Comparable to Minecraft, Terraria and recently released Starbound, Darkout is a new addition to the survival sandbox genre, and although it doesn’t bring much to the market that we haven’t seen before, Darkout is one that soon becomes entertaining and addictive.
I say ‘soon becomes’, because this title does have a difficult learning curve, even to someone that has previously invested a lot of time into the aforementioned games.
You’ve crash-landed on a world which you are previously given the choice to specify the size of. With the character you’ve created using the limited customisation options, you’re then tasked with creating shelter, weapons and armour to survive. Firstly, however, you’ll need to familiarise yourself with the seemingly complicated UI.
Once you’ve emptied and salvaged the ship of all the handy items inside of it, as instructed by the tutorial, it’s time to start your adventure. If you’re familiar with Terraria you’ll quickly get the gist of the basic mechanics; mine blocks and chop trees to create items necessary for shelter and survival.
Your ‘Action Bar’ is situated at the bottom of the screen. You’ll move items here to use them with your character or surroundings, the top set of slots in this action bar uses the left mouse click, and the bottom set uses the right. Although a efficient use of space, using objects in this way takes a fair amount of getting used to when building, placing down blocks or other items. With a tutorial that doesn’t advance automatically, figuring out how it all works will require more time than it should. Fortunately, the tools used for chopping, mining and digging are automatically selected depending on what resources you’re trying to gather, for example: if you need logs, switching to your axe from your shovel or pickaxe isn’t necessary, it’s all done for you.
Another factor that slows down the learning process is the likelyhood of getting killed repeatedly by poisonous and lethal creatures before you’re taught how to fight them off. Luckily the creatures you encounter at the beginning have a significantly low amount of HP; though they can cause a lot of damage, they’re dead within a few hits of your glowing torch.
Throughout the game, the enemies you encounter won’t differ much from each other, they will become progressively harder to kill, however; you’ll find that they’re all fairly similar to a certain extent.
Enough of the mildly negative points, putting aside the complex UI and very basic tutorial, the game is simply stunning in the visuals department. The glowing ambiance given off from the plants, flowers and general surroundings makes it a pleasure to play. Much like the title suggests, the overall atmosphere is very dark, the “daytime” period is merely non-existent, but it is your job to light up the world as you go. Next to your ‘Action Bar’ there are two sets of numbers to display how much light and dark there is in the world. Inevitably at the start the darkness will have the highest number, but this can be changed through the use of torches, fires, and later on, armour that emits a certain amount of light. If you’re new to searching for the correct resources for the items you’re crafting the game helps you out by highlighting certain materials buried under the surface, so although exploring is the aim of the game, you won’t find that it takes too much longer than it needs to.
An area in which Darkout is unlike other games in this genre is that it has a feature which allows you to feel as though you’re making some real progress, ‘Research’. Much like you have your crafting panel, you will also have a research panel. Each item you craft and each resource you mine will add towards your research points, and this then gives you the opportunity to unlock new objects, create new armour and so on.
Now, if you haven’t played Terraria or any game similar, you may be wondering what the purpose to all this exploration is. This title does in fact have a story behind it: during your journey you’ll find key items to aid the repair of your distress beacon and data with information on other survivors. The time between finding these pieces of information will most likely result in you forgetting entirely about the story, though the game is already engaging enough without it.
Darkout is currently in what developers are calling “Stage One”, and they already have a further three stages planned which are said to include an extended storyline and additional biomes. For a game that’s only going through its first stages after beta, it’s an absolute pleasure to play and joy to look at, it’s far too easy to fall into the captivating atmosphere that this title has to offer. For only a small price, Darkout is most definitely a game you wouldn’t want to miss.