Let me preface this playtest by saying that I have never played Escape from Butcher Bay. It’s not that the game sounded bad. I completely believe all the praise it gets in gaming circles, but I’m just not that much of a stealthy person.
That said, I was surprised that I enjoyed Assault on Dark Athena as much as I did. The game takes place after Butcher Bay, with Riddick being woken from space-sleep by the boarding of some ominous people who take his still-sleeping shipmate away. Of course, Riddick being the upstanding, witty, tough guy that he is, has to get to the bottom of who these kidnappers are.
The stealth elements from Butcher Bay are still in this game. It’s easy for players to feel like a bad-ass with how agile Riddick is in sneaking in shadows and breaking necks. While there is limited gun combat throughout the game, my preferred way of dealing with enemies was hand-to-hand, or rather, blade-to-head combat. Unlike other FPS’s where melee combat seems like a mere afterthought, it feels solid and gratifying in Assault on Dark Athena. Even if you’re like me and don’t have the patience to scurry from shadow to shadow, hand to hand combat is still possible and satisfying.
The story and character interactions in the game are a treat to anyone who is a fan of the movies. Vin Diesel does a decent job as Riddick, as decent as he can at least, and the dialogue between him and minor characters make the back and forth fetch quests worth doing. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about the environment. Sure, space ships are dark, drab places, which suits Riddick fine, but does each room and corridor have to look the same?
Fans of the original won’t be let down with Assault on Dark Athena even though it’s more of the same. When it comes to good games, that’s not a problem. If you’re on the fence because of the stealth elements, it’s still worth at least a rental to see what melee combat in an FPS feels like when it’s done right.