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One of the year’s most eagerly anticipated games – Reality Bytes’ Dark Vengeance (published by MacSoft) – has finally hit the shelves. Was it worth the wait? Yes and no. Kissing cousin to the Tomb Raider series, this third-person hack-&-slash game offers a more richly realized and expansive world than Lara Croft’s, but brings a measure of frustration as well.
As with the Tomb Raider games, you spend most of your time looking at your protagonist’s backside while propelling him or her through a labyrinth of levels, gathering goodies, and slaying the spiritually corrupt. The three heroes include Nanoc the Gladiator, a muscle-bound galoot whose strength allows him to wield large, cumbersome weapons; Kite the Trickster, a more agile character who dashes her enemies with lethal powders and other short-range weapons; and Jetrel the Warlock, a bandage-swathed gentleman who prefers long-range weapons.
Your heroes can deliver blows in three ways: a quick lateral chop, a slower overhand hack, and a deadlier, backhanded slash. You can block your enemies’ attack – unusual for such games. A sweeping graphic arc marks each thrust and parry – green if you or your enemy misses and a satisfying red when blood is drawn. The weapons are not the usual fare; Dark Vengeance’s armoury is packed with exotic weapons such as Living Flame – a Molotov cocktail you sprinkle on the baddies – and the Vampire Staff, which unleashes a pair of flesh-eating bats. Also unique is Reality Bytes’ decision to include cheat codes as a menu item.
The world of Dark Vengeance under 3D-acceleration hardware – ATI’s Rage Pro or a 3Dfx Voodoo card – is beautiful, with its sumptuously coloured walls and vast chambers. The software-rendered graphics aren’t nearly as impressive as those in Mac- Soft’s Unreal, however. The movement of the characters can be ungainly, and heroes tend to get snagged on jutting corners, barrels, and decorative statuary. And alt- hough no one expects such a game’s story line to rise to the level of literature, not only is Dark Vengeance’s plot convoluted, but the poorly written and occasionally mumbled dialogue makes it even more confusing. Finally, I prefer the bodies of the vanquished to remain visible rather than disappearing after a few seconds. Because the game lacks a mapping element, having familiar bodies scattered throughout the many corridors and halls would make it easier to retrace steps.
Dark Vengeance is a beautiful and entertaining diversion that, due to some control problems and an unconvincing plot, doesn’t quite live up to its potential. If Dark Vengeance II cleans up these problems, it will be a must-have game.