|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|
by Cole Smith
I cant 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, its making me stew.
Dark Horizon is so average I cant help but wonder if the developers are aware of any other space shooters on the market? Its 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 its 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 thats just not very much fun.
In the future, the universe is at the mercy of a seemingly omnipotent force called the Mirk. Its not just a race of quirky, evil aliens. Its more like a universal plague, and youre 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 youll have to defend your stations against attacks until it can be brought into service.
Throughout the game, youll be subjected to cutscenes, conversations, annoying radio chatter, and epic chunks of text that turn the storyline into a novel. Its the only area in the game that displays any actual depth, but has virtually no connection to the gameplay. Theres everything from historic archives to read through to dream analysis. Its interesting, but it starts to get old once you realize that youre kind of being tricked into a false sense of depth, as youre 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 dont have a symbiotic connection to each other. Its more or less a means to an end, and one that youll get used to after about an hour, but it just doesn't feel natural. Some of the missions are on-rails, where its 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 thats not easy. Dog-fighting requires you to change direction abruptly, including complete 180s. Youll 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 youve 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.