Some of the best sci-fi are essentially westerns. Star Wars, Star Trek, Mad Max, and of course, the Riddick trilogy, are examples of sci-fi classics that, at its core, are wild-west gunslingers. Dark District, Kabam’s new iOS free-to-play, is a sci-fi western.
The planet, Tenebri, is a resource-rich mining town. It has become completely lawless except for a few (including you) who must survive, raise a posse, and drive out the no-goods bent on controlling the planet’s wealth and power. Sounds similar to a Kickstarter project, RimWorld, and several other games and fiction, but it’s still an intriguing premise.
And oh, there’s no sun, that’s why it’s dark.
Like most FTPs, you need a lot of patience, or real money. At the root of the game’s economy are two resources, alloy and hexium. You need one or the other to build anything, including your army. There’s a per-level cap on resource-collecting buildings, so there’s quite a bit of waiting before you can progress in the game. I would say more waiting than similar games, such as Kingdom Age or Battle Nations.
To move faster, resources can be purchased with credits. 50 credits can be bought for $4.99. 1600 credits are $99.99. One credit will buy you 10,000 alloy or hexium.
Completion of missions like upgrading buildings or researching technology provides lump-sum rewards. The extra resources for doing basic tasks are nice, but the missions could be more challenging. For example, in Creative Assembly’s Total War, you’re not rewarded for upgrading a building. You are asked to conquer a barbarian-infested city. Now, that’s deserving of an award.
The battles are where Dark District shines above other similar FTPs. So far, there are three classes of vehicles: tanks, air and mechs. You need a good combination for victory. The mechs can take the damage, but they don’t have the firepower of an upgraded air unit. So I put the mechs in front, and had the choppers provide the firepower from behind. With a tap of the finger, you control where the units are deployed, how many and what they attack. You only battle the enemy’s towers, not his army. It’s pretty fun, though repetitive, and few and far between since all units used in the attack, whether destroyed or not, must be rebuilt. Do the victors not know how to find their way home?
The solo campaign doesn’t give you much story or variety. There’s a chain of warlords and their minions that must be defeated in all-too linear fashion. A total of 50 opponents broken up into 5 districts. In addition to increasing in difficulty, every district gives you a new mug shot. But besides a different pic, there isn’t anything interesting about them. Some kind of backstory would be cool, but they don’t even have names.
There’s a PVP, too, and an alliance system, which isn’t anything new or special.
I dig Dark District’s premise. It might make an interesting movie or graphic novel. As for the game, I might give it a few more days, but there’s isn’t enough variety or intriguing gameplay for me to take out my wallet.