1/5 Replay Value
Dark Matter is an intriguing game and has a number of high points. I'll start with those. The visuals are gorgeous. It's dark and creepy with detailed interesting backgrounds. Sometimes you see things skittering around in the background or even in the foreground. Lights flicker, fleshy growths pulsate, and monsters look good. The overall theme of the game is well done. You feel as though you are alone on a dead ship with an infestation of ravenous alien lifeforms. I have no complaints about the sound or soundeffects and was very pleased with the voice of your AI guide. It sounds gritty and electronic with just a slight hint of emotion to it which I thought fit the mood very very well.
Gameplay has some nice features. Your light has some impact on the creatures in the game. Some traps close when light is shined upon them while others explode or release poison gas when lit up. Hive tunnels spawn creatures when light shines on them. Additionally because of this dependency on light you can shoot out hallway lights, flares, etc... to make the area dark. I was dissapointed, however, that there was no mechanic for placing flares or something to create a light source even if it would only be temporary. You can collect resources from enemies and use it to create new ammos and weapon upgrades as well as med kits which are absolutely vital to playing this game. You can also collect scrap and convert it into usable resources. However, you lose some of the scrap when converting with a smaller loss the more scrap you have. I enjoyed this feature as it encouraged you to save up scrap but in a bind you could use it early.
Your starting weapon has clips of ten shots which when they run out you can reload endlessly. It has unlimited ammo. It is not explained but probably the gun uses laser shots or some such thing. It is the weakest gun but acts as a backup weapon or a cheap alternative in the event you are low on ammo for the other guns. I appreciate and fully support this feature of gameplay.
Sadly this game falls short in most other areas. Movement is a little awkward and clunky. The Ensign's (Your Character) movement animations end up detracting from the visual beauty of the game. her jump animation is especially bad especially when you slide along the ceiling with your head while jumping when sprinting. Additionally a glitch is possible when sprinting. If you jump while sprinting your sprint gauge fills while in the air at a faster rate than it is depleted by your running allowing you to travel through the ship very fast if you have already cleared the area.
The objectives are sometimes unclear or simply don't make any sense. For example, you need to activate some sort of purge and then after have to manually deactivate it. I do not know what the purge was for, nor why it would not deactivate, or even what my deactivating it did. It seemed to have no impact on the gameplay. The further into the game the worse this got. It seemed very much to be unfinished. Explanations were missing or sections just completely skipped over.
Transitions between areas were problematic. At first everything worked fine but later in the game there were a couple of awkward transitions that seemed to drop you from the ceiling. I happily ignored those. Then I found some transitions that you could only use in one direction with no clear explanation for why and I suspect is a bug. Finally I eventually realized that going through transistions to new areas reset your character to the last time you saved meaning that if you crafted a type of ammo, didn't save, and passed to a new area, all of that ammo or whatever you made disappeared. Your equipped gun would sometimes also not match what you were using before the transition. This continued to get worse as the game progressed.
In some areas of the game specific weapons or ammo are required. For example, a vine like growth blocks a hallway and has to be shot with flame ammo to be burned away. I like this type of thing very much. It acts as an interesting barrier to prevent me from progressing beyond a certain point until I finished the intended content first. The problem, however, is that any time you leave that area the vine grows back and can't be passed without once again shooting it. So if you clear the area beyond it and run out of flame ammo in the process you are stuck unless you can craft more. Of course if you are out of resources and creatures to kill at the same time than you can't craft flame ammo and are permamently stuck unable to progress.
Monsters have little variety which I don't mind too much because it is a side scroller and there are plenty of other things to be occupied with. However, there are also very few of some of those limited monster varieties. For example, you fight a fantastic monster called a Samurai at one point. It is accompanied by a stomping sound which fits in nicely with it's size. It acts as a sort of boss fight I suppose. You never see this enemy ever again. The same is true for what can only be called the final boss which is honestly not that difficult of a fight. Some monsters lend themselves well to the idea of a zerg-like swarm but generally you only see 2 or 3 of these enemies together. Some monsters you fight can't be effectively fought without pretty much just taking damage and spamming medkits. It really destroys any semblance of tactical battle for me which is a shame because some of these enemies would work very well for that kind of purpose. The entire game gives you the sense that you will likely be fighting a particularly named creature at some point but you never even see one.
The game ends abruptly with an artistic scene of panels in a storyboard fashion, but oddly the art did not quite seem the same as the rest of the game. The ending also added more questions than answers, was not led up to well, and generally left me feeling very unsatisfied.
Overall this game was one I want to like and found interesting but simply does not pull it together. It feels like a beta but claims to be finished. Sadly releasing a game in such a fashion usually means I will be avoiding all games from that designer in the future. Such is the case with Dark Matter.