First and foremost I am very
disappointed with Dark Planet. This game comes to the table with a lot of potential, but
falls way short. The imposing lizard-man adorning the software package has "rush
job" written all over his green face. Dark Planet is a title so obsessed with
presenting an ambient, three-dimensional experience that it forgets all the wonderful
things that make the strategy genre fun. There, I said it. This game is not fun. So how do
you suck the fun out of a strategy title?
The story that sets Dark Planet
into motion is quite unoriginal. You find yourself in the future, the third millennium to
be exact. A planet called Natrolis, which is similar to Earth has been discovered.
Natrolis obviously attracts human colonists who are eager to expand. Insect-like aliens
called the Dreil also have their sights on Natrolis. What neither the humans nor the Dreil
know, though, is that another race already inhabits Natrolis and they dont like
visitors. The reptilian Sorin are fierce warriors and magic-users. They are the guardians
of the planet. Natrolis is up for grabs and gamers choose who will dominate its future. If
that didnt get you excited, chances are nothing else about this game will either.
obligatory tutorials on how to chop down a tree and put it in your storehouse are all
included. Gamers will yawn as their workers slowly plod back and forth during their menial
tasks. Dark Planets game-play is sluggish and jerky. Frustration levels will rise
especially when players try to manage their troops that are not on the screen. As the
alarm gong blares youll struggle to scroll the map and find the location of the
battle. This isnt helped by the awkward interface either. Commands that you would
expect to easily find are floating somewhere else on some out-of-the-way button. But hey,
kids, its all in 3-D right?
Planet does allow players to manipulate the camera with the mouse and keyboard. You can
zoom in and out and choose either a birds eye, isometric, or true 3-D viewpoint.
Ill admit that the first time I saw my troops running through a forest towards me
I was impressed. Soon, though I found that this option was extremely handicapping when I
kept losing my grand army behind mountains and hills.
battle is joined gamers can delight in several weapon effects and various outbursts of
agony. The explosions are really fun to watch. The first thing I thought of was the Death
Star exploding on the Special Edition Star Wars. Impressive energy waves rush outward from
a building that has met its end. The sound is on par in Dark Planet both on and off the
battlefield. While the music isnt that great, the environmental sound effects help
arouse some ambience. Dark Planets efforts to provide atmosphere graphically,
though, are frustrating at best.
game presents several major effects in efforts to make gamers feel like they are on
Natrolis. First we have weather effects. Occasionally a slight drizzle will arrive to soak
the landscape. At least thats what they call the white lines falling on your
soldiers. Youll notice the "trees" swaying in the wind as well. No doubt
before you realize theyre trees youll swear youve stumbled into the
Mushroom Kingdom. These poor trees bob up and down rhythmically to simulate wind. Finally
we have my personal favorite, the ambient wildlife. These babies boast their own life span
too. Let it not be said that Dark Planet never stirred any emotion in me. I almost cried
when something that looked like a baby turtle walked across my screen and suddenly keeled
over in death.
Planets graphical woes are inherent in its desire for the third dimension. Naturally
the units and structures are polygon based so they arent very detailed because they
must be seen from multiple angles. Players probably will hesitate to trade the
architectural standard set by the Age of Empires series for a blocky habitat cube with
some texture mapping. The idea of a 3-D strategy game is nice, but it just seems that the
two concepts are not proving to be good bedfellows.
Planet does provide good depth within each race, though. The unit variety is a nice touch.
You arent just stuck with a vehicle, a flying unit, and a soldier. Each race has
different units that avoid being generic. Many games pit soldiers that look exactly alike,
besides the different color of their shoulders, against each other. Its refreshing
to see distinctness within each group. Still, though, there are only three choices. That
may have been par for strategy games a few years back, but today it is mediocre at best.
Mediocrity, it seems, has really bit Dark Planet in the rear.
games are a tricky business. Not many folks initially want to micromanage for two hours.
Developers have to make gamers want to stick around. Several great, and oftentimes simple,
formulas have led to such franchises as Age of Empires, Command and Conquer, and the
beloved Warcraft series. Unfortunately, Dark Planet doesnt exhibit any of the draw
that its competitors do. Being a mediocre game leaves way to much room for consideration
of a games shortcomings.
would like to end with some praise for this game, though. Dropping the price to a
"bargain" level was a very smart decision. At $50 this game could not hope to
compare, but at $10 it can provide a short distraction. Hey isnt Deus Ex only $10
too, though? Natrolis will have to wait.