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SummaryHoped for the best, got the worst
The GoodThere are only a very few things that I liked in Damnation: the cover artwork , the story and the design of the weapons and a few vehicles and other elements.
Although boasting to be a third person shooter, a strong acrobatic element becomes apparent very soon in the game, not only from the plethora in the acrobatic moves repertoire of the hero but in the level design as well. Most levels are designed as complex towers which the player has to find ways to climb to the top in order to proceed. Ladders, platforms, ledges, ropes, planks, walls, the player is called upon to use everything in the environment to perform acrobatics such as jumping and leaping in 3-4 different ways, smashing your way through windows etc, in order to proceed with the level and the plot.
The game’s weapons on offer have, in my opinion, exceptional design! I mean these things look really brutal and lethal. Gorgeous industrial revolution - inspired heavy duty forms! The shotgun looks like a 6 barrel minigun and the revolver pistol has three bullet holder barrels at least! You’re destined to bring Armageddon with these beauties! Kudos to the artwork department there! These are the weapons we’ve all wanted to have in a game!
And all that is amusing, a tiny bit, but…
The BadHere are the so many bad news: I’ll begin from my most familiar aspect, being the graphics. The game was released in May of 2009, but it’s graphics certainly make it look like it’s at the least a couple of years old! That number grows larger when seeing the cinematic animations, as I’ve seen pre-rendered animations of such quality 4-5 years ago. Not to mention the textures that look as they were done 6-8 years ago! Certainly the graphics in the game are not up to day’s standards, the models are extremely badly textured and the cinematics are badly animated and rendered. To put it simply, even at the highest graphics settings on offer, it still looks old.
And it feels old and crooked also!! To worsen things up are the enemy AI, which is totally dumb, and if this is not enough, the enemy really takes some beating before dying. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but as this game works in general, it is! By the way do not expect a huge variety of enemies, most of them look the same.
The game seems to be designed to have the player playing through in two modes: the acrobatic mode and the shooter mode. So while you’re getting in the mood of doing all kinds of crazy umps, backflips and leaps from platform to platform, you suddenly fall in an ambush of a dozen of enemies all guns blazing on you, making you run for cover. All that would be good if the combat system of the game gave it justice. It doesn’t though! For starters the control of the guns is really awkward as you have to keep the right mouse button pressed to take the selected weapon out and while having the right button pressed you must click the left button to shoot. Why on earth they haven’t made the draw / holster action toggled, I really don’t know, the fact is that the weapons selection and combat system is extremely annoying.
And as if this wasn’t enough for you, let me inform you that your weapon does not always shoot exactly where you point it at. Most of the time your shots go to the sides of your target. In short you’ll need quite a lot of ammo for a simple enemy. And the further their distance from the player the more impossible it becomes to hit them, unless the you’re equipped with the sniper rifle, which seems like a good idea for this one, as most opponents are usually shooting from further platforms far away from the player.
Another thing that annoyed me for good was the fact that when you’re climbing or holding onto something, say a ladder or a rope, there was no way on earth to abandon the acrobatic and fall on the ground to fire back on shooting enemies. As you can imagine this leaves the player exposed to enemy fire and brings a quick death. Or the fact that I was climbing a ladder when all of a sudden enemies with shotguns appeared on the floor above and finished me up before I had any chance of drawing my weapon out.
Another feature that is a total waste most of the time is the Spiritual vision. With that the player can see friends and foes through walls, obstacles etc. I mean what is the point of that since most enemies will wait to attack the player before he/she has a chance to leave a ladder for instance and draw their weapon out. The element of surprising the enemy, is definitely not available in this game.
To top it all off, the game’s NPCs are the most boring and useless bunch of wimps. Not only they do not help in combat, they also fall unconscious frequently and its up to the player to revive them. So if the heat from the frustrating battle wasn’t enough for you, there are also a couple of totally useless partners that you have to constantly babysit on.
The Bottom LineIn two words: total Crap!
Damnation is a fine example of a well conceived-on-paper game, with a good steampunk storyline to back it all up, which was completely ruined when implemented on code. So many good things were expected, none of them are given.
The fact that saddens me most is that it could have been so much more, Damnation could be a truly awesome game, a good mix of acrobatics plus combat, all in a good setting… The exceptional and much older Oni comes to mind! Unfortunately, all this good effort on paper is lost. Damnation is not only far from being an exceptional game, it is the worst and most annoying game I have played in the last 5-6 months and certainly one of the worst games of 2009!!
I have tried so hard to sympathize with it, to come in terms with its awkward combat mechanics, to give it some hours at least… I just could not. After 5 hours of such needless torture, I started yelling at my machine, condemning my choice to actually buy this one. It is that bad! And even worse. It frustrates the player! The only entertaining feature of Damnation is the main hero’s acrobatics, but then if I wanted an acrobatics game, I would opt for the best in that field: Mirror’s Edge, which tears apart Damnation in the graphics department as well. To be honest with you, if the combat and action system of Damnation worked sweetly, I could forget about the over-dated graphics. After all, a truly good game is good in it's bones, not in the looks.
So why have I paid 40 euros to get angry and to lose 5 good hours of my otherwise perfect summer evening, I really do not know… but I really think you should avoid making the same mistake as I did.