Darkness Within 2: Dark Lineage

Title   Darkness Within 2: Dark Lineage
Developer  Zoetrope Interactive
Publisher  Iceberg Interactive
Platform  PC
Genre  Point 'n' Click Horror Adventure
Release Date  28th May, 2010

Chance of something cute and fluffy being behind the door? Zero.

First there was ‘Darkness Within: In Pursuit Of Loath Nolder’ – a dark, tense, horror adventure with some genuinely scary moments. In this game, your character is Howard E. Loreid, a police detective trying to track down a man called Loath Nolder, the number one suspect in your murder investigation.

Things get weird pretty fast and Howard soon begins to doubt his sanity as the line between dreams and reality begins to blur. At times, you’ll be asking yourself “what the hell is going on?” and “was that real or a dream?” By the end of the game you’ll probably still be none the wiser, only now you’ll be thinking: “there better be a bloody sequel to explain all this!” Fortunately, the second game’s story is more defined and starts to make more sense… sort of.

Darkness Within 2: Dark Lineage picks up where the first game left off, and you soon find yourself in the creepy town of Arkhamend in search of answers to the multitude of questions carried over from the first game.  This time round, in a way, you are investigating yourself. Following some cryptic instructions in a letter from Loath Nolder who, it seems, is now your only ally, you soon find yourself delving into your past and discovering more about your future than you really wanted to know.

‘In Pursuit Of Loath Nolder’ introduced some features that I’d never seen before in a point and click PC game and which are present here. Every time Howard gets scared, the screen goes blurry and you can hear him hyperventilating; this, accompanied by the screen swinging wildly back and forth in whichever direction Howard is looking in his panic, makes the first person perspective even more immersive, and you find your pulse rate increasing and adrenaline flowing just as much as his.

Man floored in jam-rage incident...

This happens quite often, sometimes justified, sometimes not.  He sometimes faints too…after letting out a manly scream.  How embarrassing. It’s because of this that I’ve come to think of him as Howard the Coward; I mean, there’s nothing wrong with being scared, but fainting and leaving yourself at the mercy of whatever it was that scared you in the first place is just plain dumb (you could at least run away or something).

In addition to being a wimp, Howard is also a pleb.  After explicit instructions NOT to look into the window of a certain machine after activating it, what does Howard do? That’s right, he looks directly into the window, screams in horror and faints. Idiot.

Another interesting feature is the ‘Underlining Interface’: documents have an important part to play in these games – not only do you read them but you have to underline key words and sentences, then hit the ‘think’ button to reveal clues which go into the ‘Howard’s Mind’ section of the inventory. Now this (as far as I know) is pretty unique. On this screen, thoughts and observations can be combined together or with inventory items to create new insights or advance the story, though sadly, this feature is quite neglected in the second game with only a few combinations possible (and even those aren’t really necessary).

Thanks for the heads up...ahem.

With the second game comes even more new features: the environment interaction, movement controls, and equipped light source.  In Dark Lineage you can pick up, (and indeed throw) crates, books and bottles. You can also, and in some cases must to advance the story, move chairs, beds, dressers and tables.  Since you can’t see Howard actually touching the furniture when you do this, it looks like a poltergeist is throwing a hissy-fit. Spooky.

The way you actually move around in this game is exactly like ‘Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion’ on the PC – so, pretty standard.  You move forward, back, left and right with the WASD keys while the mouse controls the camera angle.  You can also jump, crouch and whip out your swor… um.. lantern, and see your lil arm holding it out in front of you to light the way…which you will need to do for pretty much the entire game – it’s so dark everywhere that you can see bugger all without some kind of light source. You have a few torches too, although I failed to see the point of these when the lantern performs the same function better and without gradually running out like the torches do. In fact, the only use I found for the torch is to help reveal one of the game’s secrets.

“What’s that she said? Secrets?”  I hear you say. Oh yes.  By far my favourite thing about Darkness Within 2 (and it’s predecessor) are the secrets and Easter eggs that you can find. These are not only very satisfying to see on your scorecard at the end, but some of the secrets add chilling bits to the story, while the Easter eggs are a thrill to any fan of the horror author H.P. Lovecraft.  I was almost bouncing up and down in my seat with joy when I uncovered a copy of the Necronomicon and a statue of Cthulhu.  Geek and Lovecraftian fan that I am, I couldn’t stop grinning and admiring my finds in the close-up inventory view for at least five minuets! Simple things…

You see, these games are inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft, and those of you who have read his stories will have a far richer and more rewarding experience than those of you who haven’t. That’s not to say that it’s essential to the game, it’s just that you would be missing out on so much. There are so many nods, themes, names, extracts, titles, and mythologies, that this game really does make you feel like you are playing out one of Lovecraft’s stories. It has that feel, that atmosphere, that… something to it that you will just recognise. Even without things like the ‘Rats In The Walls’ or the mention of that fiend Joseph Curwen.

