DarkOrbit from Big Point brings galactic adventure to the social scene, but is this odyssey firing on all thrusters?
If context and substance are what you’re looking for, then DarkOrbit will immediately dull your interest. Without so much as a hint of plot to nudge players along, the game throws a laundry list of quests before you, along with an overcrowded screen full of features that are either poorly explained or not explained at all. When your first reaction as a player is to run off to the game’s forums for help, it’s a clear indication that not all is well in the universe.
The quests start out simple enough – destroy a particular number of enemies, collect various elements, etc. – but the mini map does a poor job of pointing you toward your goals. Making your way around this particular gaming galaxy can often be confusing and frustrating.
To the game’s credit, the controls are simple and work fairly well. You’ll move your ship by simply pointing toward your objective and left-clicking, or you can pick out a specific area on your mini map and have you ship automatically plot a course to a destination. Combat is merely a matter of clicking onto enemies to establish a lock and firing with various weapons systems located on the bottom of your screen.
Unfortunately, combat is an uneventful affair, with two ships remaining almost completely static until one of their health bars gets low enough to encourage them to try and escape. The enemy A.I. will often come together to form massive clusters that just sit onscreen and do nothing amidst an interface that’s already bombarding the view. It’s routinely difficult to make heads or tails out of what’s going on in the game.
The visuals are barebones and uninspired, but the framerate is smooth. The menus initially obscure everything else onscreen, but you can minimize them into a massive array of icons. The audio, however, is archaic and uninteresting, with sound effects that are generic and lifeless. Nowhere does DarkOrbit make any attempt to feel contemporary, aside from the social features on offer.
As is the norm with such games, a chat box is located on the left-hand side of the screen, but during our time with the game the only chatter displayed came from the server telling us continuously it was attempting to reconnect. DarkOrbit allows you to experience its adventure with friends and strangers alike, but why would you want to?
From almost the word “go,” DarkOrbit is throwing out offers to make purchases with real money. It does almost nothing to ease players into the experience, and the game does far less to convince anyone to stick around. Not only do I discourage players from spending any real cash on extras, I simply cannot recommend anyone invest any time into the game. DarkOrbit is a mindless grind that should be sent out to space to die.