Dark Horizon PC
Published by: Paradox Interactive
Developed by: Quazar Studio
Release Date: Out Now
Given how popular space combat games were in the past, it's a shame that we don't see more of them today but it's unsurprising when you think of it because the few that have appeared over the last five years or so have been of varying quality. X2: The Threat was enjoyable and Freelancer would have been fine had it been subtitled (although that was released just over five years ago). The original release of X3 was disappointing to say the least and last year's Tarr Chronicles just didn't hit the spot at all. One of the biggest problems with Tarr Chronicles was that it suffered from an awful translation to English and given how this was one of the main complaints with the game, you would have thought the next game the developers translated into English would not have the same mistake.
Dark Horizon is the prequel to Tarr Chronicles being set 100 years before the events in that game. Set in the Enosta Universe, the defence against The Mirk, a phenomenon that has been responsible for the destruction of many star systems, has yet to be invented. The game's story probably would have had some merit but once again the game's translation into English has not been smooth and it's a little clumsy to say the least. Given that this is a single-player only title, and a linear one at that, this does take away some of the game's appeal. Some of the dialogue will leave you wondering what was trying to be said. In fact you'll probably want to forget the storyline because of this and concentrate on the action.
Those looking for some solid space combat might find some enjoyment in what Dark Horizon has to offer. The AI of both your comrades and the enemy is satisfactory and the game provides a good challenge. The enemy AI does have a penchant for ramming your spacecraft which seems a little strange. There are multiple difficulty settings, so whether you're new to this kind of game or a seasoned veteran there is a difficulty level to suit you. You won't need a joystick to play the game. I actually played the game using a trackball and was pleasantly surprised at how well the game controlled. What sets Dark Horizon apart from other games in the genre is the ability to change the temperature of your spacecraft. Cool it down and you'll go undetected but you'll sacrifice speed and firepower while you're in this state. Raising the temperature of your craft means you'll have increased speed and firepower but you'll essentially have no shields. Of course there's always the neutral state where everything operates as it should do. Whilst this might not seem like an earth-shattering addition to the standard space combat game, it does add a welcome tactical consideration to the experience.
Visually the game is quite appealing and even though it looks good, it's not a system resource hog and I had no frame rate issues on my rather humble PC specification. The spacecrafts, space itself and the battles are look good and there's little to fault with the game in this respect. One of the game's main attractions is the ability to customise your spacecraft and the levels to which you can customise it are impressive. In many ways it's a shame that the game is a single-player only affair because being able to take your customised spacecraft into an online game would have given the game some much needed extra appeal.
Dark Horizon is subtitled and the subtitles are enabled by default. Even the introductory movie, which plays when you load the game, is subtitled which is very pleasing to see. Of course the subtitles will enable you to see how clumsily worded the game's dialogue is. Whilst the dialogue is never humorous, it does leave you slightly confused at times as to what the real meaning was supposed to have been. Still you'll be able to follow the game's storyline and the various communications you receive during the missions. The communication dialogues are displayed on the top left of the screen and you'll see the speaker's portrait and name placed alongside the dialogue. Whilst the position of these dialogues could have been better (after all it's tricky trying to read them and keep your eyes on the action) you certainly wouldn't want the text placed in the centre of the screen as it would obstruct your view. The game uses a variety of indicators to show you where your allies and enemies are which is certainly essential in a game of this nature.
If you can ignore the clumsy dialogue and the linear nature of the missions you may get some enjoyment out of Dark Horizon. Unfortunately it's another mediocre game and despite some solid action at its core and some rather good spacecraft customisation, it's not the game it could have been. Given that the game is a linear and single-player affair the spacecraft customisation feature doesn't have as much value as it could. The clumsy translation and the lack of any multiplayer features certainly hurt the experience but it's also hurt by having practically no replay value once you're done with the missions.