Greenlight mockery has become a bit of its own field on some places lately—the low barrier for entry does definitely invite some of that by allowing anyone to submit a game to it with a $100 donation to charity. We see games that are little more then repackaged unity assets, ones that are Johnny's First Video Game, or copyright infringing materials. That's the stuff that's beyond just general not particularly interesting games, like the billion RPGMaker games that fail to do anything interesting or catch the eye in any ways.
Some weeks though, I open Greenlight and I find my job is really easy on what to cover. I don't think anything made it as easy as Dark Flame did though, being literally the first game in my Steam Greenlight queue and quickly answered upon looking around the question of "what shall I cover this week?"
Dark Flame is a 2d metroidvania inspired by the classics in that genre, with an art style that is clearly aimed at evoking thoughts of those classics, though it's far from polished on that front. In the game you play as Taharial (a crusader) the last, arguably, sane man in the world who has decided to fight and destroy the darkness, the eponymous Dark Flame. He takes on this quest after Islude the DarkSlayer, a powerful member of the Zobenbralu (the brotherhood of crusaders), has disappeared and everyone around him has begun to lose their mind.
With a set goal in the game, to destroy the Dark Flame, the game leaves the choice on how you want to go about that task up to you. The game deliberately sets out to create multiple paths for how you can achieve things—like all metroidvanias—but also aims to do so in the story as well. The Dark Flame is a corrupting evil influence on the world around, taking over even the greatest champions of good, which manifests in how the game provides options. There are some paths that might be easier, more direct or powerful if you cut a corner, or take the expedient answer to a problem. Dark Flame confronts that with a morality system that alters the way Taharial appears, as well as a story that reflects those choices made throughout the game.
During the game you have several ways to upgrade Tahariel. The first is leveling up, with each level providing you attribute points to upgrade your Strength, Agility, or Intelligence, which alter the way you approach the game. Strength tends to use the biggest weapons and has a higher health as one might expect, while agility can dodge better and perform more special attacks, and intelligence can cast more magic. Related to that are talents, which you get after reaching certain milestones in an attribute that give buffs related to that attribute, like temporary offense from strength abilities, new dodges from agility, or improving your capacity to spam magic with intelligence.
The second is with items you can find throughout the game, some of which are of course hidden and can impact numerous stats depending on the item in question.
Third up is the standard abilities you can find—things like Double Jump are here and form the basis for what talents can augment and supplement around.
Spells are the fourth way you can customize and are somewhat similar to items in that you can pick them up and equip them when found throughout the world, and like special attacks eat up a resource, MP in this case.
Last but not least are magic stones, Dark Flame's take on socketable items. Magic stones provide really large effects like large upgrades to the spellbook size, unleashing firestorms, boosting damage for a time, but at a notable cost as well. Each magic stone requires you to sacrifice something—perhaps a bit of your health, or weapon damage, or mp—to make them work for you. Thankfully you can transfer magic stones between items so you aren't stuck if you find a new item!
Dark Flame has a playable pre-alpha build right now that I tried out and recorded some footage from, and I have to say that for its state, the game plays really well. The game's general aesthetic is very good, as is the music and both promise to get better in the future. While the animations need some work, the general ambiance and style look good, and the developer is hoping to get some more artists in to help improve some of the lower quality sprites in part of the game.
However, for a metoidvania. that is second to most of the game play. The jump animation does make that feel a bit rough, but the rest of the gameplay is pretty solid. While it's clearly a pre-alpha set to show off the game mechanics, it does very well with a couple different weapons, some items and spells. I found the Spellsword mechanic in it to be a bit awkward mechanically at this point. but that is something that is likely a mixture of "to be iterated" and my generally mediocre reflexes. The game stick doesn't work with the demo, but the d-pad does, as does the keyboard and mouse, making it a game that played well enough to keep my eye for sure, and there was a decent enemy variety in the first area as well.
Right now Dark Flame is on the Square Enix collective. where the team is seeking community feedback on the project and implementing some of the ideas that are being voted upon. In fact, they already have decided based on votes to implement stamina attacks as the special attack format based on community feedback. It is also, of course, on Steam Greenlight seeking votes there and will be going on a crowdfunding campaign to help polish off art assets, sound/music and some programming in the near future. The developer is also active on Twitter posting assets there along with other previews.
Take a look for yourself with the trailer:
What do you think of Dark Flame? Know a game you think we should look at? Tell us in the comments below or email [email protected]