Phantom EFX, long-known for their vast line of casino games is shifting gears slightly and publishing Darkest of Days, a time-traveling shooter title being developed by 8Monkey Labs. While at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, we were fortunate enough to get a behind closed-doors walk-through of the title.
The story of Darkest of Days is set, initially, in what we would call the future. At some point, mankind discovers time travel and begins research expeditions into the past. They are finding that someone has been changing the past as people who were recorded as dying at military battles and other major events in our history are living while others who were recorded as living are ending up dead… (Cont.)
(Cont.) Obviously, this represents a potentially world-altering threat as there is no telling how widespread throughout the time line such changes could effect. So, the agency responsible for the technology to begin with (‘Mother’s Organization’) starts sending back agents to these historical events to right the wrongs. This raises the question of just where, exactly, to get these agents? Having people from the future go back is out of the question as if they should die on a mission, it would be depriving the future of their existence (and could further alter the time line in the process).
Enter you, the player. In the walk through we received it showed the player starting as a member of General Custer’s 7th Cavalry at the Battle of Little Big Horn. During the course of the battle you receive some serious injuries and, before you die, time stands still as a portal opens up from the future. An agent walks out of it and recruits you to this organization. It would seem that Mother’s Organization found their agents in what the future would call M.I.A’s (or people who ended up ‘missing in action’). Since there is no record of what happened to these individuals, the organization feels they are their best hope of correcting the time line.
The game engine used by Darkest of Days, codenamed: ‘Marmoset’, was developed in-house at 8Monkey Labs and was made to accommodate a large number (hundreds) of characters on the screen at one time without a sizable performance loss. The game levels we saw played featured some very respectable visual quality and, yes, a ton of NPCs on both sides of the conflicts. When you travel back in time to the Battle of Antietam and you will be amazed at the sheer number of Confederate soldiers which charge from the cornfields at Union lines.
Thankfully, this is not just your normal shooter as if you make a mistake during the missions at hand, which could be killing too many of the wrong people or altering the course of the battle you will have to go back in time once more but as the ‘other side’ to balance these changes. The battlefields provided by the game are very large and while they have a number of scripted events they are largely sandbox-style in terms of what you can choose to do.
In the Antietam level the developers showed us, they decided to ‘chuck’ the orders at hand and single-handedly charge Confederate lines. The corn fields seemed to go one forever but, sure enough, at their end was the Confederate army complete with cannons.
Weaponry was a big issue for the developers as while they wanted to make use of historically-accurate weapons they also wanted to add a few big, futuristic armaments for the player to use. You need use these sparingly though, as it can alter the time line if you cut down rows of Civil War-era soldiers with your sub-machine gun. While cool and reminiscent of the opening scene in Time Cop, it just isn’t a good thing to do. The big coup de grace of the title looks to be a battle between Mother’s Organization time agents and their antithesis organization which is messing with history. It takes place in Pompeii during its historic (and devastating) eruption. Since all of those individuals are destined to die, both organizations see no problem with letting loose all the futuristic weapons and armor they can muster. After all, who are they going to tell?
The game also, at one point in its development history, featured a couple of the more controversial events in history, one of them being the terrorist attacks in New York on September 11th, 2001. One of your fellow time agents was a firefighter listed as missing during the tragedy. While it would have been respectfully-implemented, the developers chose to wait on telling those stories in such a vivid fashion. Although, according to at least one developer on-hand at the walk-through, it is still something they would like to explore at some point down the road (DLC perhaps?).
Personally, we hope they do: Video games depicting scenes of tragedy such as those (see the recently-canceled Six Days in Fallujah) may be hard to stomach at times but like all great art they have something to say beneath the surface, especially when handled respectfully with regards to history – something that the developers of Darkest of Days take to heart, first and foremost.
Darkest of Days looks to tell an intricate tale of time-travel, war, and the nature of fate all while featuring an in-game engine capable of some pretty surprising things. It is due out on the PC and Xbox 360 platforms on August 25th.