Dark Void has arrived. After having played it, I have to admit – I found the game very much lacking – and, from the looks of it, most of the video game playing world agrees.
Still, if you are like me – you didn’t necessarily pick up the game initially because the flying, shooting, or adventure elements sported the tightest controls, best enemy AI, or the most fluid elements. At least as far as I was concerned, Dark Void gave me the long-awaited opportunity to play a video game as one of my favorite Pulp heroes – the Rocketeer.
Of course, this is a Dieselpunk blog, and that is precisely why I wanted to briefly discuss Dark Void. In his excellent piece on Pulp as it relates to Dieselpunk, Seraphimish discusses the Rocketeer, among other pulp heroes; intelligently drawing a parallel between the tone and tenor of their character.
Without spoiling too much of the story – Dark Void involves a man named William Grey fighting an alien race who has enslaved a large groups of humans – the themes of oppression and conflict are apparent throughout the game, and help to ground the game in the history of its pulp influences.
Of course, this is also aided by the visuals – not only in the graphical fidelity of the game, which looks pretty decent on a High Definition system (although, for my taste, paling in comparison to a game like Bioshock, which literally causes your game machine to ooze with its visual beauty), but in the art direction.
Grey appears to have been designed from head to toe as an homage to the classic Rocketeer, but the darker color scheme reflect the grittier direction of recent gaming culture as well as the overall more desperate tone of the work. Grey’s bomber-style leather jacket is black instead of brown, his Rocketeer-style helmet a dull steel as opposed to a more hopeful gold. Even the world and sky that Dark Void takes place in are of a less hopeful variety than that occupied by his counterpart.
This is certainly closer to the Dark Side of Dieselpunk as discussed by FlyingFortress, rather than the more lighthearted, progress driven tone that other Diesel-worlds occupy. As anyone who has read my pieces can easily surmise – that is something I am just fine with.
For all its flaws as a ‘game,’ Dark Void has a number of successes. Wile many will point to the innovative use of a jet-pack to add a new level to gun-play – I find that Dark Void’s true contribution to the medium is (perhaps unsurprisingly) thematic. As genre and visual-style, the Diesel set doesn’t have all that many video games to count among its own, even by my own expansive view on what can be included and co-opted. Given its very different pedigree of influences, a game like Dark Void, at its best, has the potential to open up new avenues for creative use of settings, character designs, and storytelling.
As it stands, and perhaps more modestly, I am simply glad I can finally play a game as the Rocketeer. Sort of.