I’m just going to come out and say it. If you liked Terraria or its sci-fi counterpart Starbound, you’ll probably like Darkout. It’s partially because Darkout plays almost exactly like the other games. Battle the creatures. Gather the resources. Build the shelters. Gather the supplies. Repeat as necessary.
An open, alien world with a story to tell.
Darkout’s major defining feature is the story. The player’s escape pod is launched from a starship and crashes on a new planet. The player is completely alone, and the natives are hostile. The universe’s history is uncovered through the discovery of different datalogs that can be found in the procedurally generated worlds. Excepting finding them and learning the truth about everything will prove difficult, as the planet has a level of cloud cover that bathes it in darkness. Meaning the dangerous, nighttime creatures never completely leave. The world is never quite as bright or safe as it can be in the daylight hours of the games it’s modeled after.
Beyond the base story though, Darkout doesn’t really have a defined identity of its own. The major differences between Darkout and both Terraria and Starbound are the graphics engine, story and the depth of gameplay. Darkout keeps the core mechanics and gameplay principles, but has more advanced, 2.5D graphics. At the same time, it seems to have a lot stripped back from what even the beta version of Starbound has in place.
Darkout does a couple of things very well. One of the best things about the game is the graphics engine. While Terraria and Starbound have a similar sidescrolling plane, Darkout‘s biomes have a deeper and more detailed presentation. The color palette is also usually dark enough to match the overarching narrative of an initially isolated struggle for survival. Yet, Darkout‘s scope is limited is. While there are multiple biomes, or at least there will be in future stages, to traverse and gather resources from, Starbound already has a larger scope in which you can travel to different planets. Darkout is beautiful, but it could be so much more than it is.
The procedural generation also helps with replayability in Darkout. It creates a lot of variety, even within a single biome. This is one of the game’s biggest blessings. It also changes the possibilities for different base layouts. Creative gamers can have a lot of fun when it comes to making a place of their own, or even trying to construct other buildings.
Darkout, even with this shortcoming of a limited scope, still manages to keep faithful to the core mechanics of the genre. The resource gathering is simple and straightforward, as it should be. Crafting and research, occupying roughly the same part of the HUD, give a clear view of what you’re able to make. The two menus are also constantly growing as you advance. The inventory system is also clear and works fairly well. Players should have no trouble keeping track of everything and creating new items.
While there is good in Darkout, there are some unfortunate rough spots. The ability to explore of other worlds would have been nice, since that is a feature that Starbound offers. With your first playthrough, you create a character and set the basic parameters of the planet you crash on. In subsequent playthroughs, you can create multiple world parameters for the world you crash land on, which implies a larger universe. However, once you get advanced enough technology, you can’t build a ship to head to any of the other worlds that have been created to play on. There is the fact that you can just create a new character and start them off on the initial planet build, but that in itself is problematic. If you import the new character into an existing world that you’ve started building on, it’s wiser to have a well-stocked base if you want to be able to explore, defend yourself and gather resources. It’s because with a well-stocked base, you can get supplies right away rather than praying you find something useful. The reason is because of the fact that on new games with new planets, you can actually quickly get your starting supplies scavenged from your crashed ship. In new games with planets from previous playthroughs, if your base – which does carry over to the new game – is poorly stocked, you start off with absolutely nothing but the existing shelter. Unfortunately, at least until more content is added, you’re pretty much limited to the world that you start on. I just couldn’t keep from wanting more.
Combat in Darkout is also pretty limited. With Terraria, the resource gathering tools (axes, shovels, picks, etc.) could also be used as weapons, though they might not be the most effective. Unless, I’ve been doing something wrong, the only things that can be used as weapons in Darkout are the lights and the actual weapons. The lights and torches doubling as weapons make sense, as many of the enemies are light-sensitive beings. But it would be helpful if the other equipment could be used in moments of desperation. Especially since these creatures can sneak up on a player under the cover of darkness. It seems a little limiting in a kind of game that’s known for its openness.
I also encountered noticable framerate dips, to the point of near-freezing, in Darkout. This happened to me when the game would autosave sometimes, and occasionally when a tree would be chopped down. While this isn’t necessarily a major problem, it does hinder the immersion into the game’s world. The major problem were the crashes. It was actually kind of funny, because Darkout had a tendency to crash while I when I was quitting the game. I actually began to think of it as comic relief.
You’re not missing out on much
As of this moment, you’re not missing out on much with Darkout, especially if you’ve got Terraria or Starbound in your collection. While Darkout does have potential, it falls short the moment you start comparing it to one of the other games. It feels in comparison. It isn’t a bad game, but we’ve been here before. We might not have had the quality of graphics and animation in the games that it’s directly modeling itself off of, but they did offer a bigger experience. However, the game is continually growing and having more content added to it, so it could one day turn into something wonderful.