New, Used, Abused: Chronicles of Riddick – Assault on Dark Athena.

Bonus post! Just for you guys.

A bit back I looked back at Butcher Bay, and if you’ve not read the review I highly suggest you do.

Anyway, Dark Athena is the sequel to Butcher Bay.  Again made by Starbreeze, you follow a certain fellow as his ship he escaped from Butcher Bay in gets captured by a Merc ship, and has to fight his way out.

First off you start with a tutorial level. In Butcher Bay you learnt how to play by being put into a dream sequence, but half the beauty was that if you hadn’t seen Pitch Black you wouldn’t know that it wasn’t real. It was brilliant, and taught all the mechanics of the game rather well.
Dark Athena tries to do the same thing, but unfortunately it’s not quite so subtle.  Riddick wakes up on the beach. Then he goes into a tunnel. Then he talks to some chap. Then he climbs up a ladder. Fortunately it gets better with the fighting mechanics, but alienating the player from base one: Never a good idea. I was wondering what the hell had happened to Johns, my spaceship or any relevancy to butcher bay whatsoever.

There’s two specific schools of voice acting and dialogue quality in this game. Riddicks, and the good stuff.
Riddick in the first game was nice and straightforward when talking to other people. He sometimes narrated the story a bit because the entire thing was a flashback, and it was really nice. In this game however he tends to prattle on about nothing, saying stuff like ‘I’m hells messenger”. Lines that, in short, make him sound like an absolute tool.

Then of course, is every other voice actor in the game.
Believable voice acting is something that’s becoming more popular in games these days, however they took the concept one step further by adding terrific voice acting AND expressive body language. The result is… amazing. I mean I could actually read the characters a lot better and it enhanced the experience significantly. You could easily tell when characters were freaking out, when they were confused, and when they were just batshit crazy. I don’t think I’ve seen this level of character emotion in a MOVIE before, let alone a game.

The gameplay retains all the elements, stealth, gunplay and melee, but uses them in different quantities. You’ll be shooting a lot more in this one than Butcher Bay, and the Melee is well… a lot more difficult.
The focus is now blocking and waiting for them to attack, and trying to get a quick-time event where you click when the weapons flash. The only problem with this is that the flash is a tad too late, so often the gap between the flash and the time where you can click is INSANELY short, which means the entire melee combat feels a bit broken.

The shooting is practically no different, aim at head, they die. Shoot out light, darkness, sneak behind and pull out brain. Nuff’ said.
Well actually there’s an interesting mechanic where you can kill drones and use their bodies for a meat shield and the guns on their arm to have temporary firepower, which is very interesting and quite fun at points.

The main difference is with the amount of stealth you’ll be doing. In Butchers you sneaked around quite a bit and shanked guards in the dark, hiding their bodies so other guards wouldn’t notice. In this one you still get that but after one kill you’ll practically always be found out, and have to just shoot everyone.

The story of Dark Athena is quite decent, though there was 2 things I would have prefered to have happened (minor spoilers):

First I would have liked to be captured at some point. Half the fun of Butcher Bay was finding holes in the system and exploiting them to make your initial escape. This game you’re helping others to get out, meaning you already have the unfair advantage, actually having weapons and having free roam of the ship. I want to rise from repression dammit!

Secondly, I would have liked a better ending. You’ve just killed the end boss, and then the cutscene ends with you going up an elevator….
Then what? You’re still on a ship filled with mercinaries for godsake, I want to be able to escape! What about Johns? What happens to this little girl you’re now protecting and never shows up again? I just want some damned closure.

One complaint as well: There’s a guy built like a tank in the second level. You’re expected to fight him to get to the next area. When he hits you when you’re blocking, he does the same damage if someone else hit you weren’t blocking. When he hits you when you’re not blocking, it’s the same as if you’ve been hit by a club without blocking. I couldn’t defeat this guy fairly even when I turned it down to easy out of shear frustration. I resorted to getting onto some pipes he couldn’t walk onto and running in, hitting him, and running away. On. Easy. On hard this’d be perfectly fair. Without that pipe I may have given up on the game entirely. Bad design there guys. The other two fights where you’re taking someone on in a fist fight or knife fight, brilliant. This one, horrible.

As I’ve stated before, Butcher Bay is a campaign on this game as well, and while the old voice acting and animations are showing a little age, it’s still terrific. I even found out a couple of things I couldn’t figure out last time around, and it’s quite fun, but really nothing you’ve not seen before if you’ve played Butchers before.

Graphically it seems like it’s over reaching. I mean it looks terrific, but on my laptop that runs crysis on medium-high, I have to run it in a window because it has a terrible fullscreen framerate. I don’t see why people have this fascination of creating games that cannot be run by a lot of the current market, seems like a bad business stratergy to me.

Multiplayer is something I haven’t really looked into, mainly cause I’m not downloading a 100 meg patch for multiplayer that I’ve been told has virtually no players. It has some deathmatch modes and some CTF modes too, but the main one I’d like to play is ‘Pitch Black’, where one character plays as riddick in a dark maze, and everyone else plays as mercs. You kill Riddick, you play as him next round. It sounds like incredible fun if Riddick is given enough space to stealth, otherwise it’d just suck, as gamers are notoriously good at spotting people trying to stealth.

Anyway, Dark Athena was entertaining if a little annoying at times. I’d suggest it if you were in the mood to stealth, particularly if you’ve not played butcher’s bay before. It’s an incredibly immersive game and has some pretty visuals, as well as the best acting I’ve seen ANYWHERE.


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