Dark Earth

a game by Microforum
Platform: PC
Editor Rating: 6/10, based on 4 reviews, 5 reviews are shown
User Rating: 8.0/10 - 2 votes
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Firstly, can I tell you that William from Mindscape Bordeaux and myself had enormous fun bringing you the second part of this diary. This is mainly because William has spent ages trying to fax me more info on the game and send me lots of new screen shots via e-mail. An hilarious chain of events involving fax machines that wouldn't work, Internet providers that wouldn't allow William to send the shots via e-mail, couriers that wouldn't, er, courier anything (because the President of France arrived in Bordeaux) and a bank holiday in France which brought the country to a halt had both of us running around the place like mad trying to find a solution to our communication problems. Well, William, top bloke that he is, has finally sorted everything out, and I now have in front of me a very long fax which tells me lots of new things about Dark Earth and... hang on a mo, what's this? There's a note at the beginning of the fax telling me 1 need to make a correction to the first part of my diary.

Apparently, Dark Earth is not an rpg, it's an action-adventure game, which as far as I'm concerned is a bloody rpg. Hang on a minute, I'll go and sort this out. (Sound of phone ringing in background.) Hi, William, I've just seen your fax, what's all this about Dark Earth being an adventure game.

I thought it was an rpg? I asked in a quizzical tone of voice. Hi, Chris, no, it's not an rpg, it's definitely an adventure game. It's a bit like Alone In The Dark and BioForge. It has combat elements in it and it also has a 3D environment and you have to solve puzzles. It doesn't have stats for your character in it, or ever-increasing spellcasting skills or any of that rpg nonsense. You see, we're trying to create a game that combines the best of two genres: Dark Earth has the interface and ergonomics of an action game, but its universe, scenario, dialogues and the quest itself are pure adventure.

Aaahhhh, I see. Well, as far as I'm concerned, an adventure set in a fantasy world with BioForge-type combat and full freedom to explore the environment sounds pretty damn smart, particularly when the graphics are as spoogeworthy as those in Dark Earth. It just goes to show you how deceptive first impressions can be, though. We were all convinced that Dark Earth was going to be a standard rpg in the style of the Ultima series when we saw it at the show, except with much better graphics, but if William tells me it's an adventure, then an adventure it shall be. Onward.

If anyone can, Arkhan

Sorry about that. That was just a terrible joke to introduce you to Arkhan, the main character in the game, who just happens to be your alter ego and computer-based companion for the whole of the adventure. Arkhan is a 25-year-old Guardian of Fire, brave and intelligent but apparently a bit laid-back and lazy. At the beginning of the game, Arkhan is sent to the Council Chamber to save the life of Lory, the Great Sunseer. It is at this place that a great tragedy befalls our hero: he is contaminated by a da and cold substance (perhaps someone poured a pint of Guinness over his head: not everything in black and white makes sense) and he becomes very weak.

As the game progresses, Arkhan becomes not only becomes stronger, but also more aggressive as the dark side of him begins to take him over. Your main objective is to cure Arkhan of the poison that's eating him alive before it's too late and he kicks the bucket, and hopefully in the process learn some of the secrets of the Dark Earth universe. If Mindscape Bordeaux are to be believed, getting to the bottom of all the murky goings-on in the game will not be as difficult as you may imagine, thanks to the incredibly helpful and easy-to-use interface, which is designed to let the player concentrate on playing the game, as opposed to messing about with a hundred different keypresses (unlike some games we could mention). As a result, the designers have made manipulating the character and interacting with the game's environment as painless and as intuitive as possible.

Er... you've probably guessed by now that I'm giving you most of this information second-hand from the press release. Next month, things will be different. I'll be going to Bordeaux to see the game in action. Yes, alright, I know I said that last month, but it's not my fault the President of France decided to visit Bordeaux at the most inopportune moment. I'll make it up to you next month, honest. Take care now, y'all.

