Dark Void is a game with enormous potential, but one I suspect that may miss the mark by breaking the game down into two distinct genres, shooter and flight sim, instead of blending them together.
What Is It? Dark Void is Crimson Skies with legs, a third-person shooter that stars a character in a jet-pack trying to defeat a mysterious alien power.
What We Saw One level, featuring some air-to-air combat, ground combat, a boss battle and vertical cover, about half-way through the game.
How Far Along Is It? The game just hit alpha and the build I played was about three weeks old.
What Needs Improvement? Death By Touching: Sure it's touching at high speeds, but it's incredibly annoying to die every time you even graze a wall, barrel, steel barrier, UFO, platform. I understand I'm going super fast in my Rocketeer outfit, but maybe hurt me real bad, make me limp when I slap into a wall. Don't kill me.
Vertigo: The camera transitions that occur when you go from walking to flying are a bit vertigo inducing, but they're also a huge mind, um, love-making. When combined with the deadly, deadly props of this world, flight can get aggravating quickly. A little work on the cameras, something to smooth out that flip from walking to flying would be great.
Lurking Enemies: While playing through the vertical cover section of the game I was often getting popped by enemies I just couldn't find. Because of the nature of these topsy-turvy levels, finding where fire was coming from often mean just standing there and taking a few hits to track the shots. Maybe a damage indicator or radar would help.
Hops: It's quite difficult, perhaps impossible to use the jetpack all the ways you'll probably want to in the game. For instance, trying to go from ground cover to maybe ten feet over the field to lay down some deadly fire will likely result in death by touching. The same goes for trying to circumvent a troop of enemies by flying across a big drop. I understand the design reasons for this, but it's a bit disappointing.
What Should Stay The Same? Art Style: The game has a dark, gritty look, something that flies in the face of what you may expect of a game featuring a man wearing a jetpack. This is no Rocketeer.
Take Off Animation: When you press the button to go airborn, Will really freaks out. He hops into the air, the pack pops on and he starts flailing his arms and legs for a second. He doesn't scream, but every time I sort of imagined a high-pitched squeal. You'd think watching the main character flail into flight would get old. It doesn't.
Flight Controls: Once you get used to flying (you can invert the flight controls separately from ground controls if you'd like), the jetpack handles surprisingly well. Sure, you can't touch, even think about touching, anything without dying, but barrel rolls, quick, 180s dogfighting, all of that is as slick and responsive as you'd expect from a futuristic jetpack.
Enemies: Even the short piece of Dark Void I checked out was packed with a nice selection of enemies. I took out your basic armoured bad guys, ran from an alien that exploded in a slowly expanding bubble of death, fought an over-sized Knight and shot down a bunch of monkey-nimble aliens in the vertical cover system.
UFO Jacking: You don't have to rely solely on your jetpack for flight. You can also, at least in the level I played, hop onto an enemies mini UFO and, after playing a mini-game of sorts with a turret, skyjack it. The added fire power is almost as exhilarating as booting an alien off his own UFO.
Vertical Combat: It takes a bit of getting used to, but once you figure it out vertical combat is quite rewarding. Initially when presented with a tall metal cylinder rising directly above me and filled with slowly revolving wedge platforms, I tried to aim and time a quick flight straight to the top. I'm told this is possible, just not by me.
Next I worked me way to directly under a platform, and by pressing the cover button, hopped up and hung from underneath it. This caused the camera to rotate so instead of looking up I was looking straight ahead. Unlike the transition to flight, the effect was pulled off seamlessly. In this position I was able to sort of hop back and forth under the platform, clinging to it with one arm as I shot at enemies. Once they were cleared I pressed a button to climb up onto the platform and the camera transitioned again. Then I waited for the next rotating platform and grabbed on. By doing this you can slowly climb your way to the top of the cylinder. It's a very neat idea and pulled off flawlessly.
Final Thoughts Dark Void's blend of ground and air combat are an interesting twist on third-person shooters. But the moments I found most riveting in the game were the transitions between flight and ground. These are the moments that are rarely seen in a game. We've all played shooters and flight sims, but how often do you get to drift to the ground while a fire fight is raging beneath you? I hope that the developers make the most of these twilight moments, but suspect they may not, instead focusing on the meat of the game, it's air combat and it's ground combat, separately.