When you start a new game, you find yourself fighting, as a tutorial, a giant all-powerful space black mass that retaliates throwing planetoids at you. That’s the moment you understand that Dark Scavenger is going to be an interesting experience.
Predictably, at the start of the game you are not in the perfect spot to defy a giant space godlike creature. Luckily you get rescued by a weird trio that go with the name of “Dark Scavengers”. We have Kamaho, a space skeleton armed with an apparently useless crossbow, Falsen, an ever grinning green alien that reminds me of an used cars salesman and Gazer, a mute Xenomorph-like alien with a couple of extra limbs. Their spaceship is out of fuel and since none of them is capable to put up a decent fight, they ask you to help them, descending on a nearby planet to find some. Considering that they are your only chance to leave that place, you’re forced to oblige. That’s how the actual game starts.
Dark Scavenger is described by its developers as a “bizarre point-and-click RPG adventure with a focus on exploration, gaining loot, and meaningful choices”. That statement depicts a very weird game but is, at the same time, fairly accurate about the content. The game’s narration flows with a classic point and click adventure feeling. You are presented with a screen with a number of interactive parts in it. Clicking one of those will trigger an event that will require you to perform certain actions. The events are fully narrated by text and you get to choose your response to the events around you clicking on the desired option of the ones prompted. That’s where the RPG part comes into play.
The game has no stats or abilities, but your choices have a meaningful impact on your playthrough, even if not always in a game changing way. Most of the time, those choices revolve around the right item, ally or weapon to use in order to accomplish a certain objective. Your resources are not infinite though. All items, weapons and allies have a limited number of charges. Using it (in or outside of combat) depletes one of those. Resource management is a very important part of the game, especially when you’re in the later part of a chapter, when your resources start to run out. And you don’t want to find yourself in the middle of an hard fight with not enough charges in your items.
Combat is quite straightforward. You choose your item, weapon or ally for the turn and then you click on the enemy you want to unleash it on. There’s some strategy under the surface. During some of the fights, mostly against bosses, it is very important to keep an eye to the actions of your adversaries to find the perfect moment to attack with the adequate asset. Status effects and elemental weaknesses will also be a big strategic resource in the game that can turn a fight in your favor.
The game is not all about combat though. It is often possible to avoid fighting altogether with a smart use of dialogue options or items. In a scene, for example, you meet two shamans attending a cauldron. You can fight them right ahead or you can try talking to them to distract them from the boiling mixture on the fire, until the point where it explodes and kills them both. A bit later you find a banquet full of food. You can choose to eat it or consume a charge on one of your allies to see if it’s poisoned. If you go for the latter, your ally eats all the food (it was not poisoned) leaving you lacking a charge and missing a good chance of a free heal. That’s the kind of choices you’ll face for the whole game and that alone, to me, makes Dark Scavenger more of an RPG than many corridor driven games with lots of stats and abilities.
Another very peculiar thing about Dark Scavenger is the loot system. After completing a fight or an event, you’ll often be rewarded with an item. Items gathered this way are most often than not common objects of dubitably use. A boot, a bottle, a toy ray gun and so forth. Luckily the weird trio on the spaceship can help you on that one. When you move from one screen to the next, if you obtained new loot, you will be asked to give it to one of the Dark Scavengers. Kamaho will be able to make a weapon out of whatever you give him. Falsen will convert the loot into items that you can use for support in battle or during exploration. Gazer can use that loot to summon allies to help you. Problem is that you have no idea what you will obtain in return of giving your hard earned spoils to one of them. You’ll have to interpret your allies’ words.
Kamaho is the most direct with it. Most of the times you’ll be able to understand what kind of weapon you’ll obtain from him. Falsen is a bit of a weird one. It’s not that he talks in riddles, more like he’s absolutely crazy. You can have from him a pretty clear description of the item he’s gonna make you or you can have an incoherent blabbering. Gazer is mute, so he will try to make you understand what ally he will be able to summon by gestures. Emphasis on “try”.
This a pretty interesting mechanic that gives you a lot of options for your arsenal, effectively making any pick up potentially worth three times more. The only problem with this system is that you’ll find yourself going blind with who to trust your items to. Partly because the Scavengers are not always very clear about what they’re going to supply you with and partly because you have no idea what you’ll need later in a chapter. You can’t keep an item and make it morph later. Dark Scavenger forces you to do it the moment you leave the screen you picked it up in. That means you’ll often find yourself unable to complete an event because you need a blunt weapon but you turned the item that would have granted it to you in an ally instead. That’s not the player’s fault since there was no way to knew it beforehand. Still, it becomes frustrating after a while.
The writing is brilliant. It has a good balance between good construction and absolute silliness. It will hardly make you suddenly laugh out loud, but its snarky humor and occasional outright nonsense will get a few good chuckles out of you. Sometimes the gags fall a bit short but most of the time the writing is solid enough to be enjoyable.
One of the main problems of Dark Scavenger is the pacing. The game itself is not long, but it feels long. That’s because of a convergence of factors. Often you’ll find yourself backtracking to make sure that all the possible events have been triggered. Sometimes you’ll spend some time on a single screen trying the perfect ally to climb a flagpole without being blown away by the strong winds. The predominant reason is that the frequent choices that you have to make, big or small, will eventually start to wear you out. Said choices are also the reason the game is so much fun. But they take their toll.
The game really suffers in the technical compartment. The whole visual side of the game is completely static. There are no animations and all the narration takes place in the text box, with the upper part of the screen showing the context of what is happening. The art style is delightful. It’s colorful, lively and amusing. The sprites themselves are not of great quality. The character drawing is rough and the backgrounds are even rougher.
Dark Scavenger has a tendency to use a number of variations of the same tracks (especially in the boss fights) but can’t complain too much about that. Most of the tunes are pretty catchy and decently executed. Still, a wider musical range would have been appreciated. Especially considering that during exploration you’ll often hear only background noise.
The user interface could really use some work. It mainly consists of three buttons: weapons, items and allies. Clicking on one of those buttons, will pop up a list of the items you have in that category. Said lists are annoying to navigate since they contain only the names of the elements you have of that type. Towards the end of the game, you get a whole lot of loot and the list becomes really long. It’s very hard to remember what does what, especially considering that the only way to obtain the information about a specific item is hovering the mouse over it and reading the description. There are no icons associated with items so it quickly becomes tedious.
Dark Scavenger has its problems, but it’s very fun. It’s a pretty unique game in its own ways and we have not enough of those nowadays.
You can get Dark Scavenger on Steam.
This game was obtained from the developer and reviewed on PC.
What you think of Dark Scavenger? Do you enjoy games with a lot of decision making? Let us know in the comments.
Dark Scavenger lacks on the technical side but its quirky writing and interesting mechanics make it a unique experience where your choices matter.