So, we are through the first week of the 30 Reviews in 3o Days. I have to say this has been a lot of fun so far, even though it is a lot of work. Before I get into the new week and featured review, let’s take a look back at the reviews from last week:
Monday: After opening strong with my review of Henry Hatsworth, I threw a bit of a curve ball by reviewing the new NXE Update for the 360. This will not be the only wildcard I throw into this series. I’m doing 30 reviews here; I think I am entitled.
Tuesday: Kicked off my first Indie Game review with Groov. I should have that video up on the site shortly. If the review piqued your interest, you need to see the video.
Wednesday: Finally got back to content for Retro Active with my first Retroview, The Revenge of Shinobi. I am so glad I found that one for my Genesis.
Thursday: Reviewed the Xbox Live Arcade Game Catan. Thank you Big Huge Games for giving me an affordable version of this game to play. I really appreciate it.
Friday: Yes, I reviewed Rock Band 2. Yes, I list it among my top 10 games of all time. Yes, I think it may be the best party game of all time. Yes, I am serious.
Saturday: So I still can’t quite decide whether I love or hate Fear 2: Project Origin. All I know is the third had better have a much better ending. Ugh.
So now we come to the second of the features for this series. The first feature was on Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure, a favorite for DS Game of the Year. Today’s game isn’t nearly as good, but it was one that I found surprisingly fun: Damnation.
Raised, then Lowered Expectations
If you were listening to the podcasts back when most of us got started, you might remember that I was looking forward to playing Damnation. I even listed it among my games I was looking forward to in 2009. It just looked different: a vertical shooter with an open world element that was supposed to let you choose how you wanted to approach missions. Add to that the steam punk take on the Civil War, and you had a game that truly had my attention.
It did not take long for me to start seeing this game was probably not going to live up to those expectations. As more came out about it, it became clear that the open world part of the game was being thrown out the window in favor of very directed platforming. The story, which had been intriguing at first, was starting to sound more than a little forced, and the screenshots were not doing the game any real favors. Basically, the game went from a “must play when it comes out” to a “I’ll get to it once Gamefly gets it to me.” When I finally did receive it from Gamefly, I expected to play for a couple of hours and send it back.
Imagine my surprise when I found myself playing through the entire game.
First, the bad news
Don’t get me wrong: Damnation is not a good game. The story is ridiculous. The Civil War has gone on so long that the industrial revolution has occurred right in the middle of it. The US does not really resemble anything it was during the time period, and the evil Lord Prescott (no, I am not kidding, that is as intimidating as the name gets) is using steam powered robots and drug empowered soldiers to create a new empire. You lead a rag tag group of battle weary warriors who are the only hope of the free people of what is left of the United States. Oh, and you have been given the Native American “gift” of Spirit Vision to aide you in this conflict. Seriously? A 12 year old could have written a better story than this. Heck, I think I did when I was 12.
The graphics in Damnation are not exaclty inspired.
Oh, and if you have a poorly written story, guess what else must go with it: ridiculous dialogue. If I was comparing the dialogue in Damnation to that of, say, Star Wars Episode II, I would have to say Lucas actually managed to out write someone. As bad as some of Anakin’s courtship lines in that movie are, they are far better than a boss in this game taunting you by singing you and your partner are “sitting in a tree, d-y-i-n-g.” No, i am not making that up. It is that bad.
Then there are the graphics. It is rather hard to call Damnation a current generation game. It looks more like a game form the original Xbox era stuck in the 360. The character design is bland, the levels are unimaginative and the textures are either varying shades of brown or gray. Not exactly awe inspiring.
No, Damnation is not a good game. It is, however, a fun game.
Now, the Good News
So what kept me coming back to this game? There were a few things they did right:
The Platforming: Eidos needs to look at this game when they make the next Tomb Raider. The way you move you character from level to level in this game is just about perfect. You routinely find yourself jumping off walls to grab onto ledges to flip up and then shimmy along that ledge till you can jump to the next one. Or you jump over and grab onto a wall, flip around to the other side, then lean back and jump to a ladder, slide down to the bottom, swing around to the to the other side and climb up. There is something truly enjoyable about the way you traverse the levels in this game, and few games have captured this kind of platforming.
The platforming, weapons and Coop are areas where the programmers got it right.
The Weapons: Remember how I mentioned in my review of Fear 2 that the weapons were just not that interesting? Well, the weapons in Damnation are much more entertaining. Sure, you have your standard machine gun, shotgun and pistol, but you also have a sniper rifle with the most accurate sniper scope I have seen in a game in a long time, a grenade launcher that does nice damage, a railroad spike gun that you must charge up to use but is a one shot kill when charged and a sniper scope sighted explosive launcher you get toward the end of the game that is way too much fun to use. In a game where creativity is not exactly overflowing, it’s nice to see there was at least some thought given to how to make the game stand out.
The Coop: This one seems like a no brainer, but it is amazing how many games are not including coop in the campaign *cough Killzone 2 cough*. The makers of Damnation may have made several mistakes, but this is not one of them. The entire campaign is playable coop with one other player, both split screen and over Live. The interesting part is the coop player is going to get to play as three separate characters in the game. Don’t get your hopes up; they all play the same. It’s just a bit of a different touch.
The game is just fun
Don’t get me wrong; I am not trying to say you should all run out and buy this game immediately. As I mentioned, there are several problems with it. Still, if you can get it at a really good price or can rent it from a place like Gamefly, you just may be surprise just how much fun you can have playing Damnation. Just check your expectations at the door. Damnation gets a 3 out of 5.