Dark Future Enjoyable Romp in a Post-Apocalyptic World

Dark Future Blood Red States is the latest game from Auroch Digital, based on Games Workshop’s last-century table-top board game, Dark Future. This isn’t Auroch’s first foray into Games Workshop or board-game conversion territory, having previously brought us Chainsaw Warrior and Ogre. Dark Future is set in an alternate history, near-apocalyptic future USA. Rock and roll is dead, corporations rule the USA, and the world’s climate has been savaged by pollution, leaving much of America devoid of water and life: The Big Empty. Life is cheap and dangerous and the highways are roamed by bandit gangs, terrorising both flesh-and-blood and robotic travellers alike. Law Enforcement has been expanded to include Sanctioned Operators, talented and well-equipped civilians keen to strike out against the violent gangs, and earn a hefty pay cheque in doing so: state-sponsored vigilantes, if you like. You play the role of one such Operator in the Big Empty around Salt Lake City, taking on a series of short missions in your weaponised vehicle for your corporate or government employees. While some lovers of the old Dark Future table-top board game have taken to the Steam discussion forums to air their gripes about the game not being true to its roots, the developers have stated repeatedly that Blood Red States is set in the Dark Future world and is influenced by the original game, but their goal was never supposed to be to make a direct copy of it.

Not having ever played the original — though I think I may have been given it at one time in a big box full of table-top RPGs, wargames, and board games — I can’t comment on the similarities or differences, but having a small amount of familiarity with the game world, I do think the developers have done a pretty good job maintaining its wacky atmosphere. First impressions are good, with a brief historical CG movie providing a very rough outline of the Dark Future world and a great looking animated title screen. Title music is fairly heavy and unafraid of distortion and the game’s menu interface is unashamedly retro in look and feel. Graphics in game are impressive. Special effects and atmospheric effects look really good, with great explosions, fire, and debris-laden wind being particularly cool. Vehicles, too, are mostly modelled and animated exceptionally well, including moving weaponry and some great high-flying tumbles that leave smoking wrecks behind you (or in your path — whoops!). Damage effects seem to be fairly limited, though, with no capacity for blowing off parts or weapons, but even so it does look very nice. The world graphics are a slightly mixed bag, though. The gameplay is such that you’re restricted to driving on the designated highway, which passes on its procedurally generated path through what I assume is procedurally generated terrain, sporting mostly fairly sparse and relatively limited variety of obstructions, vehicles, and scenery objects. While what’s here actually does look very good, there’s just not enough variation to avoid the impression that you’re seeing the same stretches of road over and over again. With only a handful of different scenery areas, too, once you’ve played a couple in each everything starts to look pretty samey. Music is good, but mostly fades into the background. I couldn’t even tell you how many music tracks there are, but mostly they have a sort of Terminator type feel to them: dark and foreboding with a heavy beat. Sound effects are great except for the sound of metal-on-metal during ramming or crashing; this sounds exactly like someone playing a cymbal. I found the interface to be a little confusing initially, but got to grips with it fairly quickly thanks to the short, but detailed, tutorial, and some excellent tooltips. The writing is fantastic, with lots of dark humour and pop-culture references, in the traditional Dark Future mould. I’ve only noticed a few very minor errors that seem most likely to be “typos”.

Given the large amount of writing in the game, that’s very good indeed. Performance is mostly excellent with everything on Ultra settings on my GTX1070-based laptop, but I do sometimes experience short freezes of about a second or so duration, usually when first starting a mission. Given the very short load times, my guess is that it’s streaming in part of the world or something. While it’s fair to say that I’m a tiny bit disappointed in Dark Future: Blood Red States after waiting for it for so long, I think it should also be pointed out that my high expectations were probably unreasonable given the stated goals of the team and the final price point, which is a good deal lower than I’d expected. Graphics and writing are excellent and really help to give the game that Dark Future feel, but I would have loved to see much more variation in the world, weapons, enemies, and, most importantly, mission types. And personally I think the game would actually flow better if it were either fully real time or fully turn based; hotkeys work well and the Command Mode as it stands works well enough with only one vehicle, but the constant swapping between modes, especially with two vehicles, interrupts the pacing and feels like it shouldn’t be necessary. At the time of writing this review I’m about 10 hours in, with half of the eight seasons currently available completed, and I suspect I’ve probably seen the majority of what the game has to offer, though there may still be a few surprises left. Ultimately it’s very repetitive, but I can’t deny that it’s also jolly good fun! I’m hoping to find the time to finish the rest of the seasons soon.

This function has been disabled for XGAMEZONES.COM.