I had a chance to speak with Jerry Whitehead about the new shooter, Darkest of Days. This game throws the player into catastrophic historical events such as Little Big Horn, World War II, the Civil War, and even Pompeii.
What ties all of these disasters from different time periods together is the game’s sci-fi twist. Far in the future, a company called Krontek developed time travel for research, and noticed that timelines have been altered significantly by past world events, such as the Titanic and 9-11.
You play as Alexander Morris, who is a soldier from Little Big Horn who was considered MIA. During the end of Custer’s Last Stand, a time bubble opens up and a solider brings you to the future. Once there, you are tasked with travelling through time, correcting things that went wrong in the past.
Most of these missions involve saving a particular person, known as Auras. Your vision is enhanced to see these Auras, who glow in blue on your HUD. You have several means to prevent them from being killed… you can knock them out, incapacitate them (by shooting them in the leg), or use Chasers, which are futuristic weapons that seek out their target and knock them out.
There are five different time periods that you’ll travel through in this game, and there are multiple missions in each time period. Gamers will be allowed to survive in Little Big Horn, World War II, the last days of Pompeii, the Civil War, and one undisclosed time period.
The Marmoset engine was designed specifically for Darkest of Days by A Monkey Labs (Marmoset is a type of monkey for those who didn’t make the connection). This advanced engine can allow hundreds of enemies on the field at one time, all with their own AI. The game designers wanted to immerse the player in a war-type situation, so one gets the feel of impossible odds.
Darkest of Days ships next Tuesday, so it is safe to assume that the demo shown was final code. The graphics look rather impressive, with rich textures, and rather detailed models. Because there are so many enemies on the screen, you shouldn’t expect AI to the quality of Gears of War or FEAR. During my demo (at Little Big Horn), I was crippled by an Indian tomahawk, and couldn’t move (but could shoot, much like Left 4 Dead). The other enemies no longer took notice of me, and even took cover right in front of me, completely oblivious that I was shooting them with a revolver.
Darkest of Days is based in historical events, but is completely science fiction. The designers had to make certain compromises when balancing historical accuracy with good gameplay. For example, an actual Civil War-era musket takes several minutes to load, but the manoeuvre can be performed within 5 seconds… a virtual lifetime in gaming terms. Little Big Horn was actually an open field, but the game’s battlefield is very hilly to prevent ‘invisible walls’ that would exist to keep a soldier on the map.
Some other historical aspects were fictionalised as a matter of good taste. For example, the German people are very sensitive to the Nazi regime, so the Auchwitz concentration camp is generically labelled. Also, you interact with another futuristic person known as ‘Dexter’, who was a fictional firefighter pulled into the future from the World Trade Center minutes before the events of 9-11. The developers thought about recreating this event, but for sensitivity issues decided to play it safe.
Because you are a person from the past, then in the future, and then in the past again, you can bring futuristic weapons into past events. For example, the demo featured a rocket-launcher type weapon with a laser sight that brought down airstrike destruction in a Civil-War era battlefield.
The game ships on Tuesday, September 8th for the PC, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. Look for our official review of the game soon!