You just know that it won't stay this peaceful and serene for long...


Another thing about this game, which is always welcome, is that it has alternate endings, although both may leave you feeling somewhat unsatisfied. I for one was sitting through the end credits muttering to myself “Robbed. Cheated. I’ve been cheated!”… then when the credits ended and the final cut-scene played, my feeling of being cheated turned to one of horrified shock. I think I just sat there with my mouth hanging open. “Oh my god!” were my exact words, I believe. Needless to say I quickly reloaded my saved game to see the other ending. This time I spent the credits exclaiming “Bastard! That’s so unfair!” and even though I was expecting it, and had even predicted how it might play out this time, it still had impact. “Shiiiiiit…” was the utterance of disbelief this time. With raised eyebrows.

One measly missing secret? You've got to be kidding...

So, while I was a bit annoyed and dissatisfied with how the story ended and the sheer inevitability of it, it wasn’t enough to put me off playing it again in the future. Indeed, I’m already thinking of going back to improve my score and find that blasted document that I missed somewhere.

I know this because you get a score card at the end that tells you how long the game took you, how many of the total documents, clues, hidden clues, secrets and Easter eggs you found, your total score and what ending you chose. I love this feature and happily took a snapshot of it so that I have something to crow over and improve on in the next playthrough.

There are some irritations worth mentioning though…at one point you find yourself walking around the edge of a big pit and, my luck being what it is, I fell into the damn thing, couldn’t get out, and had to reload my last save, (which fortunately wasn’t too far back). Clearly this is not meant to happen as there’s no way out but, sure enough, it happened to me. Typical.  There is a cupboard door lock puzzle that is also glitched: when you fiddle around with it the first time, it doesn’t work like it should meaning you can’t solve it.  Save, exit the game completely, restart, and reload your save – the lock now works and you can fiddle away until it opens. Weird.

When you open a door near the end of the game you get a brief narration from Howard of sights and events that you never actually get to experience. This can leave you feeling a bit short-changed, like a shortcut’s been taken, and you can’t help but wonder if it was intentional or they just ran out of budget. On the other hand, if they had filled in this gap, would it have been too much? Some might argue that it’s more effective this way, after all, it’s very Lovecraftian. When you’re not spoon fed, your imagination does all the work and you supply your own horror – a matter of perspective and taste perhaps.

Admiral Ackbar's bad-arse brother makes an appearance

And then there’s the real bitch of the game: the elevator puzzle – a combination lock with symbols instead of numbers. Okay. 7 symbols needed. Fine. Finding the symbols and determining their order – not fine. I have no idea just how long I spent trying to solve this puzzle but it was a long time.

You have a compass, a picture and there are stones on the ground outside surrounding the cabin but, no matter what I tried, I couldn’t get the symbols to appear on the stones…even with the item that I knew I was supposed to use! It turns out that there was a document in the tower that I’d missed, and the item you’re supposed to use won’t work on the stones unless you’ve read it and extracted it’s clues…but of course, by the time I found said document (by pure chance later), I had already gone onto the official forums in search of help. I wasn’t disappointed; people having the same problem made me feel less stupid and varying levels of help abounded; one especially helpful bod had even posted a picture of the solution which I lost no time in printing out.  Thank goodness for forums!

The game’s official website is lovely and the forums are very helpful if you’re stuck on something, particularly the help from the game developers which is great; someone posted about a technical problem they were having and one of the devs jumped straight in to help. I’m not an expert myself, but I’ve been told that it’s unusual to be able to get help directly from the game peeps themselves (and so promptly). I guess this is because the game isn’t from one of the big flashy companies like EA who, I’ve been told, have terrible customer service.

The technical aspects of Darkness Within 2 are quite good overall though; while not being as polished and slick as ‘Black Mirror 2′ it has a rugged charm of it’s own. I admit, the characters look like rejects from ‘Oblivion’, but the locations are eerie, the falling snow beautiful, the moonlight shining in through the various windows is wonderfully atmospheric and I love the way the shadows dance to the flickering light from your lantern. The music fits perfectly with the mood of the game at all times and is quite similar to the first game. The ambient sound effects also play their part well – creaking floorboards, cawing crows, howling wolves and crackling fires all contribute to the mood, and while the sound of your footsteps are really clicky and annoying, the sound of your footsteps in the snow are gorgeous.

