I’ve never really gotten to grips with writing science fiction. I’ve experimented with pretty much every genre, from steam punk to body horror, and the only one that causes me headaches happens to be sci-fi, the one genre that defined my youth. Perhaps it is because of this that I can’t help but fall into the conventions so prevalent in the media: hyperspace drives, technobabble, sexy triple-breasted alien chicks, the whole shebang.
But there is something that irritates me more than genre conventions and hideous stereotypes. You can still tell a good story while fighting the conventions, it’s harder but you can do it, and seeing examples of people failing to try manages to raise my ire more than any generic construction.
This is my issue with Dark Void.
I bought Dark Void to tide myself over until I could come to terms with wanting Mass Effect 2, a game I had tried to dislike purely because its prequel’s terrible combat mechanics had left a sour taste. All the pre-release goodies for Dark Void had detailed this sci-fi extravaganza: sucked into the heart of the Bermuda Triangle during a routine passenger flight, American Hero is introduced to advanced technology and aliens in equal measure, culminating in bloody jetpacks and the scientific undermining of ancient religion. This makes a change from space marines punching the snot out of multi-muscled behemoths, I’m in.
Unfortunately, the developers themselves seem to have decided that plot and story are unnecessary in this sort of game, that prolonged fire fights and drunken jetpack controls will be enough to drag you through the game. They also seem to think that this is worth the two years of average hype and the paycheck for one mister Nolan North. It’s not, and the worst thing is that it so easily could have been.
The actual mechanics are a bit wonky, but they’re passable. It’s a repetitive game hidden behind the notions of vertical cover, jetpacks, and enemies that take a Nottingham night’s worth of bullets to put down. The thing is, almost every action game is repetitive, they just conceal it well behind explosions and cutscenes. Good cutscenes. Ones that connect the game together in a meaningful and coherent manner, not haphazardly ushering you from level to level with nary an explanation.
I propose a way to remedy this. I’ll fill in the gaps for you.
Starting this Wednesday, I intend to do what the developers didn’t, and try to fashion a cohesive and hopefully compelling narrative out of Dark Void. There will be rules to this of course, which I’ll explain in a moment, but the basic idea is to take what’s already there and expand it carefully, spinning out the cutscenes and the back story to such a level that you should never think “what the hell?”.
In order to do this, there will be a few rules. Firstly, I will not retell what’s is actually there; I’ll write around them so as to actually provide context for what happens on-screen. I may make an exception for the intro and the conclusion, but only if I feel I need to, everything else will fit around the game itself. Secondly, I’ll try to do it both competently and concisely; it’s very easy to wax lyrical for three thousand words, but no-one is going to read that much on a gaming website about an average/mediocre game. Finally, this will be a weekly thing, every Wednesday (God permitting). Hopefully, you’ll enjoy it and it might just help to make the game a bit more fun too, but I make no apologies for any mistakes or continuity errors that may occur. I will do my very best to minimise them, even going so far as to play the actual game a second time, but if one slips through, well, you have been warned.
I’ll do it one game chapter per week, that should keep the word count down and come with the added bonus of allowing the thing to finish around the time the game will be visible in bargain bins across the world, so those of you without the (mis)fortune of already having played it will be able to pick it up, story bible in hand.
So, shall we see if this is worth the effort?