Published on March 11th, 2017 | by Andrewsarchis0
First Look – 2Dark
I haven’t played many titles that open with your children being kidnapped and your wife brutally murdered before the game even begins. None, in fact. Accordingly, even though I knew the premise going into it, the opening cutscene of stealth action title 2Dark was… upsetting.
But not in a bad way. It was upsetting in the right way. I was immediately drawn in and wanted to find out who took my kids. I wanted to get them back so I could repair the main character’s now fragmented life. 2Dark, however, had other things in store.
Following the opening cutscene, a “7 Years Later” screen flashes and you find yourself as the same character, standing outside of the house where he now lives alone. He didn’t find his children. He didn’t experience any closure. Instead, the former detective known as Mr. Smith has spent the last 7 years stewing about what happened and what was taken from him. When a series of unsolved child abductions hit the news, Mr. Smith decides to take matters into his own hands and bring forth some vigilante justice. You gather the necessary supplies (including, but not limited to a Smith & Wesson revolver, a flashlight, and a pack of cigarettes) and take to the streets of Gloomywood, with the primary goal of rescuing these kidnapped children… You just might have to kill some child abductors along the way.
From here, it’s your goal to infiltrate locations where kidnapped children are being held, gather evidence of these crimes, and rescue the children. The game does a very good job of establishing a tone that isn’t too shocking, but still feels as if it’s grounded in reality. The first stage is an abandoned amusement park and you learn very quickly from some of the people working there that someone called “The Clown” is in charge.
The developers intentionally set forth to use horror cliches and avoid painting the picture of realistic serial killers and kidnappers (so as to avoid glorifying the acts featured in the game), which was probably the right move. I say this because, when dealing with the clown, I couldn’t help but think of the very real John Wayne Gacy. Had the developers settled on the idea of creating gruesome, realistic scenes, the game could’ve gotten too dark (no pun intended) very quickly. Instead of exploiting this dismal side of reality to create buzz around their game, the developers intentionally restrained themselves and created something that borders on disturbing, but remains palatable. And hats off to them for that.
The navigation of each stage is relatively straightforward: you navigate throughout gathering tools and evidence all while avoiding characters with the end goal of leading the children that have been kidnapped to safety. Most of the mechanics are what you’d expect from your typical stealth action game, such as staying concealed in shadows and needing to hide bodies you leave behind, but 2Dark does a great job of keeping these from feeling stale.
As I mentioned earlier, 2Dark very deliberately walks the line between reality and fiction and a great example of this can be found in the style of the game itself. Despite being 2D and relatively cartoon-y, it just works. Perhaps it serves as a palate cleanser, or prevents things from seeming “too real.” Whatever the reason, I’m a fan.
I’m garbage at stealth games. This is mostly due to a lack of patience on my part, but if I’m presented with the option to go in guns blazing and save the day, that’s my usual choice. While an option, 2Dark very clearly frowns upon this method of rescue by throwing some curve-balls your way. For one, ammunition is limited and most enemies take more than one shot. You have to plan accordingly. Another, and much more brutal aspect, is that once you’ve rescued and are leading children to safety, your bullets (and the bullets of your enemies) can kill them.
This aspect of the game design stirred up a small bit of controversy when it was revealed and despite this, the developers decided to keep it in the game, noting that without it, part of the game’s challenge was gone. As much as most of us aren’t used to seeing children die in video games, 2Dark uses it as an incentive to think before you act. In the words of production director Thierry Platon, “You have to be afraid to shoot.” And afraid you will be. I found my usual ways being challenged and the game rewarded me for it in a major way. All I’ll say is… Lions.
If you’re into stealth action games that make you use your head and strategize a bit, and don’t mind the grim subject matter 2Dark deals with, I’d absolutely recommend giving this game a shot. While my time with it so far has been admittedly short, I’m excited to take the time to really dive in and watch the rest of the story unfold.
2Dark is out on Steam today, so go check it out.