The Chronicles Of Riddick: Assault On Dark Athena Review
Previous installment, The Chronicles Of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay was a bit of an shock to the video gaming world. It was a game that turned out to be better that the franchise it was based on. Not that either Pitch Black or The Chronicles Of Riddick are bad, but neither come with high recommendation. To sum up Richard B. Riddick isn’t a popular fellow and he expresses his mutual dislike for those after him through killing them. However film reviews aren’t our forte. Game reviews, though, are.
Assault On Dark Athena occurs straight after Escape From Butcher Bay. After escaping from the dreaded prison our protagonist is dragged onto another ship, Gale Revas’ Dark Athena. A ship where normal people are converted into mindless mercenaries. Cue the adventure as Riddick attempts to well… escape. Not so much of an assault after all.
Like most sequels it handles in a similar fashion to the previous game, the majority of gameplay varies between sleek as a fox stealth to gun toting action. Stealth sequences are were the most fun is to be had, Riddick can lurk in dark corners, fleeting in and out of shadows in order to complete that oh so delicious kill. Melee attacks are the best option here, enemies can be defeated in successful combos, counter attacks and vicious finishing moves. Made all the more satisfying through the ulaks, two small scythe-like weapons that make kills that bit more violent. It’s a shame then that emphasis is taken off the stealth section, in particular later on in the game to focus on the gun toting action. Not that it is bad per se. It just doesn’t feel as natural. In fact this highlights the major problem affecting Assault In Dark Athena, it can’t seem to find itself. It switches between stealth, first person shooter, puzzle and platform, never quite succeeding at either (bar perhaps the stealth action). As such it feels stunted, gameplay is split into one of the aforementioned sections and so never quite manages to build up momentum.
Opposition A.I. is also a stumbling point, at first it seems clever, enemies hide behind cover, using torches to spot Riddick and so on. However as progression enemies show their true character. Enemies seem to be more accurate and more agile than Riddick, also seeming to have the knack of spotting him in the unlikeliest of situations. That said without cover a droid will run around like a headless chicken, not so smart after all, karma or sorts.
Visuals are where Assault In Dark Athena shines, or in this case doesn’t shine (Dark Athena. Get it?). Who would have though that a dark, dank corridor could be recreated in meticulous details, with lighting creating an ominous and at times atmospheric presence. In fact the lighting deserves special mention here, in Dark Athena’s decks light or indeed the lack of it, is paramount. Here darkness is good for progression, with Riddick signature eyesight in tow it gives you the freedom to traverse corridors, taking out enemies. Not enough darkness? Then take out that light. Problem solved. Also worth a mention are the new character models, which articulate movement with relative ease. Facial expressions are animated to an impressive standard and are matched to some excellent voice acting. Vin Diesel? Good voice acting? True. His films might fall short, but expect nothing less from the rasping voice behind the Iron Giant. Impressive. It’s a shame then that the excellent voice acting is lost in a weak plot, has such it never seems to get going. Instead it feels misplaced in amongst numerous retrieval quests, it becomes tedious and plot progress feels forced rather than natural.
Apparently Vin Diesel himself refused to release the game until a multiplayer was added, that’s kind Vin, but it shows. Multiplayer feels like a last minute edition, levels, environments and characters feel, look and even handle rushed when compared to the single player experience. Ranked or unranked matches. Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Capture the Flag are all available and all work exactly as you’d expect, but that’s the problem. There are numerous similar games out there with similar multiplayer modes that work a hell of a lot better, which begs the question why didn’t Tigon take the aspects that work well in Assault On Dark Athena i.e. Stealth and build a multiplayer around that. Alas.
The Chronicles Of Riddick: Assault On Dark Athena falls victim to it’s own gameplay. It offers some excellent stealth combat, however these are overlooked in favour of the gun toting action, which is a shame. Rather than being a excellent game that combines several well thought out elements it becomes an average first person shooter, with some promising elements. For each aspect that developers Tigon studios does well, i.e the ‘Pitch Black’ eyesight, one has been included with little thought. A particular example, and one focused on in the demo is hiding bodies to avoid detection, which does nothing. Never has ‘hit and miss’ been more appropriate. As a sequel it builds on some excellent aspects and does provide some exciting gameplay moments, the visuals are stunning and character design close to perfect. However all to much of it is built around back tracking, repetition and tedium.
On a side note, if Riddick is so bad why didn’t they just shoot him when he was imprisoned?