2009 Reviews

The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena

  • Review Date: 2013-12
  • Release Date: 2009-04
  • Developer: Starbreeze Studios
  • Rating: 7.5

This will be a review of Assault on Dark Athena only. Not the remastered version of Escape From Butcher Bay. While I did enjoy the original EFBB and it had great graphics, I couldn't tolerate playing through it again. Too many dull, annoying stealth sections and not enough action.

Sadly, AODA has the same conclusion. Starbreeze continued the gameplay style but this time strung the different modes together much smoother, despite what other reviewers say. In EFBB you'd constantly go from stealth to fighting, but in AODA you know what you're supposed to be doing...

Phase one is played stealthily, avoiding enemies, taking them down from behind and using melee combat.

Phase two you finally get the tranquilizer, which can be used to kill lights and freeze an enemy for a takedown.

Phase three you finally get weapons.

Phase four you lose all your weapons for a short while before getting the SCAR (which is nothing like the SCAR in other games). This one shoots a sticky projectile onto enemies which you can then detonate with a click. It can also take out lights.

The problem with getting weapons (rifle, shotgun, smg) is that I rarely used them. When the tranq and SCAR have unlimited ammo, why waste precious limited ammo in the other guns when you can save it up for a tough fight. It doesn't help that you can only bind two weapons to your number keys, so they tended to be the only two I used.

As it turned out, I didn't even use a single shell until the final boss fight, ironically it was useless for the boss fight. I did use the assault rifle a little, but it was so horribly inaccurate. At one point I stood five metres from an enemy pointing directly at his chest and unloaded 1.5 clips before one bullet actually hit them.

AODA's biggest problem with the guns is that you need to be fast and accurate. If you happen to miss an enemy (and they do jump around a lot) once or twice, they'll get close enough to inflict lots of damage. There were many times in the game where, after missing a few vital shots particularly with the SCAR later in the game, I was better off just standing there and dying and going back to the last checkpoint to try again. At least then I get my health back.

You see, there's limited regenerating health. You get five health bars, but only one health bar regenerates. Miss an enemy and he may take out three bars at once, and you'll only regenerate one of those bars. You do get health stations which will replenish all five bars, but you never know how far away the next one might be.

At one point you have to take on two Alpha Drones in a row. There's only perhaps five in the game, but they're massive drones with a machine gun and very deadly grenade launcher. You can't get caught out in the open with them. Anyway, I took both of them out with only losing a single health bar, then three puny little droids, the weaker enemy in the game come next and waste three of my goddamn health bars just because I missed them with the SCAR.

Then coems the final boss fight which lastest all of literally five seconds to win and was easier than even a single melee fight at the start of the game.

So AODA is a slow and meticulous game of making shots count and not missing. If you do miss, go hide in the shadows and wait. There's no fast action combat, which is what I prefer. In hindsight, I really should have used my normal weapons far more often, it would have made the game a little more fun. But I'm an item hoarder so give me an unlimited ammo weapon and I'll use it!

The stealth parts are an improvement, far more forgiving than most stealth games. Or perhaps I was just more patient this time around.

I can't comment on the improvements to EFBB, but it looks like it's just simple engine improvements looking at comparison videos and screenshots. Even then, they don't necessarily look better. More realistic, but more blurry and seems to have lost it's sharp grittiness. So AODA is obviously the same, with a lot of depth of field and other engine effects. Great lighting, as you'd expect. It was almost a shame having to destroy lights throughout the game because it resulted in nothing to look at.

The level design itself is simply Dead Space, but slightly less detail. Most of the levels are within the interior of a ship, with a further 1/3 on a planet with some quite unique design. The visual highlights are mostly on the planet as I got sick of the ship after a while, especially returning to the same areas 3-4 times over that weren't that spectacular the first time.

Still I do love a sci-fi game, there's not that many out there. Dead Space and Mass Effect were the only sci-fi games of 2008, with around five in 2009 but none in the style of AODA (mostly more bright and colourful fantasy sci-fi like Star Wars, The Precursors even Avatar). So for that alone, this gets brownie points from me.

Despite my complaints AODA was a nice looking game on the whole. I'd certainly play it again for the visuals. But would I play it again for the gameplay? No I don't think I would, it's too slow. It might be more fun just putting it down a difficulty and caring a lot less for the stealth and tranq/SCAR takedowns.

The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena