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Dark Meadow: The Pact (Android) artwork

Dark Meadow: The Pact (Android) review

"I never thought I'd care about a non-functional marketplace in a 'freemium' game..."

Dark Meadow: The Pact (Android) image

I don't have much confidence in "free" mobile games. Mediocrity is so common on the platform that I've come to anticipate a ho-hum experience with each download. It's thanks to this standard that I am able to cope with lackluster software. After all, it's easier to put a title behind you when you've already dismissed it. Unfortunately, I sometimes cross paths with a product that is, by freeware standards, stunning. That's when hours tend to go missing, dishes pile up, and I have to enter stealth mode when returning from a break at work. The fruits of my labor, regardless of the time I've plugged into such digital mayhem, are always the same: disappointment at the realization that my free time would have been more wisely spent doing just about anything else.

Dark Meadow: The Pact exemplifies the above scenario to a T. The Android edition arrested me the instant I booted it up. I began the campaign in a rundown hospital, awaking to find signs of a recent childbirth, though whose is unclear. Crisp, earthy visuals greeted me, a solemn mix of browns and grays that bespoke loss and grief. Depressing stimuli combined with children... We're already off to a chipper start, aren't we? "All we need now is some clever humor," I thought. That's when an elderly gent in a wheelchair greeted me at the entrance, instructing me to find him so the two of us can escape the death maze beyond your room's door. He retreated at the sight of an unseen threat and continued to shout snarky comments at me via PA system:

"I am not going to lie to you, the most likely outcome for you is ceaseless torment. I probably should've lied to you... shouldn't I?"

Dark Meadow: The Pact (Android) image

He's right, though. Waiting in the corridors were twisted, nightmarish demons that engaged me in random encounters. They approached, claws drawn or stone-like fists ready to pummel me to unrecognizable bits. I, thankfully, was not without offensive capabilities. As the haunting beasts approached, I drew my crossbow and plugged scores of bolts into their chests and noggins, the latter resulting in more crippling shots. When they came within cutting distance, I produced my blade and evaded their strikes using arrows located on either side of the screen or a shield at the bottom-middle for blocking (with limited uses, sadly). After a few good dodges, the creatures would tire and that's when I would cut loose a flurry of slashes, swiping my finger so vigorously across the screen that my coworkers would question my sanity. "Just killing hellspawn," I'd say. Of course, I had to be cautious, as my foes were able to break a combo and execute a devastating riposte.

Early on, sustaining damage is no small matter. The game doesn't provide an abundance of restorative goods, as medkits only manifest occasionally and are usually best saved for boss encounters. I thus had three options: 1) die a lot and continually respawn, because there are no penalties for death besides losing progress, 2) become so adept at dodging that my foes never lay a finger on me, or 3) farm money and gems like crazy so I might afford improved equipment or obtain more skill points.

Dark Meadow: The Pact (Android) image

So I scoured the ruined corridors and rotting chambers of the hospital, tapping money bags left and right so I could afford a new arsenal or necklaces (read: armor) purchased from a store via in-game menu. I also amassed sun coins by dispatching five enemies in a row, which could be exchanged for specialty weapons and armor that boast more impressive statistics than the standard fare. Mostly, though, I'd level grind so I could allocate a measly four skill points per level to various stats. Thankfully, the game offered a faster method for acquiring skill points, which involved locating ten randomly placed gems for a whopping ten points. The best part was that they respawned after I secured all of them.

I devoted whole sessions to strengthening my character and prepping him for the boss. After ages of training, I took on the being guarding the entrance to the next stage and saw that my hours were not wasted. I then exited stage right and proceeded to a new floor... begin the process anew.

With the exception of scooping up documents that detail the game's backstory, there were no side events or extra challenges to be had in Dark Meadow. Wandering corridors, offing monsters, and growing in strength was pretty much all the game had to offer. As I grew more powerful, the store updated its merchandise with fresh products at outrageous prices. Some of the best devices I gazed at cost more than $2,000,000, while other tempting doodads ran thousands of sun coins. When you consider that you only gain a few sun coins for every five victories, you realize that you would have to play this game nonstop for days at a time in order to afford almost anything that expensive. Heck, even gathering the necessary funds for non-sun coin items meant ages of traversing hallways and scotching demons.

So that's when I rifled through my wallet and heroically brandished my debit card, bent on burning a few dollars to obtain sun coins. Incidentally, that's also when I discovered that Dark Meadow is not technically a "freemium" title anymore. Any time I tried to purchase money, the app would crash. Honestly, I'm not sure if this was a bug, but I've never been able to buy a thing from their marketplace and thus had to rake in cash the old fashion way.

Dark Meadow: The Pact (Android) image

I am loath to admit it, but Dark Meadow is a middling dungeon crawler. In spite of its wonderful presentation, touching plot, and delightful and witty antagonist, the game is ultimately overlong and devoid of memorable events or genre innovations. You wander, you chop up a bunch of baddies ad naseam, you advance, and you shrug. It's disheartening to play a game this soundly developed, only to realize that there's so much more it could offer.

Any minute now, someone's going to say, "Yeah, but it's free!" It certainly is, but you also have to ask yourself: "Is it worth my time?" I don't see the merit in devoting innumerable hours to a banal dungeon crawler, regardless of the cost. Dark Meadow isn't the worst "rat maze" you could play by a long shot, but its dearth of standout features prevents it from even being close to the best.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Staff review by Joseph Shaffer (November 21, 2015)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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