Review: Dark Scavenger

There has been a consensus among much of the mainstream gaming industry that point and click adventure have been dead since the late ’90s, but that isn’t even remotely true. While the mainstream adventure genre has veered pretty heavily away from the point and click roots with games like L.A. Noire and Telltale’s brand of adventure games, the indie scene has kept the point and click torch burning for years. Most indie point and click games stick very close to the classic style of the ’90s and don’t do much new, but Dark Scavenger from Psydra Games is something a bit different; a hybrid of point and click and role playing games.

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While describing Dark Scavenger as a cross between a point and click adventure game and a role playing game is technically accurate, in reality it isn’t truly either one. The primary aspects of those genres that Dark Scavenger incorporates are clicking on objects in the environment, dialogue trees, turn based combat, and loot. Anything beyond these three fundamental design elements, such as puzzle solving, leveling, or inventory management are completely absent from the game. Even without some of the deeper mechanics associated with adventure games and RPGs, Dark Scavenger is an enjoyable experience thanks to some excellent writing.

The main draw of Dark Scavenger is without question the narrative elements. Whereas you’ll spend most of your time solving puzzles in most adventure games and engaging in combat in most role playing games, most of Dark Scavenger consists of dialogue. In fact, even with its surface similarities to those two genres, the game has much more in common with a text adventure or visual novel. You’ll spend most of your time reading elaborate action scenes with very little animation and lots of opportunity for decision making. Those that would rather watch something happen than read about it may be a bit turned off by the very text heavy presentation, but if you can get past it Dark Scavenger is a great time.

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The writing is just fantastic, brimming with wit and a fair amount of dark comedy, and it’s made all the better by your ability to interact with it. As games have focused more and more on presentation with voice acting, motion capture, and photo realistic visuals, the realities of development have made it difficult to bring much variation to the choices players are presented with. With its very minimalist presentation, Dark Scavenger is able to constantly give you opportunities to make choices and have them make a difference. You’re not going to drastically alter the course of the story, but you do have lots of freedom to shape how you move through it.

Dark Scavenger has an outstanding premise, but unfortunately the game mostly squanders its potential. You take the role of a new member of the Dark Scavengers, a group of space travelers that travel from planet to planet interacting with the local civilizations and finding all the loot they can. A set up like that is just full of opportunity for interesting and varied storytelling, but the game limits itself to a single planet. The sci-fi element of the story is almost nonexistent, with the planet the entire game takes place on more closely resembling a medieval fantasy setting than a science fiction one. Still, the characters and stories you come across here are still enjoyable, it’s just a shame more wasn’t done with the sci-fi set up.

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Beyond the dialogue and decision making, Dark Scavenger does have some more mechanically based gameplay. The game is divided into five chapters, and within each you move from screen to screen interacting with objects and individuals. On each screen there will be a handful of things you can click on, which sometimes trigger an event or combat encounter while other times you get a line or two of flavor text. Events and combat encounters often reward you with loot, which then presents you with a decision.

Back on your ship there are three fellow Dark Scavengers that each specialize in a specific crafting discipline. When you find a piece of loot you can then take it back to your ship and craft it into either a weapon, an item, or an ally, all of which are used in combat. You never know exactly what you’re going to get when you craft a piece of loot, but the name of the object as well a brief hint from the crafter about what they can do with it will give you some sort of idea. It’s often nerve-wracking trying to decide which crafter will yield the best result for a certain object, but that’s part of the fun.

Combat is where these decisions can either pay off or falter. The turn based combat isn’t particularly noteworthy, but it’s competent. The various items and weapons you have each carry only a certain number of uses per chapter, so rationing over many battles is key. The actual combat is pretty straightforward, with several different types of damage that enemies can be weak or strong against and a single status effect, stun, to worry about. It’s certainly not the deepest turn based combat system, and it’s more often than not very easy, but there’s enough to it to be somewhat enjoyable, though it’s certainly not the game’s main draw.

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Closing Comments:

Dark Scavenger certainly looks like a mix of point and click adventure games and role playing games, though surprisingly it’s most enjoyable when you’re doing nothing more than reading and making dialogue choices. The smartly comedic writing and meaningful choices more than make up for the visuals that are nothing more than still images, but the presentation will likely put off many gamers. The combat and exploration get the job done just fine, but they’re not the reason to play this game. You probably already know whether or not this is a game for you, so if you don’t have a problem with lots of reading and very minimal visual presentation, you can’t go wrong with Dark Scavenger.
score3.5
Platform: PC