An English demo of Success Corp’s “Operation Darkness” has hit Live! and it’s pretty fun, as long as you’re able to put up with the horrid camera. It comes with one mission pitting you against Wehrmacht troops in trying to capture a spy known only as “the Needle”. It teaches you the ropes using tutorial tips for when you start using certain actions which can be kind of overwhelming considering that it throws you right into the fire with a surprise attack by a battalion of SS soldiers and two tanks that rumble in at the last minute.
The group you get to command are all main characters from the game itself with a variety of specialties. One is armed with a rocket launcher, another is a crack sniper, and a few others are armed with plenty of bullets to help lay down fire. Grenades are great for clearing out clustered enemies, and you can even fire a panzershreck into the midst of a party of SS soldiers to clear them out.
The official English site is located on Atlus’ web here and the Japanese one chock full of even more information is found over here. The menu system before battle allows you to purchase items, set up skills for each of your characters, and outfit them with what you think they may need in terms of weapons and gear. The worldmap that you can interact with to pick battles (only one is included with the demo) shows off some of what you will be getting with the full game. It looks like you’ll be leading a squad to North Africa, into France, and even London. The voice acting isn’t bad from what I was able to hear and the game is definitely not what WW2 history buffs will pick out as something that they can lump in with Medal of Honor, but it’s a different, fantastical take on a genre that I’ve been looking forward to.
A sort of roadie cam follows soldiers as they run, take cover, or fight the enemy. Houses explode from shells, and tanks turn into twisted wrecks thanks to some decent visuals, but the damn camera is pretty much a lost cause. Getting it to tilt and pan around when you plan your moves is an exercise in frustration as it jiggles on the screen as if it were sitting on jello. Watching stuff actually happen, such as when you snipe enemies or lay down machine gun fire is the best part of the camera’s limited ability to deliver the battlefield to you. Using it as a tool to sight your foes or explore the battlefield is something that I had wished they would have changed alongside translating everything in the game. It’s surprising that it was never addressed, but maybe the retail version will feature some of these changes.
Two of the characters in the demo are also capable of turning into werewolves for improved damage, health, and speed, and it looks like you can hire others during the planning stage before the battle to add to how many troops you’ve got to command. Getting “killed” isn’t necessarily the end, either, as long as you have something in your inventory to heal you up.
When the Needle was captured and my forces survived, a small intermission screen came up. There aren’t any animated models to talk, just well drawn and stylishly painted caricatures to serve as portraits for the key characters when they say something. In this case, Heinrich Himmler’s face complete with glowing, yellow, pupils ordered one of his voluptuous commanders to face off against the Allies. Yeah, it’s campy stuff, but Operation Darkness isn’t trying to be a historical retelling of the Second World War, either.
Characters also earn experience in battle, improving their stats, and you can also search the dead and filch items such as grenades, rockets, and healing items from their supplies if you happen to run low on yours…or need something to bust the tanks that arrive on the scene.
It might not appeal to everyone, but it’s certainly as unique a take on WW2 that I’ve been waiting to see hit these shores ever since it had come out in Japan. Fighting the vampiric hordes of the Third Reich and facing the occult powers of the Fuhrer? Count me in!