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About the Story
The town of Arkhill has been under a mysterious Darkness and strange beasts. You have been hired to dispense of the beasts and investigate the cause of the Darkness. With the help of the remaining townfolk and your wizard aid, will you be able to lift the Darkness and save the town?
81st Place - 26th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2020)
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Number of Reviews: 3
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The Arkhill Darkness is a lighthearted, trope-laden fantasy romp that delights in goofy humor and breaking the fourth wall. It’s a fun time. The visual presentation is slick and does a good job of setting the mood. There’s a very simple RPG-style combat system which is, in my opinion, entirely unnecessary.
If you’re looking for flawless prose, a deep story, or characters that you’ll come to care very deeply about, I’d say this is not the game for you. On the other hand, if you’re in the mood to see what happens when high fantasy meets kung fu and yo momma jokes, The Arkhill Darkness might put a smile on your face.
Just be warned: your greatest foe won’t be a dragon or a demonic horsething. It’ll be the typos.
There are two kinds of fantasy RPGs: the bad ones, where the wizard is named something dumb like Firganzallum or Thoranor or what have you, and the good ones, where the wizard is named Wizard. Ipso facto, this is one of the good ones.
All right, I’m being (slightly) tongue in cheek, but The Arkhill Darkness is not faffing about. You’re a fledgling adventurer who needs to free a town from an unearthly curse of darkness, so you hit the tavern to get quests from your mentor and chat with half a dozen people who have job titles where their names should be. There’s a faint tongue-in-cheekness about this, though proceedings mostly proceed in a po-faced way with a slight flavor of horror, and the writing sports some typos and comma errors, so altogether TAD conveys a distinctive (and to me at least, oddly appealing) author’s-first-game jankiness.
Gameplay-wise, this is a pretty clean adventure/RPG hybrid, with a clearly-delimited area to go to grind encounters for cash and ingredients, but most exploration plays out in a choice-based fashion with the occasional puzzle and less interspersal of combat than I expected ((Spoiler - click to show)maybe it’s just the choices I made, but there were only three set-piece encounters involving combat: the werewolf, where fighting is a losing game regardless of one’s stats, the landwurm, which is much more about minigame mechanics as far as I could tell, and then the dragon fight at the end).
The grinding didn’t seem to have much impact – I seemed to do as much damage, and if anything hit more frequently, when kicking as when using a weapon, and Wizard never followed through on his promise to brew me a potion with which to poison my axe – so the adventure side of things I think predominates over the RPG elements. The exploration sequences are fleet enough so as not to wear out their welcome, and use a variety of different approaches: there’s a traditional password-puzzle, a choose-the-right-option action sequence, and a climactic battle that involves some timing-based minigames (these were a fun idea, but very hard on my trackpad, for what it’s worth).
Throughout, the prose is functional, though typically a bit wordy and in need of an editing pass. There are some moments when things tip over into being more evocative, usually when the game is leaning into its horror vibe, as here when the player is battling a sort of monstrous congeries of five or six different sorcery-warped horses:
"As the horsething continues to advance upon you, you dart towards the underbelly of the horsething. As you do, you have an idea. You pull out your Axe and begin to hack its legs as you run. It is clear the horsething was not expecting this move. It stumbles as you cut off a couple of its legs. You dive forward, as the beast falls to its underbelly. You turn and start chopping of its heads, one by one. The horsething screams as its head come off. Even with the last head dismembered, its necks flail around. At last the flailing stops, as it’s last scream turns into the a weak wheeze."
Grammar issues and typos aside, this is pretty metal.
TAD’s not exactly a diamond in the rough – I don’t think it’s sufficiently ambitious, and its highs are really just about evoking warm feelings of familiarity – but I had a fun old time with it: perhaps the quintessential “if you like this sort of thing, you’ll probably like this thing” game.
(Oh, and a quick warning: despite there being a Save Game option, I could never get it to work. Fortunately there’s back/forward functionality throughout the story, so it’s not a major concern).
This game is a classic RPG scenario. You arrive in a town cursed by darkness, get a quest at a tavern, level up by killing some mobs and getting gear, then take on the big bad.
There have been a lot of attempts at putting quality RPGs in IFComp (and there are several good ones this year, too). This one’s pretty good: lots of non-combat exploration and puzzles, some fun text effects and an interesting backstory.
On the other hand, it could use some spellchecking. One thing you can do in Twine is go to the menu where you can ‘publish to file’ and right above that is ‘view proofing copy’. That gives you an easy-to-read version you can put into grammarly to correct most errors.
Overall, this was pretty fun, but I feel like it could have used something to set it apart from other RPGs more.
-Polish: Could use some fixes to spelling and grammar
+Descriptiveness: The jokes are pretty good in this game.
+Interactivity: It's not groundbreaking, but it doesn't have to be for me to have a good time.
-Emotional Impact: I didn't feel very invested in the storyline.
+Would I play again? I might seek it out later on.