Dark Flame is in pre-alpha state but that’s about all I need to be truly impressed by the experience so far. While clearly inspired by the original Castlevania, Dark Flame enhances that 1986 experience with modern RPG features, unlockable content, and what the developer calls a “unique leveling system.” Although I’m not part of the ongoing Patreon, I was provided a pre-alpha build of the game to bring to you all my initial impressions. The creators aren’t ask for much, even a donation of $1 is enough to get you access to playable builds of the game as it progresses!
<Updated 10-8-16> Interview with Developer Warren Smith
Dark Flame’s protagonist is Taharial, a crusader in the Baltic Crusades. Taharial is on a quest to stop the madness that is consuming the world around him by defeating the unknown evil that is responsible for the chaos. Neat idea for a story but let me tell you what rocks about Dark Flame: the music! You have to hear it to understand that it is perfectly suited for a 2D ARPG with NES roots and a grim and Gothic world. I was immediately launched into the experience. I’m actually listening to the music on repeat with the game open while writing this editorial. From a gameplay perspective, the game is very much what you’d expect, with a few surprises thus far. And that’s a great thing. While inspired by games from the past (isn’t every game?), Dark Flame adds some subtle and obvious changes. The “unique’ upgrade system is quite rewarding. After only a few kills I leveled twice and allocated my points to either Strength, Vitality or Intelligence. Pretty simple choices. There appears to be no respec option which should lead to a sense of value for those that like to replay, as we all did with our NES games as kids. The enemies are smart, however and they can kill you just as easily as you can kill them. Offense and defense are constantly in negotiation, almost like two boxers in a ring. Negotiation gets tricky when you’re outnumbered but the variety of attack options you have give you a solid advantage if you’re tactful. The bad guys are by no means pushovers, they not only deal a lot of damage but can also cast spells on you such as vampirism and confusion, which inverts your controls.
Level and equipment design are both solid. You can collect and equip new weapons and armor that actually make a difference and are aesthetically different, sometimes its just a palette swap but it’s better than nothing. To complement level design, in some areas a long sword would be better than a broadsword, but if you’re quick and agile you’ll be fine with your more powerful broadsword. Splendid. Throughout the map you’ll find Metroid-like areas that cannot be reached until later on due to progress/equipment collected. You’ll also find save points and possibly your corpse if you died recently.
Imagine Castlevania meets Dark Souls. That’s Dark Flame. I’ve armed my PC with an XBOX controller and a crucifix to get my way through the content in this build. But, developer Warren Smith needs more time to complete his vision. It’s amazing what one man can do, albeit with the financial support of nearly 40 patrons. Stay tuned here at GWW for more updates on Dark Flame and other promising Indie games!
To learn more about Dark Flame, go here!