Darkness Within 2: The Dark Lineage

Genre:   Adventure

Developer:  Zoetrope Interactive

Publisher:    Iceberg Interactive (Europe)

Released:  May 2010

PC Requirements:   Windows 2000/XP/Vista/XP, 1,8 Ghz Intel Pentium or equivalent AMD, 512 MB RAM (1GB Recommended for Windows Vista and 7), 256 MB DirectX 9.0c compatible or better video card (nVidia GeForce 7/ATI Radeon X1600/comparable) and Pixel/Vertex Shader 3.0 support, 4x speed PC-DVD-ROM, 3GB hard space, DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card, Mouse, Keyboard and Sound Speakers


Additional Screenshots



by flotsam


“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age”.

So begins "The Horror in Clay", the first part of The Call of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft. While the story itself is not the basis of The Dark Lineage, the Lovecraft style inspired Darkness Within. And the “piecing together of dissociated knowledge” will indeed lead Howard Loreid to dark places and unnatural vistas.

I didn’t play the first part of Darkness Within, and by all accounts it would have helped. The plot is elaborate to say the least, fanciful and fantastic, and somewhat confusing as a result. You will pull the gist together as you go, but knowledge of the first will likely help the pulling, or help pull it sooner.

Anyone familiar with Lovecraft will know that we are in the realms of willing suspension of disbelief. If you are looking for realism, look elsewhere. That said, the plot should come together, and even allowing for my lack of part 1, I thought The Dark Lineage was too convoluted for its own good. I kind of let it wash over me, rather than trying to keep on top of it, and focused on what I could see and do instead.

Which is often rather good, especially in the second part once you reach The Gate. The settings are well drawn, having a period look about them, and the 3D environment (a change from the point to point mechanics of the first game) means you can wander almost at will, and get down and dusty poking about.

While there is much to poke at, and to pull and push about, much of it is neither necessary or essential, and will more often than not reveal nothing of value. However, I don’t want to be able to only find or open or examine things of relevance, and I like wandering about in a fairly open landscape. So I was happy enough with the exploration side of things.

I was far less happy with the inventory management and what went on within it.

The tale of Inspector Legrasse

The biggest culprit was the Howard's Mind component, where you can try linking information and items to make other items or intuitive leaps. Mostly it resulted in nothing, to the extent that I stopped trying. Certain items obviously had to be combined, so I faithfully dragged them to the brain and clicked the little gear icon to make them as one. But short of that I didn’t bother. It was way too messy and generally completely unnecessary.

I also wasn’t enamoured of the underlining aspect of documents and texts. You can choose to turn this off, so it wasn’t a big thing. But if you play with it on, you can choose to underline what might be key parts of a document, and then click the little gear icon again. If you are right, the text will be retained in the “thought” part of the inventory, much like a journal. From there you can subject it to the brain combination I spoke of earlier should you want to, or you can simply review what you have learned.

Near as I could tell, much of what was “key” in the sense that it would end up in the journal was not required in order to progress in the game. If I didn’t underline the right bits, it didn’t stop me from continuing (although there were points where having marked something seemed to be required to trigger a progression). Combined with the fact that you could underline all of it if you wanted to, it again seemed overly complicated.

But it did take away the need for pen and paper, and not everything you read can be carried with you. Plus it served as a summary of what was going on, and was rather useful in that regard.

A variety of difficulty levels is available, which is where you get to decide how you deal with underlining. On the easiest setting, all the key information can be revealed automatically, but you still have to find the relevant documents, and you can always resist the temptation to press the “auto research” button. You can also turn on or off the “clue counters”, which tell you how many key pieces of information there are in a document. On its hardest setting, you are on your own, and you won’t be told how many pieces of information you have to find.

A further setting enables you to set how hints operate. They can either be off, can be triggered when progress is slow, or they can be available all the time.

This level of customisation is a big plus. Whatever you might think of the mechanics of the underlining, you can choose to deal with it in a variety of ways, and the hint system (although sometimes not that helpful) gives you a level of control over how you play the game.

The madness from the sea

The Dark Lineage is not a hard game, but there are some hard puzzles and conundrums. Out-and-out puzzles are far more prevalent in the first half of the game. In the second part, I can only recall one – at that point it's predominantly inventory based. Most are well designed, although purchasing a particular item left a bit to be desired, and I have no idea where the clues were for one puzzle. Hot spots can occasionally be quite small, and won’t show up at all if you aren’t close enough, making crouching at times essential.

Cut scenes are scattered throughout the game, and will result in the game taking control of Howard until the scene is finished. You can’t skip these scenes, but you can skip through dialogue. There aren’t many characters to talk to, but some of them have a LOT to say, so being able to read ahead was useful.

You use WASD keys to move around, and you can’t map movement to the mouse, which always irritates me. You control your field of vision with the mouse, and left clicking interacts with the world. Right clicking brings up the inventory.

There are two different outcomes, although you can trigger them in three different ways, and the game felt like it ended, rather than it was resolved. There was a conclusion as far as Howard is concerned, but the tangled threads and convolutions were not sufficiently dealt with given all the detail involved. It was a little unsatisfying, although I was quite tempted to join Howard in one outcome.

The end also produces a score, which includes things like the hidden clues you found (you can discover what they are for yourself). There are also quite a few Easter Eggs in the game, and things to find that will increase your score but are not essential to the game play.

Perhaps most disappointingly, The Dark Lineage isn’t very horrifying. All the pieces are there - the ambient sound, the darkness and the settings - but it's at best unnerving, and only occasionally. Which on reflection is much like the Lovecraft pieces I have read, so perhaps it is entirely appropriate.

Speaking of which, ambient sounds are excellent, and I especially liked the scrunch of walking on snow. So too the music does its part to help the unnerving.

All in all, Howard’s excursion into his shadowy lineage kept me entertained for a goodly period, but to me it didn’t quite hit its mark. I couldn’t help thinking there was a great game here, that was ultimately undone by some overly convoluted game mechanics, a messy plot and a flat endgame. Which was a shame, because I am always up for being roused from my placid ignorance by a terrifying vista or two.


I played on:

OS: Win XP Professional SP3

Processor: AMD Phenom 9500 Quad Core CPU 2.2 GHz

Ram: 3.25GB DDR2 400MHz

Gx card: ATI Radeon HD 3850 512Mb


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