Dreamatrix’s Wave of Darkness delivers a great experience for players who like to invest their time in a world not just a game, a la Skyrim or Diablo. For starters, the game’s map is gigantic, and the list of features added is hefty – and the game’s only in Early Access. Speaking from experience, it’s definitely something you can easily sink an entire night in without meaning to.
Wave of Darkness is set in Narr, which is quite honestly huge. The environment, and how beautifully it’s designed, is probably one of the greatest strengths of the game. Every place I explored kept me interested, and made me want to go farther, faster. Each of these areas had their own cult which plague the local peoples, who turn to you for help. That’s the basis of the game. You can move freely around the world, with no limitations except the cults and/or monsters that will kill you. It’s a simple, solid storyline, which is really all the game needs since Wave of Darkness is made with gameplay as it’s primary focus.
Speaking of gameplay, one of the coolest features is the ability to create your own spells. There’s three kinds available: ward, missile, and protection spells. During the playthrough you’ll find runes through a variety of ways, and these are what you use to make the spells- a rune has different effects depending on which of the three categories you’ve chosen to create a spell for. And that’s really it! It sounds simple, but there are an enormous amount of runes, and you can play around with different combinations, give the spell a cool name, and then stick it in your hotbar for use in combat.
Another cool idea that Wave of Darkness has implemented is the idea of cursed items. These are pieces of equipment that, when you wear them, are unable to be removed until you visit a special shrine. Usually they have detrimental effects, like reducing health regeneration or resistances, making them a priority if you come across one. I could go on about these and other types of equipment the game offers – blessed vs. empowered equipment, for example – but there’s honestly just so much that it’d take ages to cover everything. And that’s either a good or bad thing, depending on how much time you’re willing to spend learning the game’s mechanics.
The game isn’t perfect though. Wave of Darkness freely admits that it won’t hold your hand, and it definitely doesn’t. Like I said before, there’s a lot of mechanics to take in and learn, and the game doesn’t have a lot of instructions to help with that. At one point I got out a calculator to figure out if a weapon with an extra 3 damage was worth dealing 10% less damage against arachnids, for example (and that’s a pretty tame example at that). Adding to this, I often found myself unsure of where to go. I had backtrack fairly often because I missed opening the crate that had a key or something I needed to progress further. While not a negative necessarily, be aware that if you want to play this game, you’ll have to invest a lot of time to really understand everything it has to offer, and you will most definitely screw up at some point.
One contradiction to this, however, is the combat. It’s very, very basic- you and your enemy basically just stand there whacking each other until someone dies. The customized spells help make it a little more exciting, but they can only do so much. Right now it feels like everything besides the combat- items, crafting, exploration, etc. are all very dynamic and rich, which makes the combat seem even more plain than it otherwise would. That being said, it’s not bad in of itself, and it’s simplicity is a nice break from the complexity surrounding almost everything else in the game.
All in all Wave of Darkness is shaping up to be a solid game. It’s available right now in Early Access via Steam for a $21.99 price tag. It’s a solid game in its current state, though probably not worth quite so much. But, with the inevitable improvements coming I think it’ll be worth the cost.