Traveling through the zombie-infested world of Darksburg takes me back to the days of sitting on my cousin's worn out futon as we attempted to survive in Left 4 Dead. At first I assumed that Darksburg will be something akin to a top-down looter like Path of Exile or Diablo, but, despite a couple of mechanical similarities, it actually has much more in common with Valve's classic multiplayer survival game. Sometimes these similarities can be a detriment to Darksburg, but overall it can be a fun experience if you have a group of buddies to play with.
You have the option of choosing between five different characters in Darksburg and each one brings their own flair and combat proficiencies to the game. You can choose Abigail who is a nun with a massive cross for a weapon, Dolorosa a plague doctor who carries a poison spraying device, Varag the strong werewolf, Runolf the massive Norseman with an even larger spoon weapon, and finally Rose an expert marksman with a deadly crossbow. Each of these characters have special abilities that are useful in combat, like Rose's Trigger Bolt that pierces through enemies before exploding.
Left 4 Dead Similarities Are Apparent
The basics of combat in Darksburg really make it ideal for a multiplayer experience. Three of the characters are melee-focused while the other two are ranged combatants. Additionally, some of the characters have supports abilities that boost their squad's combat skills. This means that you need to prioritize which characters act as the damage dealing attacker, while other players will want to attack from a distance and support their beefier partners. Runolf has an ability, for example, that will buff all the other players when used, which makes him ideal as a support style attacker.
The similarities between this and Left 4 Dead are very apparent. You must traverse through each mission while picking off massive hoards of zombies. At certain intervals, during the levels, you will have to post up and wait for certain actions to be completed while fighting off continuously respawning enemies. Even the final moments of each level feel eerily familiar as the team has to escape the horde before being picked off and abandoned by teammates. There are also special enemy types that spawn randomly during the course of a level, that players will need to stay on top of their game to bring down. This is much like Left 4 Dead's special zombies like the Tank or Witches.
Darksburg Needs More Content
Where things begin to feel a little different though is that Darksburg is a randomly generated rogue-like game. Each time you play back through the game, the world you explore will be a brand new experience. Levels will be laid out in new ways, enemy types and placements will be varied, and even the tasks you must complete can be randomized. This means every run almost feels like a new game every time you hop in, which on the surface level gives it much more replayability than other games of its ilk.
Unlike Left 4 Dead though, there just isn't enough content to keep players satisfied for long. There only a few different levels to play, which means that even though they are randomly generated things they begin to feel very repetitive pretty quickly. What further exasperates this issue is the face that the level design and the atmosphere is near identical no matter which mission players are on. So while the layout may change, it still feels like you are exploring the same environment every single time.
Rogue-Like Elements Don't Quite Work
The rogue-like elements also don't do much to improve gameplay in Darksburg. As you progress and gain experience you can unlock special perks that increase stats or add new effects to attacks. These perks though never seem to do anything very consequential. There isn't anything that really shakes things up or makes you feel super powerful like in a standard rogue-like game. Additionally, permanent upgrades are incredibly annoying. You can find a special currency in levels that you can keep permanently after death. This can in turn be used to purchase special upgrades to improve your abilities during a run. This currency is an absolute pain to obtain though, so it takes forever to gather enough to purchase a new upgrade. Therefore, unlike most rogue-likes where you are constantly making slow and steady progress in the game, it felt like I was never improving myself in Darksburg and each run felt worthless.
The final and largest issue I encountered during my time with Darksburg was with its multiplayer component. I was never able to find a full group of people to play with, and only a few times was I able to find a second person to join my party. This meant that the majority of my time with the game was spent playing with the AI, which is woefully incompetent. When I matched with someone else the game was very fun to play, but alone it can be a drag. I am unsure if the issues are with a small player base or poor matchmaking, but it can be an irritating experience either way.
Too Many Ideas
Darksburg tries really hard to be an interesting top-down roguelike, but it feels like its trying to do to many things at once. At times it feels like a a classic rogue-like game, sometimes it feels like Diablo, and at others it feels more like Left 4 Dead. The issues here is that its rogue-like mechanics aren't developed enough, Diablo does combat better and Left 4 Dead is a much more fun multiplayer experience. At the end of the day you would be better off playing those games as they give a better experience than Darksburg can provide.
TechRaptor reviewed Darksburg on PC. A Steam code was provided by developer Shiro Games.
- Solid Combat Mechanics
- Varied Character Design
- Fun Multiplayer
- Matchmaking Issues
- Progression Is Slow
- Lack of Content