Time to kill the mood!
People seem somewhat excited about it.
Map of Germany is somewhat entertaining and cities are accurately named.
Almost everything else.
The Bottom Line
I recently purchased this game for 99 cents on Good Old Games, figuring it would be a very nice distraction from my usual schedule. I downloaded the installer, ran it and was ready for the greatest open-world adventure of my entire life!!! Then I installed Mount&Blade again, because this game is the most overrated crap I have ever seen. I usually refrain from flat-out calling a game crap in my reviews, but here there is just no other way to describe it. Seldom have I felt this much hatred for a game, let alone one that is so humble in nature.
Let's start at the beginning...
Upon booting the game I was given three options: Quick Play, Start a New Adventure and Continue. I wanted my own adventure, so I selected the New Game option and started making my own party. This is where my first problem comes in: YOU CAN NEVER READ ANYTHING! Aside from been just downright pixelated, the letters are also written in a front that just blends together even more. It also does the same thing as Fallout 3, where the names of stats are abbreviated to fit in a smaller window. A lot of people praised the customization, but frankly I can't get very excited about pouring points in stats like "wffl" or "Strw". I decided to put points into whatever I could decipher and clicked next, whereupon the game politely reloaded the exact same menu and told me to add even more points to my character. I picked up somewhere along the line that this moves the character through the phases of his life, but I got so sick and tired of the mere idea that I just saved the character and added him to the pre-made party. Ready to start my adventure, I clicked the Go button and went off!
Sadly the button did nothing, as did half the other buttons located in the menu. I returned to the main menu after that and just selected Quick Game. This lead me to a text-screen that filled me in on what amounts to a story. I was to take control of a group of knights devoted to good, so my previous efforts in making a sneaky thief were utterly worthless right off the bat. Things got worse when the conversation ended and nobody had said a single word in regards to what we had to do, they offered some suggestions, but no direction. Some suspicions started to arise within me, so I left the inn and 'lo and behold, I was offered a dozen options to go to places.
It's not that I don't like text-based games, but this genre doesn't mix at all with sandbox features. In this scenario all that's going to happen is that the player will do something and the game will always follow a success up with "What do you want to do now". It carries no weight to the overall narrative, nor to the player's emotions, it's just a collection of meaningless screens. I was devoted to try and get into it though, so I pursued all my leads in search of a story. After ten minutes of play I had a vague hint that their might be a quest hidden somewhere in the city, but with nighttime approaching I decided to get one quick glance of what the local shops offered.
The answer turned out to be... incomprehensible menus! I could not figure any of it out, but knowing people were going to flame me for saying this, I decided to check out the manual... It has over 100 pages! I have always stood by the notion that if you can't explain something simply, then you yourself simply don't understand it. 108 pages is therefore a clear sign of NOT UNDERSTANDING it, not even the producers knew what they were doing. I know I can just look at the first few pages to look for a page I need, but this is just so overwhelming that I'd rather just fire up anything else. By the way, doesn't it seem logical to give a few quick hints in-game, seeing as how we are already spending the entire game looking at text anyway? Games like Zork also had built-in commands that you could call upon for some quick help, so why doesn't Darklands have any?
It was now night and I was still at a loss, so as a last hope I randomly wandered around town until bandits attacked me. This was literally what pushed me over the edge, the combat is HORRENDOUS. The idea is that the fights are real-time, but you can pause the action to issue commands. I tried this, but using the mouse is so jittery that I couldn't manage to do anything, most of the time the game just beeped loudly and my guys stood perfectly still. That was the point where I force-closed the game, this was the breaking point. After I submitted my review though, I was approached by Unicorn Lynx who suggested I might not have given the game a fair chance. After having given it some rest, I decided to try once more and I found that if you are willing to dig through that enormous manual than the game can be at least playable. It doesn't fix issues with readability, the plot that doesn't exist or the obtuse menus, but I at least managed to skip town and head somewhere. I was almost starting to get into it when I walked out of a random gate and the game suddenly told me I had died, followed by a cut-scene and the game freezing on me.
I have no idea how people can get so excited over this on Mobygames, I read claims like "Darklands is an RPG that would kick the living day-lights out of today's games!" and this forced me to ask: "Really?".
You would REALLY rather play Darklands than Dragon Age: Origins.
You would rather play Darklands than World of Warcraft?
You would rather play Darklands than Deus Ex: Human Revolution?
Even if we are too place ourselves in the mindset of a gamer from 1992 it falls very flat. Zelda II was already kicking around, Ultima was already dominating the genre since 1980 and... what is supposed to be revolutionary about this game? Text-based game were around before and after this game and the combat is a massive downgrade compared to the already mediocre Ultima IV combat.
Before people bring it up, no I am not trolling anyone. I like both RPG-games and text-adventures, I have played a lot of each and also some games that combined both these genres. Darklands is just bad. It's the worst game I have ever played, in fact. The end.