Elegance is tough.
Think about it. If you want your game to be elegant, it needs to have moving parts, but not so many that it becomes a mess, and what’s there must be well-oiled and purposeful. You’ll need clear winning strategies, but no single strategy that trumps all others. Simplicity, but simplicity with depth.
Control, a game ostensibly about time travelers wrestling to escape a rift in spacetime, is elegant. Unfortunately, most people might not reach the point where they can recognize that.
I received an unexpected gift for Christmas, courtesy of my friend J.B. / digital_pariah, who you may remember as one of the players from our RPS Ascension game of Dominions 3 (which I am terribly behind in talking about here on Space-Biff!). It was the time-traveling romp Darkest of Days, a game about anachronisms that strikes me as an anachronism itself. It’s a much-ignored gem from 2009 that, for the most part, looks as though it has arrived on your PC after an arduous time-bending adventure, in which a serviceable gaming engine from 2008 stole the discarded textures of 2005, kidnapped Harry Turtledove’s doppelganger to pen the plot, and then decided on a pit stop in 1862 to get the Battle of Antietam just right.
Any game that channels that one good part from Timecop is a game in which I’m interested, and it’s fair to say I was looking forward to Darkest of Days in the same kind of way that I used to look forward to having my modern army men gun down my pirate Legos (read: very much). I didn’t expect it to spin me around and teach me a life lesson (or at least try really, really hard to). The review, in three parts, follows.