There are plenty of indie developers out there who are inspired by obscure games of yesteryears, and quite a few of them get to have the privelege of remaking them. A lot of games done this way have come out wonderfully, like a love letter to the olden days. However, there are times when some of these indie games turn out to be disappointing, but not in the way that you’d expect from what’s supposed to be a “bad game”.
Dark Matter is a survival horror platformer by InterWave Studios, and it has nothing to do with the arcade shooter game of the same name released back in 2006. As their debut title, InterWave had developed Nuclear Dawn, the standalone version of the Half-Life multiplayer-only mod that featured FPS/RTS hybrid gameplay. Compared to that game, Dark Matter is completely different as it’s a singleplayer game in a classic genre, although still with a bit of a twist.
It’s about a female protagonist who wakes up from cryogenic sleep in a vessel called the Endeavor, which is mysteriously empty. She then looks around the ship for clues to what had happened to her. Along the way, she encounters the ship’s AI, which leads her around the ship. Aside from exploring, there’s a simple crafting system for own tools and resources to get further since health and ammo are hard to come by in this game. Blueprints are strewn across the levels, which let you create stuff from medkits to weapon mods. This mechanic helps establish the survival horror premise of Dark Matter quite nicely. It also adds up to the buildup leading to combat sequences, although the fighting itself isn’t as satisfying as you would expect.
The game does look and sound pretty good at first glance. The lighting draws comparisons to The Swapper, and the audio matches it to create a dark ambience that sets the tone for the survival horror-themed action. But despite the great lighting, it is let down by the level design which leaves much to be desired as it seems to be too simple and straightforward. There wasn’t much thought put into how the environment can enhance the gameplay amidst that ambience, so all you do in these places is go back and forth to collect stuff. It shouldn’t be too bad if it feels engaging as you do it, but it ends up bland and uneventful at most.
The players then take all of these things in and think that it’s not that bad anyway, especially if they’re the type who like both platformers and science fiction. However, around 4 hours into the game, they go into a normal-looking door and are greeted by some text on the screen. As they read it, they then realize that it’s the ending and it doesn’t go any further than that. The game literally just stops there and shoves a text screen at you to call it a day. There are no tricks like that blue screen crash part in Eternal Darkness or that switcheroo segment in Batman: Arkham Asylum. This is just a full dead stop with some white text on black background as an impromptu epilogue.
The developers have said that it was because their Kickstarter failed and they didn’t have any more funding to get it any further. Perhaps it may be a viable excuse if they were able to somehow give a satisfying conclusion even if the game is short, but cutting it abruptly like that is like a slap in the faces of those who paid for this. There is absolutely no excuse at all that can save a game that was intentionally released in its unfinished state to any sort of scrutiny and critique.
If you don’t believe it, then watch this video and judge for yourself how abrupt the ending really is.
A lot of this game is about buildup, but it then leads to this. Even the tutorial showed off cool weapons that end up not showing up in the game itself, which means that they must have run out of money in the middle of development. That’s quite sad since this game did have quite a bit of potential. For fifteen of your hard-earned (or hard-begged) dollars, there are plenty of good finished games out there that you can purchase, and a lot more for even less.
Ever since the controversy surrounding that, the developers have since pulled it from Steam and GOG to retool the ending. Unfortunately, judgment has already been passed upon this title by most people due to this fiasco. At the very least though, here’s to hoping that if they do actually finish the whole game and that it will somehow be worth the trouble.
Tested in PC. Final Score: 4/10