2009 Reviews

Damnation

  • Review Date: 2012-10
  • Release Date: 2009-05
  • Developer: Blue Omega Entertainment
  • Rating: 6.0

Looks to be quite a while since my last review, in August. What's been keeping me busy? Work mostly, but also a little bit of Fallout 3 mods. Nothing really great to mention there though.

However I decided I earned a break and a play through of something different; albeit poorly received. So poorly, the resulting disappointing sales led Blue Omega to close down.

There's a pattern I've noticed in gaming, especially among critics. The better games of the year and those that are hugely popular are often not quite as good as I'm expecting. They tend to be slightly over-rated. Assassin's Creed is a good example of a hugely popular game, that really isn't all that great.

But at the other end of the scale, often games with poor reviews and reception are better than they're made out to be. This is why I play through a lot of bad scoring games like Damnation - an aggregate of 41% for PC on both Game Rankings and Metacritic while the console versions, surprisingly, scored even worse at 36%. It would tend to suggest this is the worth shooter of 2009, but it's really not that bad at all, and not deserving of such a low score.

You can't expect a studio's maiden game to be a massive success, especially since Damnation started out life as an Unreal Tournament mod. It's light years ahead of the myriad of shit City Interactive put out each year.

Damnation is a pure mix of third person shooter and jumping games similar to Tomb Raider and Prince of Persia. Both of those titles do the jumping and acrobats better, though they've each had plenty of time to get it right with TR on it's 9th title and POP 13th. Surprisingly, I enjoyed Damnation more than Tomb Raider: Anniversary. But neither franchise includes proper shooting elements. Tomb Raider tries but fails miserably.

So Damnation is a refreshing entry into this genre with it's unique mix. The problem is the jumping is quite limited and repetitive. There's no swinging, double-jumps or anything fancy. Once you've played the first level it's the same thing for the rest of the game. By the end, I was well and truly over climbing and jumping my way through levels.

There are a few puzzles to break up the action, but I guess Blue Omega didn't want to overdo the puzzles. This is supposed to be an action game not a Tomb Raider clone.

The combat in Damnation is a bit of a let-down. You only carry two guns at a time and a handgun. The machine gun and shotgun are the only weapons that have a consistent supply of ammunition, so that's all I carried in the game. But both are not fun to use. The machine gun is completely useless at long range, you HAVE to get in close. While the shotgun is even worse and not at all powerful like a shotgun should be. It's hard to enjoy the combat with such poor weapons.

Harder again when the A.I. is dumb. Enemies all look similar, just with different guns. There's a several mechs thrown in, which are quite frantic and a good change of pace. But overall the actual gameplay in Damnation gets boring fairly quickly.

It's also quite a long game - taking every bit of several hours. I guess that's long for todays shooters...

The design is typical Unreal Engine 3.0 fanfare. Lots of brown, blurry background, post-processing and depth of field. Everything you've seen before but obviously not as impressive as the likes of Unreal Tournament 3 or Gears of War. Speaking of which, Damnation got some complaints of being a Gears of War clone. I don't see that at all. It's nothing like Gears of War and, thank god, doesn't "feature" a cover system.

The levels and art is okay. I've seen worse with this engine, a lot worse. Most of the levels are huge areas from vast mines, modern and classical cities, western areas. It varies enough and doesn't really disappoint too much. But it is missing some vegetation; is it really too hard to put vegetation in a game unless it's using Crytek?

The game combines a western and steampunk style, which is done quite well.

I guess Damnation's biggest problem is that it just doesn't do anything particularly well. Gameplay is average, story is average, design is average; and for 2009 average just doesn't cut it anymore. It's probably also a little too long.