Sometimes, a game concept seems to be both too crazy to work, yet too awesome not to work. Operation Darkness is one of those games. It is a strategy RPG set in an alternate World War II where Hitler has armies of vampires, zombies, and worse at his command along with his normal troops and weapons. The gameplay and presentation don’t quite match up to the lofty ambitions of the setting, but Operation Darkness is a solid SRPG that fans of the genre will enjoy.
- Title: Operation Darkness
- Platform: Xbox 360
- Publisher: Atlus
- Developer: Success
- ESRB Rating: “M” For Mature
- Genre: Strategy RPG
- Pros: Zombies, vampires, werewolves, oh my!; solid gameplay
- Cons: Outdated graphics; bad camera; buying items one at a time
In Operation Darkness, you control a British SAS team during World War II. As you progress through the game, you learn that not only is Hitler using the undead, but your teammates also have unexpected powers as well, such as the ability to revive the dead, turn into a werewolf, and more. It is a pretty wild concept that is undeniably successful here. The single-player game spans around 40 hours or so, and it is wonderfully addictive once you learn the intricacies of combat and start getting attached to the characters. There is also an Xbox Live mode where you and three friends can build a custom team and play co-op missions.
The ultimate success of Operation Darkness comes from the deep and addictive gameplay. It is a strategy RPG, which means you move around the battlefield on a grid and how far you can move varies between characters due to a number of factors. Unlike other SRPGs where one entire team moves and then the other team moves, in OD the action order is determined by each character’s speed (similar to Final Fantasy X, for example), so some characters will get a lot more turns than others.
The game throws a couple of other twists at you as well. The coolest addition is the Cover system, which lets you assign characters to automatically attack whenever an enemy moves into their range. Part of the strategy of OD is positioning your “tank” characters, your speed characters, your healing characters, etc. in the right positions as well as having snipers covering from the outskirts of the battle. When you figure it all out, it is very satisfying. Another twist is that characters can die in the game and be gone forever. You can set your characters to automatically use healing items when they need to, but when they run out of items they are gone for good unless you can get your special healing character to them in order to revive them. Healing items and extra ammo and weapons are surprisingly easy to come by on the battlefield since you can loot enemy corpses and take their stuff, so death isn’t all that common of an occurrence, but when a beloved character does bite the big one it is pretty sad. I recommend having a couple of save files just in case.
That brings me to a couple of problems with the game. First off, buying items in between missions is a royal pain because you can only buy them one at a time. So if you need to buy 12 Med Kits or all of the rocket ammo, you have to press the A button about a hundred times. Another issue comes from the absolutely horrid camera. It is hard to always be able to see everything you need to on the battlefield so enemies you weren’t even aware of are usually a big headache.
Those issues aside, however, Operation Darkness is a very fun and satisfying SRPG. It offers surprisingly deep combat as well as some nice strategy in terms of what weapons you outfit your characters with and then how you deploy them on the battlefield. It will likely prove overwhelming if it is your first SRPG, but fans of the genre will love it and should appreciate the little tweaks and changes that set OD apart from other games in the genre.
Graphics and Sound
One area where Operation Darkness falls pretty short is the graphics. This is not a pretty game by any means. Outside of battle you are just navigating menus. But out on the battlefield, the game is pretty bland looking with dull looking environments and only so-so looking characters. This is probably the ugliest looking game on the 360, I’m sad to say.
The sound is pretty average. The voice actors did a fairly good job with the script they were given. The music is okay. The sound effects are okay. This game isn't going to blow you away with its presentation.
All in all, Operation Darkness is a solid strategy RPG, but it has some definite issues. It doesn’t look or sound spectacular, the camera is bad, the inventory system is bad, and the difficulty can swing up and down unexpectedly. But I would say the positives outweigh the negatives. The setting is just plain cool, and when you really dig into the gameplay you’ll find a very deep and satisfying experience. It definitely isn’t for everyone, but for SRPG fans, Operation Darkness is worth at least a rental. It takes about 5 hours for the story to really get rolling and you special abilities are revealed and the game starts to show its true colors, so keep that in mind.