Sequels gone missing – The Darkness 3

One of the many perks of PC gaming is that you’re able to scratch that nostalgia itch if the need arises. Recently, because of the Humble Bundle, I have been replaying The Darkness 2 and wondered to myself:

It’s a damn shame that this game didn’t receive a sequel.

Ending on a cliffhanger is no fun, especially when the games themselves are actually really good. The Darkness series was a strong adaptation of the comic’s series published by Top Cow Productions. The players assumes the role of Jackie Estacado, a hitman for the Franchetti Family Mob who just happens to have an ancient demonic being living within him. This being is known as the Darkness and has been passed along the Estacado family for several generations. On the host’s 21st birthday, the Darkness awakens and grants all sorts of amazing and equally terrifying abilities. Jackie is betrayed by his Uncle and is marked for death, thus leading him on a path of vengeance while coming to grips with the power of the Darkness. Because of Jackie’s brash nature, he ends up getting his longtime girlfriend Jenny involved in the blood feud and the results are less than ideal. By the way, the romance between Jenny and Jackie feels real and authentic. I commend the developers for keeping this part of the graphic novel intact as it really adds to the narrative. There are numerous interactions between the two that really drives home just how tragic it is to wield the powers of the Darkness. I won’t spoil what happens, but just know that The Darkness featured a surprisingly strong narrative and equally strong performances.

As a first-person shooter, the gunplay is competent and allows the player the ability to dual-wield certain weapons. But honestly, who cares about that crap when you are able to summon BLACK HOLES to decimate your foes. The powers of the Darkness are the main selling point of the game. Jackie is damn near unstoppable when his powers are fully upgraded. Small imps can be summoned to help support in combat, tentacles will grab and eviscerate foes, and overall, you just feel like a complete monster. Enemies will act accordingly to your presence, most will try to run in fear, but don’t worry they won’t get far. The Darkness II introduced the ability to perform various “executions” which can either give health or ammunition, players were also able to use their tendrils to grab certain items in the environment to be used as cover or as a weapon against enemies. Impaling mobsters never gets old.

Here’s something crazy: The first Darkness was developed by the underrated but excellent Starbreeze Studios, the creators of Chronicles of Riddick, Syndicate, and the soon to be released Walking Dead adaptation. Which on a side-note, I am really looking forward too because of Starbreeze’s involvement. The sequel was developed by Digital Extremes and the difference between the two games shows up in the visuals department. The original has a photo-realistic vibe, while the sequel is cel-shaded and resembles designs from the graphic novel. Regardless, both games look excellent and still hold up fairly well today. The tendril animations are really cool, especially when you see them fight over a heart that one of them tore out of an enemy’s chest. Environments are well designed in both games and in the place of loading screens there are introspective moments with Jackie that provide more insight into him as a character.

While I really enjoyed playing these games, they weren’t without their flaws. The enemy AI in both games are really dumb and this significantly affects the difficulty. Enemies follow predictable patterns and are practically begging to be killed. Another noticeable flaw was campaign length, as both games can be completed under 10 hours and this is important as there are no real incentives to return to the games after completion. These flaws however, shouldn’t be enough to deter people from trying either of these games.

Unfortunately, players are currently unable to continue the story of Jackie Estacado and his struggles with containing the power of the Darkness. The ending of The Darkness II sets up a confrontation with the Angelus, which acts as the primary antagonist in the comics. It would’ve lead to an epic clash and I had hoped that a sequel would be greenlit because the lore was going to expand and it would’ve finally displayed the conflict between light and dark. The move away from the mob to the supernatural would’ve made for a more compelling narrative and a welcome change. If you ever get the chance, I recommend reading the comics as you’ll be able to see the direction the series was headed. It’s disappointing, as successful adaptations are rare and The Darkness really felt like it was one entry away from being great.

Time will tell if The Darkness will return to see the light of day. Nothing should surprise you in today’s gaming climate.

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