Dark has a few neat tricks up it's sleeve. Unfortunately, it doesn't execute them very well. It's a shame, because the premise is rather cool, and if done right, this could have been a very enjoyable and memorable game. Developed by Kalypso, the same studio behind the Tropico series, Dark introduces you to a cartoonish, action RPG, set in a dark world which contains a small society of vampires. You take the helm of Eric Bane, a youngster who doesn't realise he's a vampire at first. You begin in a nightclub, with Eric orientated and attacked with flashbacks, leaving him confused to what's going on. It's not long before your told what you've become. Your not a fully turned vampire yet, and you require blood from others to stop yourself transforming into a ghoul. Part of the mystery is finding out who turned you. This is most of the narrative in a nut shell, and it's not that interesting. Even Eric is a very underwhelming and bland protagonist to play.
Stealth is relied on heavily throughout the game, so having a weak mechanic isn't a great start. This is where Dark begins to fall apart. The level design is built with stealth in mind, but it doesn't work as well as you would hope. Firstly, the AI is very unpredictable. They'll either spot you a mile off, or just play dumb, not responding to your actions when close. Some will just stand still in one spot, waiting for you to take them out. It's all very inconsistent, which makes it hard to enjoy taking them out quietly. Occasionally, the stealth does work, and I found myself getting past some sections without much trouble. However, most of the time, I found the AI very frustrating and problematic.
There's no guns in DARK. Enemies have them, but Eric never picks up a gun. His main weapons are his supernatural abilities. These are unlocked as the game progresses, but you do begin with a few neat powers. Shadow leap is one of them. This allows you to quickly dart from one area to another. This is great for moving from cover to cover undetected. Unfortunately, using the ability doesn't always work as planned, and you may find yourself unable to move from cover spot, such as a corner. One good point is that each array of powers can be easily accessed, allowing you to quickly equipt your chosen ability. There's also an upgrade system, allowing you to upgrade each power from a skill-tree. This is the only incentive the game offers to replaying Dark, but it's not enough when considering it's troublesome and repetitive stealth mechanics.
Having no guns in DARK is one thing that interested me. However, it does create some real problems when detected. If you are discovered, you are left scattering to the nearest cover point, or simply running at your enemy, trying to knock them out. You see, there's no real combat system here, other than a single button attack. This can be very frustrating when shot by tons of foes, as you must try to approach them, waiting for the attack prompt to appear on-screen. There's no real skill to it what so ever, and performing the same attack becomes tiresome fast. Playing stealthy does reward you points, so it does pay off in the end. However, approaching a level without stealth isn't much of a choice. Without stealth, you wont get very far.
The cel-shaded visuals do fit in very nicely. It works well with the dark and brightened areas throughout the stealth environments, but it's nothing that impressive. They are bland textures, and character models don't look very good. It's more like an HD remake of an original xbox game, rather than today's cel-shaded visuals, such as Borderlands. There's also problems with dialogue sequences, with plenty of lip sync issues. The voice work is also rather poor, and it just comes off very low budget.
DARK has plenty of neat ideas, but never quite succeeds with them. It's easy to appreciate what Kalypso was trying to achieve. With that said, it's hard to recommend DARK to stealth and RPG fans, despite it's cool ideas. With poor combat, stealth mechanics, and weak story, it's best to avoid DARK as much as a vampire would to garlic.