In recent years we’ve had a good number of sandbox games based on mining and crafting. Darkout is a recent release developed by Allgraf and the newest addition to a growing library of similar games with which it sadly has to compete. Set on the alien planet Illuna, Darkout had the potential to be a great exploration and survival game with a sci-fi twist, but unfortunately it doesn’t quite live up to its potential.

Darkout is distinguishable for its space theme. I was treated to a surprisingly epic opening, showing the gaseous colours of Jupiter, followed by a fascinatingly designed space ship. Although it was an enjoyable opening, it seemed redundant when gameplay began. The spacefaring element becomes non-existent, to be replaced with bows, shovels and dirt walls. An alien planet alone does not make a game sci-fi, as strange as that sounds, and soon enough it felt like I was playing a cross between The Jetsons and Castaway.

Then there’s Illuna itself. A game like Minecraft has appeal not just for the crafting and explorative elements in an enjoyable world, but the opportunity for customisation, in a similar way to The Sims. Darkout lacks this quality. When creating characters you may choose a gender and a colour, the latter of which ceases to matter once you craft exclusively black armour. The general design of the world makes building or creating anything visibly pleasing a chore rather than a pleasure. The materials available are just inappropriate for creativity; dirt, stone and wood are in abundance at first, followed by metal components, and they’re all coloured blandly. There’s also the issue of the game being in 2D; there’s not much point putting effort into building something up when you can’t even view it properly.

There are some interesting features, however. Though the world is 2D, it’s possible to mine and gather resources from the background, almost creating a 2.5-D effect. You can be a few hundred metres beneath the earth, but mining the wall behind you will still produce a light source as if the entire world were contained in an ant farm. Crafting is also much easier in this game; a research station states exactly what is needed to produce clothes, tools and building materials. One problem is that although materials are easy enough to come by early on, as I went on I struggled to find any beyond the various crash sites I came across.

This brings us to exploration. There are a large number of biomes to explore, with new enemies and resources to discover. These enemies are easy enough to dispatch, but they are large in number, and at times they spawn in inconvenient places that your sword can’t reach. Supposedly laying lights down will stop enemies from spawning. Well, this is fine, but it does nothing to keep the enemies away once they spawn nearby. These problems are not exclusive to Darkout, but ultimately it all goes towards a lack of charm in the game. Exploration, combat and crafting feel like features, and nothing else. There is potential here, but I would never call the game fun.

And so, overall, is Darkout capable of competing with games like Minecraft or Terraria? Well, yes and no. Yes because like most games in the genre, it has an addictive quality. Exploration, particularly when mining, takes up time, and the focus it requires to click a mouse. This can be enough to get someone into a game, but this brings me to the ‘No’. Darkout is dark, in the sense that the lighting isn’t wonderful, and in the sense that there’s no joy to be had. There is little to no opportunity for creativity, in terms of setting or materials, and everything else becomes inevitably dull and frustrating.

In all fairness, Darkout is a recent release, and if it’s anything like similar games in its genre it will most probably improve through updates. Considering this, I would advise you to try this game if this is the kind of genre you enjoy, because for its price it has a lot of potential. However, there are certainly better alternatives at the moment.






Leave a Reply