Haunting Graphics in Venice Nightmares Make Game Unforgettable (GameShopTalk.com)
By Peter Selvini
Hitting shelves today is the third main installment of Logos Innovations popular game franchise Dark Hunter. Many have been eagerly awaiting this game since it was formally announced last year, and Logos has gone to great lengths to keep as much secret about the game as possible. Rumours about the game have circulated around the net for months now, including voice actors involved with the project, what kind of engine the game used and when the story would take place.
That secrecy has been blown wide open now, as excited fans grab up their copies from retail outlets and popular game distribution platforms such as a PrimeWorld and Storm. I can also tell you that the wait has not been in vain. In exchange for a binding agreement not to release any information on the game before its release date, GameShopTalk.com was given early access to the game last week, for review purposes, and it’s been the highlight of the past week.
Like any game, Dark Hunters 3: Venice Nightmares has its flaws, the game also provides some exciting new developments and strong game play. One of the things most players will recognize and appreciate right away is that the game is available on a number of gaming consoles and for PC, as opposed to arriving only on the Primus consoles as the first two games did. This wide availability is likely to make the game extremely popular. That being said, I would like to take a moment to let readers know that while we received several copies of the game for different consoles, the review her is going to focus on the game as it is run on the primary system, the Primus Next.
As is standard for many of the games available on the Primus Next, Dark Hunters has an exceptional graphics system. The engine runs at a smooth 60 frames per second in most situations and only really seems to lag when you put in the effort to choke it with as many enemies and explosions as you can possible make in a span of five seconds. Additionally, the IOM engine has a marvelous capacity to not just modify the environment, but remember those changes. If you blow up a cart in the first act (or anything else, any other time), coming back to that same area in further chapters results in seeing the charred remains, just as you left them. The open environment and wide array of NPCs feels almost overwhelming at first, and if there is one serious flaw in the game it is that the city feels almost too big and too challenging to navigate, particularly early in the game. The mapping system is at times difficult to read, and the game’s propensity to have secret passage ways, doors and tunnels that do not appear on the map make it that much harder to get around. This is sometimes further frustrated by a complex and generally appreciated physics engine that does much to keep play interesting, but occasionally leaves you stuck dead in a wall because a door closed on you or dead in a well because a wandering nearby NPC accidentally knocks you down trying to get by to sell bread (I kid you not, I lost a whole save because after trying and dying three times I realized I couldn’t get out of the NPCs path in time.)
Those frustrations aside, I really couldn’t stop playing the game. The core story is deeply compelling and tells of Sebastion Ryder, great great grandnephew of Deitrich Rider from the second game, arriving in 1499 Venice, right at the start of the Second Italian War. Sebastion is hunting the vampire Donovan, who as a result of the events in the second game, have left a large vacuum of power in vampire society. Ryder has picked up his family legacy after Donovan killed his parents some years earlier. Playing as the eager and determined Ryder, the player much track Donovan and his minions through the city and stop him from enacting a plan to bring first Italy, and then all of Europe to its knees. This core story is supplemented by a variety of side quests, carried out through the main chapters of the game, including a quest for each of the main skills, requiring a minimum skill level to participate in. All in all, the game has an excellent sense of replay value, and even after running through my third time playing, I was still finding additional quests and hidden parts of the city.
Logos has also promised several DLC packages available in the coming months, including a platform for users to create their own additional content, a feature common in Logos games.
Character progression is measured by a number of things, including levels which allow the distribution of skill points, and a tool modification system managed by none other than Leonardo DaVinci. As the player explores the city and completes missions, they find schema, special kinds of blueprints for different devices that Leonardo can then use to modify your weapons and tools, as well as make entirely new ones. Use of these tools is based on certain skills (similarly to Dark Hunters 1) and some have a skill level requirement before you can make use of them. This however lets you customize your character and play style, discarding skills or tools you simply don’t want. The game play is supportive of a number of styles of play, including straight up melee combat, ranged combat, stealth, gadgetry, and magic. For the most part, these play styles are equally balanced for difficulty, with the exception of the magic system, which feels unfortunately clunky. Putting points into your magic skill grants you Focus Points, which in turn allow you to learn spells you find, or enhance spells you already know. The limited selection of spells available early in the game, and the fact that you cannot begin making new spells until almost half way through makes using the mechanic near impossible to wield well during the first half of the game, and means spending the last half of the game trying to play catch up, instead of simply improving on what all the other styles already have.
The music for the game goes from being deep and intensely dramatic to being almost invisible. The loss of Leopold Renault (who was lead composer for the previous games and died in a car crash last August) was deeply felt, however Martin Walker seems to hold things together. Though overall the music is a subtle and moving force in the game, I have to admit that there were times that the music left me reminded more of an old vampire movie from the 30s and 40s, than any sort of serious game. Walker however does make excellent use of period instruments, including the pipe organ present in many of the darker pieces.
Overall, the game is excellent, rating 4 our of 5 stars.