I could hardly tell you a thing about the story of Darkness Reborn. It’s as forgettable and melodramatic as you’d expect from a high-fantasy game with a name like that. There is an evil guy who wants to control the earth, or destroy it, or just kill all the flowers and grass. One of those probably.
What I can tell you is how much fun Darkness Reborn is. It is loads of fun, and at the end of the day, that’s what is most important.
Darkness Reborn is a hack-and-slash action RPG that lets players choose to fight as a Spartan-like warrior, or a ninja-like…ninja. I picked the warrior because I prefer to always be on the tanky side when it comes to hack-and-slash games.
Right away, I noticed how straightforward the game is. I was not immediately overwhelmed with ways to buy currency, what it was used for, how to unlock things, and so forth. A nice fellow named Willem popped up and was kind enough to usher me through the basics and get me on my way right into gameplay. Darkness Reborn gradually introduced me to the elements of the game, giving me enough time in between Willem’s visits to get a grasp on what I had previously learned. It’s amazing how much more enjoyable a game is when the developers give me enough breathing room in-between tutorial bits.
The user-interface works great too. For games that use the your-left-thumb-is-a-joystick control setup, I can’t stress enough how much better an adaptive thumbstick makes gameplay compared to a static one. What I mean by this is that playing a game where the left-thumb control stick remains in one place is far more difficult than playing a game where I can touch my thumb anywhere on the lower left side of the screen to direct movement. Darkness Reborn uses a mobile controller point and it helps tremendously, as I’m not constantly checking my left thumb’s placement because my eyes are needed where the action is (and to occasionally glance down at the five buttons that represent my attacks).
At first, I was apprehensive that five buttons would be enough to keep me engaged in the gameplay, let alone fend off the hordes of monsters I had seen in the screenshots and the gameplay trailer.
But as it turns out, five is more than enough.
Darkness Reborn trained me to utilize those four special abilities (plus the default, basic attack) to turn me into a mercilessly efficient hack-and-slash machine. As the levels progressed in difficulty, the variety of enemies I encountered within the levels increased as well, thus requiring me to realize the proper ways of dealing with each of those enemies. Gradually grouped together, I became aware of which targets to eliminate immediately, and which I could afford to momentarily extend their existence.
In no time I was expertly choreographing my combo chain of attacks in an impressive array of swordsmanship that would put any sword-wielding anime character to shame. I was all over the place, spiraling, dodging, leaping through the air, blasting my enemies back with my unfiltered rage…I was god, —good…I was good.
Totally wasn’t getting carried away there.
Between the fun of hacking through swarms of enemies, collecting loot, and tweaking my character’s abilities (you can even attain extra abilities to swap in and out of your four special attack buttons), I was having a hard time putting down Darkness Reborn.
There are multiplayer modes included alongside the single-player campaign, but the few matches I could connect to were filled with AI bots, and it was incredibly unresponsive, I somehow always had a ping over 300. Multiplayer was a mode I tried once and will likely never return to, it was definitely the weakest aspect of my experience with Darkness Reborn.
Another bit of a let down came in the form frame rate issues. The moment I saw the decently-rendered 3D graphics that the game sported, I knew that my 2012 Nexus 7 had its work cut out for its hardware. Mobile games are hardly ever optimized to run well on my tablet, so when Darkness Reborn would dip down below 20fps, sometimes even into the single digits, I just gritted my teeth and fought through the lag. Still, these frame rate dips weren’t nearly as bad (or as frequent) as I thought they would be, typically bouncing between 30 and 45 frames per second. The gameplay only became sluggish when dozens of enemies would leap onto the screen and subsequently burst apart courtesy of my sword flourishes.
Reducing the graphics quality to low helped a little, but the lag felt more like load-intensive lag rather than graphic-intensive lag. It wasn’t a big enough issue to keep me from enjoying the game, and assuming you’re playing on a newer device, I wouldn’t expect the issue to be nearly as pronounced (or necessarily even present).
Unlike most games I review, Darkness Reborn is going to stay on my Nexus 7 long after this review has been published. The game not only delivers a (relatively) smooth hack-and-slash experience, but the gameplay difficulty is very well balanced. I found myself willingly going back to try my hand at a difficult level multiple times, not because I had to, but because I wanted to.