Money, money, money

Mindscape Bordeaux are very proud of the Dark Earth universe. They consider it to be a very rich and sophisticated world which will easily lend itself to exploitation on other mediums. To this end, there will be further games in the Dark Earth series, a novel which will be published in the USA, UK and France, a Web site which will deal only in matters relating to Dark Earth, a role-playing game (I knew it, I knew they'd have to do one, told you so) and even an animated series based on the characters and locations in the game. All these activities will not only help bring the world of Dark Earth to the masses, but will also make absolutely tons of cash for Mindscape Bordeaux. So in a year's time I'll be saying really shite things like, I remember them when they were nothing. I helped them out when they couldn't scrape enough money together to bribe their way into PC. And now they won't even talk to me. Sob!'

Download Dark Earth

PC

System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP

Game Reviews

As this promising action/adventure opens, a cataclysmic meteor shower blankets the Earth in darkness, and in the scant pockets of light, the survivors build cities. Playing as Arkhan, a young city guard poisoned by an intruder, you set out into the darklands in search of a cure--and ultimately the true roots of the global disaster. Drawn with beautiful graphics, Dark Earth will remind many console gamers of Resident Evil as it involves exploring prerendered scenes from multiple camera angles. The gameplay entails lots of RPG-like conversations, side journeys, and exploring as Arkhan struggles to complete his quest. Plenty of user-controlled real-time combat keeps the action factor high.

The Dark Earth is our Earth 300 years from now--a time when a passing comet has made the sky dark, the air cold and poisonous, and death omnipresent. Explore the remaining cities and learn how to use the last remaining sunlight. Along the way, you must overcome the strange creatures lurking in the night and try to discover the secret of the ancient curse that has punished Earth. Mindscape's so confident in this new title that it's planning a whole series of Dark Earth games.

Despite some patience-trying flaws, Microprose's Dark Earth combines an exciting real-time adventure with crisp visuals and strong voice acting to produce a truly engaging quest.

Into the Darkness

It's the 24th century. The planet has just emerged from 400 years of darkness. As Arkhan, you must foil a plot to plunge the world back into eternal night. The combination of polygonal characters with pre-rendered backgrounds results in realistic, gorgeous graphics. You're working against a fixed camera that can hide things, though.

The controls are a bit hard to negotiate: You can't customize the gamepad, and the same button is used to strafe and run, making it hard to turn mid-stride. The obscure icons could use pop-up labels, and this game screams for a mapping system. The save points are also few and far between.

Earthly Delight

Dark Earth doesn't push any envelopes--in fact, it doesn't even overcome the common pitfalls of its genre--but the engaging plot proves well worth the effort. Determined adventurers should check out this one, but be prepared to hack-n-slash through a learning curve.

ProTips:

  • Listen carefully to everyone--you'll hear each conversation only once.
  • Much as you might like to explore these gorgeous backdrops, Dark Earth unfolds in real time--you must keep moving and on-track at all times.
  • After you're infected with the Darkness, pick up the axe from the fallen guard and use the save point on the wall.

Overview

There are many factors which contribute to the quality of a graphic adventure: the story, characters, graphics, music and originality all act as large factors when establishing the quality of a game. Dark Earth, the latest graphic adventure from the good people at Microprose, takes a very interesting and original approach to presenting a graphic adventure. The story is fresh, the characters are engaging, the graphics are well done, and the interface is probably not quite what you'd expect from a game of this genre. The game has plenty of puzzles and plot twists, and introduces a new level of control for a RPG over such things as movement and fighting. Don't get me wrong; Dark Earth is definitely a graphic adventure, but it creates a new way of presenting itself. It will be interesting to see how other game makers receive and respond to the innovations introduced in this title.

Story

Dark Earth is yet another game set in a post-apocalyptic future, but with something a bit more novel than a world war as its main plot. At some point not too far down the road, Earth is pulverized by a meteor shower caused by an asteroid that passed a little too close to it. All the cities and a great many people of the world are destroyed. Dust and debris thrown into the atmosphere block out the light. Days are cold and nights are colder. People become generally ill-tempered. However, there are some places where the sunlight reaches the Earth. Here, cities called "Stallites" are built, and the sun is worshipped as a god.

