The troubled game is back on Steam.
Interwave have had a rocky time of things lately. Their 2.5D side-scrolling survival horror game Dark Matter, which at one point was quite highly anticipated and was even previewed in its unfinished form here on GGUK, is now available to buy through Steam. But getting there has been quite a journey, and many gamers would suggest that the journey shouldn’t have been taken.
It all started with a KickStarter campaign. Unfortunately, this didn’t work out as the target was not reached. Still, some time later, and with Iceberg Interactive publishing, Dark Matter turned up on Steam. Gamers who picked up the game soon discovered what appeared to be an unfinished product, with an abrupt, text-based ending. Those who had paid their money for the game were up in arms, and Dark Matter was removed from sale on the Steam store.
The game is now back in the store with a new animated ending, albeit still as sudden as before, along with some explanations from the developers. Due to running out of money and the failure of the KickStarter campaign, the game had to be scaled back. Finishing the game will leave many questions unanswered in its current form, but the developers have suggested that a possible sequel, depending on the success of this game, may provide the more lengthy experience and closure that were planned for the original release. However, the Internet is not a forgiving place and the issues with Dark Matter will not be forgotten any time soon.
Which is a real shame, as Dark Matter is not a bad game.
Taking on the role of Ensign, a lone female aboard a seemingly deserted spaceship, it soon becomes apparent that alien beasties have set up home. What has happened to the rest of the crew? That is one of the mysteries that the player would hopefully find the answers to. But in the beginning, it is down to Ensign, and the charming computer AI, to explore and survive.
The gameplay style has much in common with the Metroid games, and you would not be mistaken for thinking that the plot and setting sound very familiar. The developers have made no secret of the fact that Dark Matter is inspired by some of the most popular science fiction.
There is an air of tension surrounding Dark Matter. Interwave have done a wonderful job of using both light and sound to create a truly scary atmosphere. Shadows are used to emphasise the feeling of not knowing what is hiding in the dark, and the soundtrack creeps quietly in the background, changing only to signify something happening, which often is the only indication the player will get.
But the light and dark is not only used to create atmosphere. In Dark Matter it is perhaps the key feature, with certain aliens being actively enraged by light, forcing the player to turn off the light sources and continue in darkness if they want to avoid a fight. The alien varieties are fairly standard, from the small insect like creatures to the much more dangerous exploding or projectile spitting types.
There is even a crafting system of sorts which uses well placed crafting stations to transform collected scrap into all manner of goodies, such as health packs or even weapon upgrades. Now, the cool teleportation skill which I mentioned in the preview sadly hasn’t seen the light of day in this “finished” game, which is a real shame.
And there are other issues within the game aside from the big “unfinished” thing. The actual combat feels underwhelming after the brilliant atmospheric build up, and the levels themselves are bland and sterile. However, these small problems on their own would have only reduced the enjoyment of Dark Matter by a small amount.
Dark Matter had the potential to be a hidden gem of a game. However, bad luck, financial woes and the pressure to release a game have resulted in an unfinished game that, whilst not bad in itself, fails to live up to what the gamers were expecting. Knowing that the game has a disappointing ending, even with the newly patched final scene, is enough to scare away anyone who may have been willing to give the game a try. The 14 levels that are included are fun to play through, but there are just too many reminders, both in the game and on the Internet, that Dark Matter is incomplete and has upset too many people. I would really be surprised if the suggested sequel ever sees the light of day, so Dark Matter will likely remain unfinished forever.
It is difficult to recommend this unfinished game for the asking price. Pick it up when it appears on sale, and enjoy some really nice ideas. Just don’t be expecting to come away fulfilled or satisfied.