|a game by||Microforum|
|Editor Rating:||6/10, based on 4 reviews|
|User Rating:||8.0/10 - 2 votes|
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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.
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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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Pentium 75 or better, Windows 95, 8 MB RAM, 4X CD-ROM drive, 60 MB hard drive space.
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.