The basic storyline behind Darkness Within is that you are a detective by the name of Howard Loreid who is trying to track down the Private Eye, Loath Nolder who is wanted for murder
Zoetrope’s adventure game Darkness Within caught my eye from the get go. Advertised as a Lovecraftian horror game I came ready for chills and a good dose of psychological horror. I’d like to say I played this late at night in order to set the mood, but mostly it was because I was busy making Christmas candy by day, so solving the mystery of Loath Nolder became my evening entertainment. The results were mixed with some brilliant moments, but others that didn’t satisfy. However, I didn’t regret the time and it left me with hope for the series.
I like the effects here. Moths to the flame and all
The basic storyline behind Darkness Within is that you are a detective by the name of Howard Loreid who is trying to track down the Private Eye, Loath Nolder who is wanted for murder. The process of investigating Nolder has you beginning to doubt your own sanity and the question of whether he is guilty or innocent is as much in question as his whereabouts. This information is unfolded in truth Lovecraftian style as you explore various locations and are plagued with flashes that may be dreams, or memories, or something else all together.
The atmosphere is suitably dark and eerie and the graphics back up this feeling by being very literally dark and eerie. The various areas you’ll find yourself in, most of them indoors from insane asylums to catacombs, are well created and interesting to look at. They aren’t breaking any graphical boundaries and this game will run well on an older machine, I tried it on both my high powered desktop and ancient laptop and both took it without a hitch. The size of the download was the only thing that made the laptop pause.
Oh, yeah, this is where I want to be buried
Don't read the books! Wait…you have to read the books
Adding to the atmosphere is a solid but understated sound track and some good voice acting that remains consistent throughout. The combinations of what you say combined with the visual aspects of what you are thinking work well together, and I enjoyed the input from other characters though there were times I wanted a little more emotionality to increase the sense of danger and uncertainty. There are no overt things that jump out and try to kill you, this is a game of detective work not combat, and you don’t even pick up the gun that you find in the first room, instead the work is left to puzzling together facts and finding the clues that lead you to your final conclusion. What is that conclusion? Hah…like I’m going to tell, well maybe I’ll give a hint at the end of my review, but if you’ve ever played the Call of Cthulu Role Playing Games you may have a guess as to what happens to detectives that read the books and chase after the occult.
While the game was a good creep out, the pacing often pulled me out of the world. I think the plot is a good, typical for the genre, but really needed to be faster moving in order to maintain the atmosphere and the sense of curiosity. When you are in one place for too long, and forced to stay there while trying to figure out what you haven’t clicked on yet, then you begin to get bored by the eerie sounds instead of worried by them. There were moments I wanted to be able to move around the environment more freely, but was restricted in that and at a few points forced to run away. This was when I started thinking that Nolder might just be better off where he was and Howard should go back to the station for doughnuts and coffee.
In Darkness Within much of your clue finding isn’t just a matter of clicking on stuff and putting it into your inventory, though there is some of that, but a lot of finding the right passages in books and underlining them. This is both brilliant and a hindrance all at once. I love the idea of detective work requiring that the books be read. It’s a very immersive experience. However, there were places where I didn’t get the underline just right and spent a lot of frustration trying to figure out what I’d done wrong and having to backtrack, reread and start again and that was on the easiest difficulty level where I got a clue of what I’d missed. On the harder levels missing little things in the underlining was completely maddening, and there were moments I felt like I as the player was starting to lose it. As well, there were times when the order of events was clunky. I couldn’t just examine everything I wanted to, but sometimes had to pick it up, have Howard think about it using the brain icon and THEN I could examine. This was all frustrating when I, as the player, had already figured things out, but was held back by the game. I’m hopeful that in future games both of these aspects can be refined.
I never have any messages, but the dang thing keeps ringing
And this is where it all begins
Overall Darkness Within wasn’t a bad game…however it wasn’t a great game either. It’s a game with a lot of potential that felt like it just needed someone to tighten everything up across the board. Hopefully most of that is the result of being a first game and the others to follow will fix the clunkiness and show the real shine that I think this team is capable of.
Top Game Moment:
TOP GAME MOMENT
Being startled nearly out of my chair a couple of times when Howard’s cell phone went off, and wondering if I really wanted to know what was at the bottom of the well.