Dark Flame (PC) Preview

By Thomas Wrobel 31.03.2017

Review for Dark Flame on PC

Dark Flame is, aside from being an awesome semi-oxymoronic name, a Castlevania-esque game mixing platforming, combat and RPG elements in a retro-styled 2D environment. Independently developed by Warren Smith, it tries to evoke classic games while still being fresh enough not to seem overdone. While still in an alpha phase of development, the mechanics and stability are developed enough for it to be playable. Cubed3 checks it out.

Dark Flame opens on a small introduction of a few characters talking. The first thing that hits you is the heavy pixellation. While the game's retro-aesthetic somewhat demands this approach, as the opening scene is also zoomed it doesn't leave the best first impression. Fortunately, when the camera zooms out to the normal gameplay distance, things get a bit nicer, and the text effects, lighting and colour palette can be appreciated better.

After this, the gameplay pleasingly quickly progresses to jumping, sword slashing and magic casting around a non-linear environment. As is typical for poor video game protagonists, however, evil hordes rise up to stop this being a pleasant stroll - which is a shame, as the longer this is played, the nicer the scenery looks. Your eyes adjust to the style and the nice little touches can be taken in. There's even a day/night weather system, which adds a lovely change of scenery when backtracking.

Screenshot for Dark Flame on PC

There's no rest, though; even after clearing a room, the hordes will be back the second it's left. While this can be a little annoying, it also provides an opportunity to level the character. In fact, as there is no real penalty for death other than the backtracking, sooner or later even the worst player will have levelled enough to get past what they are stuck on, giving the whole game a somewhat dynamic difficulty.

Levelling happens fairly quickly, allowing one of a few standard RPG attributes to be improved each time. Beyond this, there's also abilities, perks and powers, unlocked either by reaching certain levels or discovering certain things in the landscape. This leads to a fairly robust progression, where there frequently is a slight change in the protagonist's abilities - and thus the gameplay, which is open for the player. Hopefully this can be kept up over the complete game, as the regular changes to what the player is capable of stops things getting repetitive.

Screenshot for Dark Flame on PC

Also, as expected from a role-playing game, there's also an equippable weapon and armour system. While there are various elemental resistances to the armours, generally you will just go for the highest overall stats. Maybe if there were more strongly themed areas towards certain types of enemy attacks, strategically switching would be more useful.

Another minor nit-pick - which is fairly common even in big budget RPGs - is that the inventory rapidly gets deluged with common low level items. Maybe a drop or "sell-all-of-this-type" function would help to get rid of this warehouse of cutlery and t-shirts that the protagonist inevitably ends up dragging along. A lot of what gets picked up comes from destructible objects in the environment. It's basically worth trying to slash everything, as a surprising amount can be destroyed. Low on magic? Try slashing those candles - you might get lucky.

Screenshot for Dark Flame on PC

With Dark Flame being in alpha, there's still a few bugs here and there, but nothing game breaking. Balance might need tweaking with some things - if you get poisoned at the moment, you're basically doomed watching a counter tick down as your health saps completely away long before the poison effect wears off.

Controls could also be refined a little, too - it would be nice to be able to hold down or up in order to see a little bit more of the environment like many 2D platforms do.

Screenshot for Dark Flame on PC

Final Thoughts

While it's always hard to tell how a game will come out from an alpha, Dark Flame has all the ingredients to please fans of the genre without any obvious flaws. Hopefully, when it comes out, those who have been waiting a while to scratch this particular gaming itch won't be disappointed.

Developer

Warren Smith

Publisher

Warren Smith

Genre

2D Platformer

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  n/a

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date None   North America release date None   Japan release date None   Australian release date None   

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