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Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena - Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena

By Stuart Andrews



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Now, at this point those of you who have read other reviews of the Assault on Dark Athena package might expect a big ‘however'. The common line on the second campaign, Assault on Dark Athena itself, is that it's a damp squib, a retrograde step, even a crushing disappointment. I'd disagree. It's not as fresh as Escape from Butcher Bay, and it has its share of issues, but minute by minute, hour by hour, it's still a very fine FPS.

Again, I think this partly comes down to tone. The premise - Riddick's journey towards the planet featured in Pitch Black is interrupted by an encounter with a slave ship - could have led to an uninteresting, clichéd set of missions, but Starbreeze has made it as gritty, tense and brooding as the original Butcher Bay campaign.

The look is closer to the gothic future fantasy of the cinematic Chronicles of Riddick and the storyline doesn't go far beyond ‘escape the ship', yet the campaign still packs in some interesting characters, some hugely dislikable villains, a handful of genuinely shocking sequences, and some brilliantly written and delivered dialogue. Even though the gameplay is really just more of the same sneak and slaughter stuff, you don't feel like you're just working through another mission pack. In fact, a handful of new game mechanics, mostly to do with exploiting the hideous, half-human drones that patrol the Dark Athena, give Assault a surprisingly fresh feel.

I think the campaign's major issue is its structure. The first two thirds have a few hiccups and a little too much backtracking, but these are easily compensated for by a range of tense encounters, generous helpings of suspense and some masterfully engineered set-piece sections. Then, however, the campaign puts a foot wrong, dumping you on a dusty, alien planet without enough places to play hide and sneak, and asking you to, essentially, play an old-fashioned corridor shooter.

As corridor shooters go, it's not bad, and it's almost rescued by one wonderful weapon and a clutch of really challenging adversaries. However, you can't help feeling that Riddick is out of his element, and not in a good way. Where he should be the predator, he's suddenly just another grunt with a gun. At this point, Assault on Dark Athena also throws in some dubious, cheap-ass ways to kill you, which don't do much to earn back your goodwill.


April 27, 2009, 3:11 am

I think the reason most of us avoided the first game because it was a movie tie in and only had a one in a hundred chance of being any good. As this one isn't released alongside any movie it should get much more interest.

(And I haven't bagged a copy of Gears of War yet because it always seemed overpriced or out of stock. The cheapest I can see it now is 㿀 where other 2006 games like obvilion or Medieval II: Total war can be had for half that.)

The review doesn't state it explicitly so does this new version include all of the original or is there any reason to buy that as well as this?


April 27, 2009, 2:39 pm

@ Xiphias the new version contains both the polished version of the original and the Dark Athena "expansion pack", so no need to buy the original.


April 27, 2009, 2:47 pm

I thought the review did cover this, but this is basically an HD remaster of Escape from Butcher Bay with the Assault on Dark Athena campaign on top. Structurally, it seems to be the same as the enhanced PC version of Escape from Butcher Bay with the graphics updated and the engine replaced by the engine Starbreeze used for The Darkness.


April 27, 2009, 3:19 pm

@Stuart - how long is Dark Athena? I remember EFBB being a good 20 hours or thereabouts and one of them that completely hooks you from start to finish. It had the "I'll just play this little section before bed" and 2 hours later still playing..

What are the acheivements like? Are they like orange box where they're balanced across both games equally? Not really a selling point in any way, just curious!


April 27, 2009, 4:20 pm

It's hard to put a figure on it because I was playing it in stints over about two weeks, but I'd say that I put in a good twelve hours on the game at the medium difficulty setting. I'm not sure it's as consistently brilliant as Butcher Bay - I had a few bits in the middle section where I was beginning to get fed up - but while it's great it definitely has that 'just one more section' feel.

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