mean, however, that you should be able to run it quite nicely on your PC.

- Framerate

You might notice a bit of a drop in framerate every now and again, and this might be the game, and not your hardware. I noticed this the most while using the cannon in the tutorial, and during some fights too…which is most of the demo.

- Bug upon starting a new game

In the demo, when you try to start a new game, it crashes. There is a workaround for this, and this is changing the date on your system’s calendar. Try 5 August 2009 – it works for me. In the updated demo, this problem is supposedly eliminated, but if not, then you’ll have to stick to trying this little fix.

- Price of the full version

I’ve read that the game is $40.00 to buy new. That’s quite ridiculous coming from an relatively unknown developer like 8monkey Labs, and this is the first title I’ve ever taken notice of from them. It seems now though that you can get this game for cheaper than what it initially was when brand new (see below).

- Good concept

This is a good idea for a game, no doubt. Anything involving time travel and that sort of thing usually sets up for a good experience. In fact, it makes me want to like this game despite its faults.

- At least it’s (mostly) not WW II

So many games takes place during this period, and it’s good to see a change. For this game, most of it seems to go from the American Civil War, World War I, and in the preview, I also see some battling going on against Roman soldiers. It’s a bold attempt to break away from this old, tired trend that’s become so common place over the years. In the full version, there is a however a mission based in a WWII POW camp, and it’s been said that this is one of the best levels in the game.

- Old weapons

I’m a weapons junkie, and I like to collect all the guns in a game and try them out. This is especially true when it comes to old weapons used in past wars, like WW II. Using the guns in this game, from the Civil War era reminds me of a mod for Half-Life, called Wanted. In fact quite a bit of this game reminds me of that mod, or even some other Half-Life mods for that matter. But trying out some of the old guns does feel kind of cool, and the reloading trick with the green area that allows you to reload faster was quite a nice touch, but if you get it wrong, it takes even longer to reload than normal.

Overall, I actually enjoyed this demo, and I’ve played it a few times, but it’s an average game, which does have faults. and the price makes me want to think twice about getting the full retail version, because it’s likely not matched up with this title. Perhaps if it were half the price. But it does look like it cold have its interesting moments, seeing as I think the story could be quite a good one.

You can pick up Darkest of Days for the PC and Xbox 360.

Operating System: Microsoft® Windows® XP (Service Pack 2)
Processor: 2.0 Ghz
Memory: 768 MB RAM
Hard Drive: 5 GB available hard drive space (784 MB for the Demo)
Video: nVIDIA® GeForce™ 6600 or ATI Radeon® 9800 with at least 128 MB of video memory

Operating System: Microsoft® Windows® XP (Service Pack 2)/Windows® Vista
Processor: 2.0 Ghz or better dual-core CPU
Memory: 2.0 GB RAM
Hard Drive: 5 GB available hard drive space (784 MB for the Demo)
Video: nVIDIA® GeForce™ 8800 or newer/ATI Radeon® 3000 or newer




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