Flash forward three generations to your character, Arkhan, a fresh-faced youngster with a great-looking girlfriend, who is fairly high up in the social order of Sparta, the stallite in which he lives. Doesn't sound too shabby, does it? Well, naturally it can't last. After playing the game for a short time, you find yourself caught in a massive conspiracy to kill the head of the Stallite's church. You succeed in saving the Sunseer Lori only to have the assassin infect you with quite a nasty little virus that will eventually turn you into a creature of unbridled evil. Needless to say, you need to do something about that.

Dark Earth is set in a real-time environment, and the virus is the clock you're working against. I found this to be an innovative way of providing a time limit: let's face it, we're all tired of the whole bomb thing. As the virus worsens, so does your appearance, and then there's still the matter of those conspirators ... I found the entire ordeal to be refreshingly original.

Interface

Dark Earth has an interesting and varied interface. While most graphical adventures seem to use the generic mouse point and click interface, the fighting elements of Dark Earth make this far less practical. Thus the most efficient thing to do was put all the controls on the keyboard. I will admit, this did annoy me at first. However, after taking some time to adjust to it I found it was actually a lot of fun. If you can't get past the keyboard interface you can still use a joypad or flight stick. The only problem that arises is that you can't possibly put all the controls on the device, no matter how many buttons it has. Although the interface isn't very intuitive, it is very well-documented. All it takes is a little reading and a lot of playing, and you'll get the hang of it in no time.

The puzzles in Dark Earth are challenging, to say the least, even once you've got movement and fighting down. The entire city is at your disposal, and you're supposed to find what you need. Clues are provided along the way, but the real challenge is staying ahead of the virus. You'll probably have to start the game over several times after you figure out what you're supposed to do a bit too late. That way you can do what you've figured out faster and have more time for later in the game. Trust me, you'll need it.

Graphics

The graphics in Dark Earth are excellent to say the least. The characters are not as detailed as they could be, but the environments are splendid. I often found myself going places I knew were dead ends, just to see the surroundings. One thing about graphic adventures is that different people look for different things in the graphics. I for one am a fan of really good animation. That's probably why some of the titles from LucasArts are my favorite GAs. Other people like live-action movies and that sort of thing. Dark Earth really isn't either, which is another thing that makes it original. It is animation in a manner of speaking, but not hand-drawn. The actual gameplay looks something like Tomb Raider, and the control of the character feels similar as well. The cut-scenes are more detailed, and look very good. Perhaps most importantly, they fit in well with the story.

Audio

The audio in Dark Earth is one of the game's few disappointments. For a GA to be truly exceptional it needs that great soundtrack that gives you the feeling of grand adventure, while at the same time fitting in with the feel of the game. Actually there isn't much music in Dark Earth at all. Most of the time there is silence or talking. The sound effects, however, were quite good. All the voices were clear and concise, and there wasn't any static or interference. So what audio there was, was good, but the audio as a whole was a letdown.

Documentation

The documentation of Dark Earth might be the best part. The world and story of the game are somewhat complex, and would be more difficult to grasp if not for effective documentation. The game comes with a seventy-two page booklet that very clearly lays out the controls, devices, items, inventory and interface. In addition to all this useful information, the booklet also includes a great deal of background on the world in which the game is set. If you sit down and read it, the story is actually very involved and interesting. The first day I got the game I didn't even play it, I just read the history provided in the booklet.

System Requirements

Pentium 75 or better, Windows 95, 8 MB RAM, 4X CD-ROM drive, 60 MB hard drive space.

Bottom Line

Dark Earth is a very solid game. It challenges the mind, gives the eye plenty of nice things to look at, provides a well-written and enveloping story, and is just plain fun to play. If you're a fan of graphic adventures, I'd definitely suggest picking this one up. Heck, even if you don't like adventures, I'd still suggest picking this one up, because it is a little more fast-paced and gives the user more control over the character than in some other adventures or RPGs -- it's a good all-around game which can definitely appeal to more than just fans of the genre.