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Dark Horizon

Score: 75%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Developer: Quazar Studio
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Simulation/ Themed/ Shooter

Graphics & Sound:

There is a totem for every element of games, as well as the game itself. In the arena of space fighters, we have several all-time heavyweights that will probably never slide from their position. If I had to describe a place for Dark Horizon on the totem of space fighter combat, I would put it somewhere in the same area, maybe not the same level, but in the same area as Wing Commander. I think I just heard the hair stand up on some purist's back somewhere. You know the guy. He is the one who still has Origin posters on his basement wall. There are many things about this game that just took me to that place again when I was playing. Some of this was good and other parts, well, not so good. But I just couldn't shake the feeling.

One place that this game really stands out is that it is truly a great looking game. The look and the feel of the ships were very elegant looking. Space is space you may say, but it was pretty to look at. Even as I was getting blown into dust, I was impressed with how good it all looked while I was exploding.

I think that when I am playing a space game, that I am quite OK with no music. I have never been to space, but I am sure there is some type of issue with the vacuum and sound wave travel. I have read that somewhere. So I kind of find it interesting that space always sounds like trippy, slow, techno music. I think it is kind of a cultural thing, like the moon is made out of cheese. The voice acting had the same plastic wrapping the music did. Nothing to immerse you, nor was it distractingly horrid. Just sort of there to be there.


You may have guessed it by now, but Dark Horizon is a space combat simulator where you take the helm in either third or first person perspective. You are trying to escape The Mirk, a shapeless anomaly of darkness devouring space. It is causing species to disappear. Unknown in its origin, but deadly in its intent. The Light Core Project was begun. It was designed to stop the expansion of The Mirk. You play your role in the story of the Vattar Ama'Dan fortress designed to defend the Light Core until it can be completed, saving the universe. You will play as, well, you. You assume the role of a fledgling Guardian warrior. There are little pieces of the story you will have to read to glean out the game. If you are not paying attention to them, they will pass you by quickly. I, myself, found the story to be a little confusing initially. I found out why later.

You may or may not remember a game called The Tarr Chronicles from sometime back in 1997. Dark Horizon's main storyline comes as a prequel to the larger story laid out a few years ago. I personally didn't play the original game, so I found myself a little lost and disconnected in the story at times. I thought it was interesting that I saw no direct mention of this on their site, but it was mentioned in the opening cut-scene.

Games are about more than just the story. So, looking at the game for its space-based combat, I was happy with what I found. There are tons of ship configurations to play with and balance. The view from the cockpit is awesome. You have the ability to reconfigure unused equipment and other found items into new weapons and tools.

There is a command system in which you can instruct your computer-controlled player to attack or defend targets. There are also three different flight modes that will affect your fighting style. Beyond your normal state, you can enter either "Shadow" Mode or "Corter" Mode. In Shadow Mode, you do not give off a heat signature, so you are invisible to many systems. The trade off is low maneuverability. Inversely, in Corter Mode, you go in guns blazing, shields lowered, pounding the enemy with speed and intensity. No matter how you choose to handle your mission, there are plenty of enemies out there that need to be reintroduced in The Mirk.


Dark Horizon sits just on the simulation side of the fence between that and an arcade shooter. There is just enough ship management during combat to keep it real, if you will. At the same time, there is a very free dogfight feel about the game. There is a strategic method to the fight, and if you lose track of your ship's status, you can really find yourself in quite a predicament. I didn't find the game to be all that easy. I struggled many times, no matter how loose I felt the fighting to be. You are going to find that sometimes it will be best to conform to the information you are given and outfit your ship to specifically handle the task at hand. There didn't seem to be a magic pre-build that would get you through any scenario. You will have to spend some real time getting to know your ship and its components to be a real threat to the enemy.

Game Mechanics:

Dark Horizon is controlled through the mouse and keyboard. This is not one to use a standard game pad for. It does have some decent balancing. No one weapon was more weightily overpowered than another. There was just some really well-balanced tradeoff for every aspect of your ship. From mass to power, there was a pro and con to every nut and bolt on board. The missions became rinse and repeat very early on. Yes, I know, the main goal is to shoot all of the bad guys. That is the trick in design, isn't it? If you boast 22 missions, some of them have to be a little different. The repetition could not be helped, it seems.

I had a good time playing. I think the best way to enjoy this game is to peripheral it up as much as possible. Break out the flight stick. If you are lucky enough to have a full flight system, this is not a bad game to go ahead and get it all set up for. Turn out the lights. Plug in music of choice and get sucked in. If you have a chair that allows for a cockpit-like feel, then lean back and rock it out. There is enough play time to warrant the effort of getting rigged up.

If you played the original The Tarr Chronicles, I think you would feel that this game is redemption on this original property, judging from what has been written about it. I had a good time, like I said, but with the repetitive missions and non-immersive story, I had to say that this was a fairly average game. It looks great, and is really well-balanced, keeping it from being lackluster. A little more time would have done this game some real good. A little more time to vary the missions and better explain the story could have made this a great game, instead of a good one. I am off to take down my flight toys. Guardian Wumpus out.

-WUMPUSJAGGER, GameVortex Communications
AKA Bryon Lloyd

Minimum System Requirements:

Win XP, P4 2.4Ghz, 128Mb RAM, 2.5Gb of free space on HDD, GeForce FX 5700 with 64Mb or higher, audio card, 2x DVD-ROM

Test System:

Dell XPS DXP061, XP Pro, Intel Core Quad, 2GB Ram, Gforce 8800GTX

Nintendo DS Retro Game Challenge Sony PlayStation 3 Savage Moon

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated