Have I ever mentioned my love for survival games, especially ones featuring giant dinos and crafting (hint: Ark: Survival Evolved)? Being able to tame armies of dinosaurs caused me to have an addiction to go out and acquire the strongest creatures I could find. Dark and Light takes a similar concept and mixes it in with a fantasy setting, and this is more exciting than it might sound. Better still, it’s made by Snail Games who obviously loves Ark as much as I do, so it’s a match made in survival sandbox heaven.
While I’ve never had the pleasure of playing some of the most popular fantasy-based open-world games like Skyrim and the Witcher, their reputation precedes them. Sure, I’ve seen plenty of gameplay footage and it’s always fascinated me how beautifully crafted their worlds are and how much lore is spread across them. That said, why is it that we – the players – rarely have the chance to leave a permanent mark on these fantasy worlds?
Thankfully, this is where Dark and Light helps fill the void by introducing crafting elements those worlds lack, giving players the tools to not only make their own weapons and armor, but to change their world. Spot a nice hovel that looks like it could be home? Why not build your own? Not enough storage for all your loot and gear? Build a bigger house and put in storage boxes to store all those shiny gems acquired from the enemies you’ve conquered and quests you’ve completed!
One concept that stood out to me is how the leveling system works for unlocking higher-tier weapons and structures. For example, unlocking survival schematics means harvesting rock and wood. Doing so unlocks the schematic for a campfire and crafting more survival items will help players progress to the next tier. The same applies to both weaponry and structures, advancement means building or making higher-tier weapons.
This system felt incredibly intuitive, since it meant less of my attention is pulled away from worrying about incidentals, like when to unlock the next saddle for a new creature I’d captured. Advancing to bigger and better things means literally just doing what I was going to do anyway, so win-win.
Don’t let the fantasy setting fool you; this world can be just as frightening and deadly as anything with dinosaurs and cavemen. One of the most terrifying moments I encountered was seeing a reaper with black smoke billowing from it as it charged with me with a scythe. Freaking out, I fled on my boar to the nearest town to let the guards kill it. When heading down to look for other creatures to tame, panthers and hyenas came out of the woods to attack me on sight. Even just heading down the hill from my main base is dangerous since there is a high chance that wolves might decide to come by and invite me over to dinner. Or be dinner.
Where gameplay shines are the process of taming creatures which is one of the most involved and exciting aspects. Shooting creatures with hook arrows, planting the arrow in the ground, and then dodging before the creature can attack. There were close calls where my character almost died while trying to bring down a creature when switching spells or focusing to shoot an arrow. Moments like these were intense, and when the creature finally went down, it felt so satisfying to know the most difficult step was done.
Being able to cast spells and lob fireballs to slow creatures in a fantasy setting were also immensely satisfying . When running around it felt nice to be able to defend myself just by casting a few spells instead of hacking at creatures with my sword. Of course, simply going head-to-head with another creature is an option, but not necessary.
As the game is still in Early Access, there are still issues to contend with, both gameplay and technical. One major annoyance is that exploring the terrain on foot can be a challenge in patience. My character couldn’t go up slight inclines or small hills without falling down or forcing me to go around to find an easier path. When I’m mounted on a beast, though, navigating up these small hills is easy.
Another issue is that character hitboxes can be finicky when harvesting from corpses or gathering materials. I’ll slash away at a dead rabbit with a pickax over and over, but gathering meat is impossible unless my character is three inches to the left for my hits to even register.
While these issues might be deal breakers for some, it’s best to remember the game isn’t entirely finished yet. Games like these are usually (though not always) patched and fixed over time. Still, there were plenty of times I wanted to step away from my Batcomputer out of sheer frustration when simple mechanics didn’t work correctly or my character model became stuck in the model of another creature.
Given it’s still in Early Access, Dark and Light has its share of flaws, but the experience awaiting those willing to step into its unique fantasy world is worth the investment. As a seasoned fanatic veteran of Ark, the ability to tame magical creatures and join battles with skeletons yearning to steal my soul was pretty damn epic. The addition of crafting elements into the fantasy setting makes all the difference, and it’ll be interesting to see how Snail Games utilizes them in future updates. Those willing or patient enough to look past the current bugs will probably have a blast surviving in this fantasy setting – just watch out for those dragons.