DarkOrbit Reloaded Review
Pros: Easy enough to pick up, decent graphics, can play for free
Cons: Simplistic combat, long questing travel times, grindy gameplay
We checked out DarkOrbit Reloaded from Bigpoint recently, a free to play browser based point and click shooter where player battle it out with enemy AI and player factions; for our playthrough we checked the game out for a few hours starting at level 1 and experiencing much of the new player content to see what we thought of it.
The graphics, as ever, are pretty great ranging from the dynamically shifting backgrounds for each map area showing wonderfully design cosmic backdrops as you adventure through unknown sectors of space, to the simple AI, and the improved 3D modelling for structures and ships; all in all the game looks good and has a decent music score to back it up.
Whilst the game did get a facelift a few years ago, the game itself hasn’t moved on much since the initial explosion of browser games (which Bigpoint played a big part of) and the content does revolve around a somewhat grindy formula in comparison to some other more recent releases. The actual controls and mechanics of combat are simple enough, at least early game from what we experienced, with a simple point and click of the mouse to move around the top down isometric 2.5d environment and click to select an enemy then fire a bunch of missiles and auto-aim lasers.
The game revolves around working for one of the three companies/factions in the game (Mars Mining Operations, Earth Industries Corporations and Venus Resources Unlimited); the choice of faction has absolutely no bearing on gameplay as all ships and techs are available to all players. The factions primarily determine which side you are on in PVP battles, which were too high level for us to experience in our playthrough. What we did get to experience was the PVE element with quests, which makes up the bulk of the early game content and we have to say… it wasn’t great.
The missions started out as fairly standard, go head to this waypoint and kill 2 of this certain type of enemy then return back to base; no problem with that, it’s kinda simple but it is to be expected. Then we’re told to go out a little further and kill 2 different types of enemies, well okay, at this early there appears to be no difference between enemies other than a different skin, maybe slightly different speed, attack or armor, but essentially it was just trading auto-aiming laser fire. Returned back to base and were told to go mine/pick up three types of a certain resource, okay no problem did that, back to base for the next quest…. Go kill a different enemy, but this time head to a different map using a Galaxy Gate!
So that got us a little excited, heading somewhere new, new enemies, obviously it was being a little gradual with the training wheels and tutorial mode style quests, but that was fine, now we were heading out somewhere different. Only completely not. A different backdrop, sure, but essentially more generic enemies that do the same thing, but this time we had to travel for around a full minute to reach the Galaxy Gate (seriously, we timed it) with an auto-pilot mode so we just sat looking at the screen until we reached it; completing the mission took no time at all and then we had to travel all the way back. This was pretty much the “PVE Missions” for the bulk of our game, we spent more time travelling than we did fighting (as our ship lacked the ability to jump to new maps yet) it was an arduous, pointless and simply boring time sink that sucked all the fun out of the game. It might not have been so bad if the combat was by any means tactical, but it was simply clicking an enemy and using two different hotkeys to fire weapons.
The only challenging combat we had was an instanced based encounter where wave after wave of enemies appeared, which culminated in a larger boss ship. It took an excruciatingly long time as the enemies took so long to kill, the “tactics” were simply keeping out of range from enemy fire and using our longer ranged auto-target lasers, then every so often use a missile. It was only when we realised we could purchase items straight off the expanded hotkey bar that we bought some more powerful missiles and then obliterated everything in seconds.
From an early gameplay review it would be surprising if the games grind mentality didn’t continue throughout; acquiring resources (either mining asteroids or looting enemies) became a chore as our cargo was constantly getting filled up (and we weren’t aggressively mining/looting). The focus of grind out resources to sell them for credits, or upgrade techs and acquire new ships to then acquire more resources and then get the next ship is just a bit too much of a tiring cycle.
We like the way the shop integrated directly with the game; visiting the cash shop in game popped up a new browser tab or window automatically, well, it did once, and then we couldn’t get it to pop up again.
Dark Orbit Reloaded is a casual pick up and play game, it lacks the depth for any long gameplay sessions and the PVP that appears later game still follows a point and click mechanic with a real lack of twitch skill needed. The issue is that whilst the game is casual in nature, the grind focused content means it actually takes longer to progress.