Operation: Darkness

2009-06-08 23:23:52

Operation Darkness(Xbox 360)

Operation Darkness is an Atlus product, a company known for making unique and challenging JRPG like strategy games such as Yggdra Union and others. So far when it comes to Atlus products I am on the losing end, two for two. My friends have given me rave reviews of Atlus products so I suppose I will continue to bash my head into the bricks until one of them comes out a shining gem of everything I enjoy in strategic games. Operation Darkness looked like it might've been that game, until I actually played it.

Operation Darkness sets itself as a game in World War 2, you play as British forces vs Germans starting off in the deserts of Africa. Your men get ambushed and you almost die, but some kindly British SAS forces sweep in and heal you by transfusing you with their blood. Now another thing the game sells itself as is Werewolves and Vampires, Werewolves being on the British side and Germans being the type to drink blood and flay children. I knew this going into the game as I played the demo of the game and in the demo I turned the head SAS guy into a werewolf and destroyed a tank. Only one problem, I don't know where the werewolf powers show up, but it definitely isn't very close to the beginning of the game.

The game is a strategic one in that you have a preparation screen that you go through before each mission where you recruit new people to the team, outfit your team mates with extra ammo and healthkits, and the occassional new gun. Then you have to pick the battle you want to enter. Once you have chosen the soldiers that will accompany you you immediately drop into the action, initiative is rolled and characters run in the same order for the rest of the fight. Most of the rules of victory are the same, kill all the bad evil Nazi types and don't let ANY of your crew die, even if they are insignificant and/or annoying. This gets to be tough when you basically have to advance on enemy entrenched positions in order to have any chance to inflict harm on the enemy. I tend to lose my MG men more than anyone else, most likely due to their high threat on the battlefield. 1 burst from the Bren will take anyone down, and it has excellent range..

Essentially Operation Darkness should be called Operation Dorkness, as it provides an aura of playing Warhammer 40k with the geeks at the Gamers Workshop. Those of you unfamiliar with Warhammer, it consists of a bunch of nerds buying over 300 dollars in plastic and metal figurines, spending hours and hours laboring to paint their intricate features, and then deploying them on a fully detailed battlefield built by hand for probably another hundred or so dollars. After which they pull out the rulers and protractors and dice and set about "killing" their soldiers by a series of complex rules that make Axis and Allies appear as simple as a game of go fish. Operation Darkness is basically the same thing, build an army, fight in a terrain area using yardsticks and hidden dice rolls. Only instead of paying 300 dollars for a real army you could sell later, you can buy this game for probably 15 bucks used. Sadly in the entire time I had this game out on rental, I never once came across any werewolf or vampire action. What I did run into was frustration. Remember how I said you pick your battle you wish to fight? well you do this on a map, and it is possible to repeat a mission over and over again. There is no indication that a battle has been fought before and there is no end to how often you can repeat the same mission. Initially I thought that I had to complete some objective at a location to beat it, and so I played the same mission a number of times before I realized that they would never advance the story, so I picked other missions, all of which never gave me a sense of direction, a path to take to get through the "main" storyline. All I got was a constant repeat of similar missions, and no supernatural activity, so sadly to say I got bored of the game before I even got the chance to turn into a werewolf and kick vampiric ass. This is a common theme amongst Japanese games though, they are all these 100+ playing hours style games where you are supposed to grind your way to great justice, and I just don't have that kind of patience anymore. I want them to get to the point, to at least give me a cookie when I beat a mission, and perhaps a slight nod in the direction I need to go to get it all over with if I am struggling to find fun.
Reason Rank
Start 10
Strategic WWII action. +5
Clunky interface ripped out of Final Fantasy and pasted on a Turn Based Strategy Game -7
No clues provided as to where to go after the 2nd mission -5
7 or so missions in and no werewolf action -4
Generic RPG Music accompanies battle -4
Total -5/10

This Atlus title gets a -5/10 for being one of the most banal experiences I've ever had with a strategy game. Combat is painful to play through as it takes such a long time between order to move, moving, select target, firing, end turn, wait for x opponents to go through their turns, etc. Not to mention it taking forever for you to get into adequate firing distance. This is a game for militant accountants, not someone who wants to command their armies and win multiple victories..