Darkness Within: In Pursuit of Loath Nolder (Revamped)




Genre:   Adventure

Developer:  Zoetrope Interactive

Publisher:  Iceberg Interactive

Released:  November 2014

PC Requirements:  

  • OS: Windows® 7 / 8™

  • Processor: 1.4 GHz Intel® Pentium® processor

  • Memory: 1 GB RAM

  • Graphics: 256 MB DirectX® 9.0c compatible video card with Shader 2.0

  • DirectX: Version 9.0c

  • Hard Drive: 1100 MB available space

  • Sound Card: DirectX® 9.0c compatible sound card






by flotsam


Darkness Within: In Pursuit of Loath Nolder

I never did play this when it was released, but I did play the sequel, and in a different reviewing galaxy I concluded that while it had its moments, it was overwhelmed by some convoluted game mechanics and a messy plot. I probably shouldn’t have been surprised that part one left me with kind of the same impression.

Darkness Within was first released in 2007, four years before the year in which the game is set. That we are now looking backwards makes no difference, given the nature of the piece and the settings. What we have for the hiatus is described by the makers as enhanced graphics and Steam achievements. As I said, I never saw the original so can’t comment on the enhancements; the Steam achievements I can take or leave. The revamped sequel will apparently have new puzzles and environments, but as far as I can tell that isn’t the case here.

What we have here is a Lovecraft inspired piece of psychological horror, albeit not terribly psychological or horrific. You play detective Howard Loreid, a troubled man investigating the disappearance of Loath Nolder, a private investigator who is the main suspect in a recent murder. Given the tale is told retrospectively as the personal account of a resident of a lunatic asylum, clearly things did not go well.

I can recall a few games of this type from around the time it first came out (Necronomicon, one of the early Sherlock Holmes games), and certainly the style suits the nature of adventure gaming. Solitary, explorative, slow burns based on a twisting and often elaborate and fansical plot. The horror is more an unease, a dread, growing as we go, and the weirdness messes with your head and you start to question your sanity. While we have the trappings here – a beating heart, tap tap tappings at the door, and heavy breathing, mostly in dark spaces and gothic mansions – it never really creates the environment it is striving for, and as a result never generates a scary or disturbing moment.

Puzzling is, as it often is, a mixed bag. Most are logical, but some are convoluted complications beyond comprehension. The date puzzle is one of those, and a little googling indicates I am not alone in my impression. Some are also overly fiddly in their mechanics, requiring more work than actually appears needed.

An ambitious aspect of the puzzling is the ability to access Howard's thinking process. From within the inventory screen, you can, for instance, underline possible clues in a document, then get his view on the matter, searching for that “aha” moment, and combine items for his input. Were it an adjunct I might have enjoyed it, but it is way too integral to some puzzle solves, and I found it way too fussy for my liking. You may have a different impression however (as a case in point, check out Becky’s review written at the time).

The game is played in the first person, with a point to point node system of locomotion. You have virtually 360 degree panning at each node, and exploration therefore seems quite free. Active icons will indicate something can be done on objects in the game world, and while there are occasionally too many clicks in order to examine an item and then back out of it, most adventure game players will find the interface familiar and easy to use.

Darkness Within has a complex, almost labyrinthine plot, and I did go back over things to try and keep on top of it. That is not a bad thing, and while all of the complexities are not resolved, it was always the first in a series of games, so to some extent that is to be expected.

It looks good, albeit dark in most places, but character modelling shows its age. It sounds good too, both ambiently and (for the most part) in the score. It is generally well acted, although you will likely spend as much time combing journals and the like for information and clues as you will be listening to the spoken word.

You can choose to play on a number of difficulty settings, and can tweak a number of playing options at the menu screen. You can save at will (yay) and slots are generous and more than you will need.

I didn’t not enjoy Darkness Within but to me, it fundamentally fell down on delivering that Lovecraft/Poe experience. As this was a key part of what it was trying to be, everything else suffered accordingly. 

Grade: C+

I played on:

OS: Windows 7

Processor: Intel i7-3820 4GHz

RAM: 12GB Ripjaw DDR3 2133 Mhz

Video card: AMD Radeon HD 7800 2048MB



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