Overall, a good little point and click game with an RPG-like movement system, dark atmosphere and unusual story. It has the kind of creeping, subtle horror that is Lovecraft’s hallmark without being out right jumpy or scary. It’s just a shame there wasn’t more of it.

A demo can be downloaded from the official Darkness Within 2 site.

  • Hidden secrets and Easter eggs
  • Score card at the end
  • Alternate endings
  • Free movement
  • Incredibly rewarding for those who have read the works of H.P. Lovecraft
  • Not as many scares as the first game
  • Feels much smaller than the first game
  • Not enough thought combinations
  • Too short
  • Couple of glitches

Although shorter and less complex than the first game, "Dark Lineage" is still a good game in it's own right. If you are an H.P. Lovecraft fan this game is a must-buy and if you're not...then it's still an enjoyable game. It's not essential to have played the first one either; Darkness Within 2: Dark Lineage can stand on it's own without any great loss of story. So, play away if you've a mind to and learn the secrets of Howard Edwin Loreid's Dark Lineage.

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  1. Samuel The Preacher says:

    I really enjoyed reading this… I have to admit though that I haven’t heard of the games before, and wasn’t too inclined initially to go look at them now, what with the ineffectual sounding main character (a stupid wuss is certainly a novel take on things, but not exactly appealing). And then you casually mentioned Lovecraft, and my interest was piqued.

    The mental combination/Howard’s mind thing sounds similar to a mechanic used in the Phoenix Wright point and clicks on the DS, especially the latest in that series (Ace Attorney Investigations – Miles Edgeworth), but it’s still something I’ve not heard of being used elsewhere, and I liked Phoenix Wright. A different take on the idea, in a more serious context, could be interesting.

    I’ll look at the demo later, rather than leap straight into buying it (which I couldn’t at present anyway) as I have a couple of reservations, but knowing that there is a Lovecraftian theme running throughout and that there are some innovative gameplay ideas in there is compelling enough to at least give the trial a chance and see what I think armed with first-hand experience.

    Nice to see you writing again Tania, I’d been looking forwards to it.

  2. Edward Edward says:

    It sounds like a very effective Point and Click (I have a soft spot for them), and you wrote it up brilliantly to the point that I’m actually thinking of looking into it, especially because of some of the more novel ideas attached to it (the protagonist, like Preacher pointed out)

  3. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    Something in this has massively grabbed my brain by the balls (I never took biology or physiology at school, so shuttit) and is shaking it furiously… it’s the thought of a game where you highlight words and save them for later as clues to piece a puzzle together. That’s fucking ingenius, seriously. It HAS to have been done before and, if not, I’d like to see more of it. I absolutely love that idea. I read quite a bit of Lovecraft when I was a kid, but it’s not as pretentious as it sounds… I got into Iron Maiden at a very young age and they referenced his work quite a lot, so that prompted me to read maybe a half dozen short stories. I also like the idea of a game with nods and leanings towards Lovecraft’s work… dark, but thought provoking. I don’t really have much time for testing the water with loads of different games these days, but I really like what I read here. I also loved the voice of the article – very different, very personable… like a thought process transcribed. Awesome.

  4. Lorna Lorna says:

    Good review, nicely covered! Graphically it doesn’t look all that much but then I arrived back at the genre and jumped into the sack with Black Mirror 2, so I will be tainted! However, the puzzle aspect and way other gathering clue sounds interesting and, as Mark said, not something that I’ve heard of before.

    I love the idea of Easter eggs in games like this and they lend themselves well to the genre…having a scorecard is a great idea, although I found with Black Mirror 2 that I was highly unlikely to want go all the way back through it to comb for secrets again…they just aren’t those kind of games so it’s all or nothing first time around.

  5. Tania Tania says:

    wow, thanx for the positive feedback guys! It’s really appreciated! Not to mention surprising! :D
    Putting what’s in my head down on paper (or computer) has always been difficult for me. I get this mental block that can get really frustrating, because the stuff’s there, it’s just putting it down into words that’s hard! I worked really hard on this one though, and had a few sessions where it just flowed really well.
    I owe a big thanx to Lorna though, for having to listen to me yak her ear off on the phone talking about the game to help me get into the feel of it. Thanx sis! And also everyone else for your kind words!

  6. [...] horror point and click genre will, no doubt, have heard of the Darkness Within games.  We covered Darkness Within 2: The Dark Lineage some time ago, and now, publisher Iceberg Interactive have decided to chill spines once more with [...]

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