Shed some light on Dark Matter.
InterWave, the studio behind the award-winning Nuclear Dawn, have taken a different approach to the whole Kickstarter thing. First up, they are running a campaign for their upcoming game, Dark Matter, on Steam GreenLight at the same time as the Kickstarter campaign. And secondly, the game that they want Kickstarted is pretty much done, only in need of some polish and balancing.
This is great news as Dark Matter is a game that really needs to be released and played. GGUK have been lucky enough to spend a little time with the beta for Dark Matter and were quite impressed.
If you head over to the Dark Matter Kickstarter page, you will see the game described as “A modern, tense re-imagining of classic platforming action games, with a deep storyline and tactical combat”. It is also suggested that Dark Matter is a modern descendant of Metroid. I guess that might give players some idea of what to expect, but Dark Matter tends to steer away from being a Metroid clone fairly quickly and soon becomes much more of a side-scrolling space horror survival game.
From what I played, the platforming is kept to a minimum. Even the combat, which quite often becomes frantic and fast-paced, is less about the number of enemies and more about the quality of each encounter.
So, what the hell is Dark Matter all about? Taking reference from popular fiction, in Dark Matter the player takes on the role of “Ensign”. This female protagonist is presumably the last remaining crew member still alive on the deep space exploration vessel Endeavor. She has been in cryosleep for the past 70 years and has now been awakened by the ships AI to find alien parasites all over the ship. The mystery of what happened to the ship and the other crew members is something that the player will have to work out as they struggle simply to survive.
Working their way through dark, quiet corridors, the sense of tension is ramped up as the player finds switches, opens heavy doors or pulls themselves up to higher ledges. The controls are nice and straight forward with the mouse controlling the aiming of your weapons, allowing for that all important shooting while running away. As it stands right now, the actual shooting feels a little off, but this is one of the areas that InterWave are working on so I am confident that the final version of the game will be much better in this respect.
The player also has a handy teleport ability that will help in certain circumstances, and they can stop at crafting stations to use collected resources to upgrade their weapons, or create health packs and different types of ammo. And then there is perhaps the most central tool in the game – the flashlight.
There is a lot of emphasis on the effect of light in Dark Matter. Not only is light and dark responsible for puzzles and the creepy atmosphere on board the Endeavor, but it even affects how the alien threat reacts. Much of the ship is bathed in darkness, making the exploration unsettling for Ensign. But turning on the lights upsets the alien threat, making it much more aggressive. So, running around in the darkness may seem like the way to go – but what about alien traps? All of this results in some very tense gameplay and the occasional jumpy moment.
InterWave declare that the game is not finished and they still have work to do on Dark Matter. The Kickstarter campaign still has some 17 days to run as of writing this, finishing on July 18th, and is well worth the investment as the game is already very, very good and can only get better with the extra time that the team is putting in.
Dark Matter may have a retro look, but actually playing the game reveals something surprisingly modern and entertaining. The game is due for release later this year on PC, Linux and Mac, and it is worth looking forward to. Make sure you turn off the lights while you wait…