Dark Horizon Review
Dark Horizon box art
System: PC Review Rating Legend
Dev: Paradox Interactive 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Paradox Interactive 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Oct. 18, 2008 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Everyone 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
It's Not Pretty, it Just Looks That Way
by Cole Smith

I can’t help but feel that Dark Horizon was found behind the fridge in an abandoned lunchroom at a bankrupt development studio. Discovered by the new game-publishing tenants, this dated and hackneyed game was thrust into the marketplace as a no-lose proposition. Any monies generated by this “fridge freebie” would simply be gravy. Unfortunately, it’s making me stew.

Dark Horizon screenshot

Dark Horizon is so average I can’t help but wonder if the developers are aware of any other space shooters on the market? It’s not clear exactly what Dark Horizon is, although there are plenty of hints at what it wants to be. There are elements of space sim, space shooter, strategy, and even RPG features. Sadly, none are fully realized. At best, Dark Horizon is an arcade shooter. The RPG elements are confounding and do little more than add useless details to the convoluted storyline. Missions are linear and predictable. Ship customizing is offered but it’s very basic, offering very little in the way of strategy. Although you start the game taking orders from a commander, and eventually work your way up to being the boss, at no time do you ever feel in total control. And that’s just not very much fun.

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In the future, the universe is at the mercy of a seemingly omnipotent force called the Mirk. It’s not just a race of quirky, evil aliens. It’s more like a universal plague, and you’re actually infected with it. The only thing that can destroy the Mirk is an intense particle beam weapon called the Light Core. This weapon is still being constructed, so you’ll have to defend your stations against attacks until it can be brought into service.

Dark Horizon screenshot

Throughout the game, you’ll be subjected to cutscenes, conversations, annoying radio chatter, and epic chunks of text that turn the storyline into a novel. It’s the only area in the game that displays any actual depth, but has virtually no connection to the gameplay. There’s everything from historic archives to read through to dream analysis. It’s interesting, but it starts to get old once you realize that you’re kind of being tricked into a false sense of depth, as you’re always thrown into the same arcade-style combat.

For an arcade-style game, the control system is not immediately user-friendly. There's a good tutorial that shows you the basics and, of course, the hotkeys you'll have to memorize. The keyboard and mouse don’t have a symbiotic connection to each other. It’s more or less a means to an end, and one that you’ll get used to after about an hour, but it just doesn't feel natural. Some of the missions are on-rails, where it’s basically drive-by shooting; the only thing you have to worry about is deploying the weapons systems at the right time. But there are some missions that require more skillful manipulation of the craft, and that’s not easy. Dog-fighting requires you to change direction abruptly, including complete 180s. You’ll often run out of scrolling space moving the mouse in one direction, causing you to pick it up and move it back quickly to increase the scrolling distance. Make sure you’ve got a lot of room to move that mouse around in. To add to the frustration, there are no mid-level saves. Thankfully, the missions don't last more than ten minutes.

Dark Horizon screenshot

Screenshots / Images
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