Hands-On: InterWave Studios’ Dark Matter
InterWave Studios’ upcoming Dark Matter lives in the spirit of the original Metroid and the classic Alien movies. It’s an intense 2.5D side-scroller sci-fi/horror/adventure set in a world based on light and shadow.
Inside of Endeavor, a deep space exploration vessel, you play as Ensign, a female member of the ships crew who has been in a cryosleep for nearly 70 years. A year into Endeavors mission, a distorted communication signal about strange lights and angels is released and it’s never heard from again. Drifting through space, the crew and occupants all appear to be dead and the ship is now overrun with alien parasites. Your mission is to find out what happened, restart the ship, and make it home. Thankfully, the ship’s reserved AI voice works to guide you through investigating exactly what happened to the Endeavor.
Scattered across the Endeavor are hints and details chronicling the ships 70 years of human silence. Discovering these diaries and data logs left behind by the long dead crew allows for a deeper understanding of what exactly happened on the vessel. In vain of Metroid, some areas require you to complete an objective and backtrack to an area of the ship that was previously inaccessible.
Dark Matter also incorporates a crafting system which allows you to create a wide variety of crucial items including ammunition, medical kits, and weapon upgrades. You’ll obtain the pieces needed to forge these items spewed throughout the ship and from slain enemies. These replicator devices not only serve as a place to construct supplies, but they double as the game’s save system. They provide a brief moment to relax and recoup before descending back into the game’s unforgiving hallways.
One of the most novel concepts in the game is a progressive level mechanic centered around light and dark. The very dark atmosphere on-board the ship allows for some very creative usage of light. As you navigate through the ship, you can use the lighting within your surroundings or your own flashlight to either positively or negatively affect the different parasitic enemies you’ll encounter. Occasionally the game ramps up the difficulty by placing you in situations where you’ll be forced to use your flashlight to navigate dark corridors, but shine your light on an enemy and they may become stronger and deadlier. These tactical and intense situations create some interesting moments when you must think about how to proceed, rather than running around with guns blazing.
As you roam through the destitute vessel, you’ll face resistance from several insect-like and tentacle-based creatures. Enemies have a tendency of jumping out of vents, so quick thinking and fast shooting are constantly needed. Moving Ensign through the derelict rooms and corridors of the Endeavor is effortless, thanks to a refreshingly responsive control configuration that makes it feel more like a FPS than a side-scroller. The games camera is committed to claustrophobia and serves to keep threats out of sight and encourages caution when moving.
Based on the preview build, the flow of the game is in need of some tightening. The heroine Ensign felt somewhat underdeveloped and passive to the events unfolding around her. The games animations are somewhat rough in places, but as this is a beta I am confident they are issue that will be corrected in the final game.
Overall, Dark Matter is shaping up to be a very well polished and enjoyable experience. Although my playthrough was limited, I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it and I look forward to exploring once the game makes its final push to release.
Though near completion, InterWave Studios is running an active promotion through Kickstarter and Steam Greenlight. If this concept sounds like something you would enjoy, I encourage you to contribute what you can as its seems it has a lot of potential even in its beta form.
Dark Matter will be available for PC, MAC and Linux at launch. You can check out the trailer below: