Dark Fall: Lost Souls

The third Dark Fall game was released five years after the second, long enough for the author, Jonathan Boakes — who, I’ve learned, is basically a one-man game studio — to learn a new and different engine. No more Made with Macromedia: this apparently uses a modified version of the Wintermute engine, although it uses it in a way I haven’t seen in other Wintermute games, which tend to be 2D side-view point-and-click affairs. Instead, we’re still in Mystlike territory, with fixed first-person camera positions that you click between, although it has QuickTime VR or something equivalent providing smooth transitions when you rotate in place, which is rather nice. It strikes me that I haven’t seen QTVR used in quite some time, ever since 3D modeling took over the industry.

The setting for at least the first part of the game is the same abandoned train station and hotel as Dark Fall: The Journal. It seems to be haunted again, even though I changed history so that it was never haunted in the first place. We’ll see what that’s about. The passage of time has changed the place as much as it’s changed the engine. It was already decrepit and water-stained in 2002, but it’s even moreso now. There’s new graffiti in the tunnels (supplementing the old familiar graffiti in the restrooms), there are large plants growing between the tracks, and formerly-passable structures have completely collapsed. Honestly, it’s amazing how much it’s deteriorated in five years given how intact it was sixty years or so after being abandoned. It’s still completely recognizable as the same place, though. I remember the backstory in the first game involved someone surveying the site for a new development project. I guess that deal fell through.

It occurs to me that there are other games that pull this trick, of revisiting locations from earlier games in the series and showing how they changed in the interval. It’s a theme that I think games can probably do better than other media, due to their ability to emphasize setting just by putting the player into an environment and telling them to explore it. Some obvious examples: The 11th Hour (sequel to The 7th Guest), Escape from Monkey Island, the one ending branch of Myst V where you revisit Myst Island, Ultima V-VII (and, in a different way, The Serpent Isle). It seems like the general trend is for the setting to decay and fall apart between games. Are there any games that show a setting improving?

3 Comments so far

  1. Merus on 8 Apr 2015

    I know some MMO sequels rely on the time-skip to show well-known environments and how they’ve changed. Also, generally a studio capable of doing a sequel has a much bigger budget, so there’s a real incentive to take towns from the first game and scale them up so they’re grander and more spectacular.

  2. Andrew Plotkin on 9 Apr 2015

    The Soul Reaver series showed Nosgoth in several eras of history. This was generally a process of decay (since the first game ends with Kain deciding to conquer the world in the name of vampiric degeneration!) but “Blood Omen 2” was set in a brief renaissance of magico-steampunky development.

    That was a world-setting rather than specific locations, though. (All the sequels revisit named locations, but between the different engines and different dev teams, none of them really felt like explorations of the same places.)

  3. Zandor 12 on 21 May 2023

    In Pokemon Colloseum for the Gamecube, the land of Orre is a desert wasteland that has no wild pokemon. In the sequel XD: Gale of Darkness, things are looking up and there are a handful of wild pokemon encounters you can have in specific spots, although the population’s clearly still pretty low since iirc you have to leave bait and come back later instead of just rustling around in the grass. XD recycles most of its locations from Colloseum, and with Colloseum’s evil team defeated things seem better in general, although I’ll admit it’s been over a decade since i’ve played.

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