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Dark Seven (Android) artwork

Dark Seven (Android) review

"We're only on this planet for a finite amount of time and I spent some of that span with this. Let that sink in..."

A few years ago, when I started the ill-fated Kemco Khallenge, it all seemed so simple. I had found myself losing interest in Japanese role-playing games--long a favorite genre of mine--as they became increasingly overblown. They changed from the breezy 30-40 hour games of my youth into massive entities determined to devour at least 100 hours of my time while only rarely possessing the sort of qualities that might justify that investment. And lo, there was Kemco, snapping up tiny RPG companies and releasing their far shorter games on mobile devices.

I figured I could attempt to rekindle my love for the genre with shorter games where I would theoretically have everything worth doing done before things started to grow tiresome and repetitive. As an additional bonus, mobile JRPGs don't exactly attract a lot of reviews from fellow critics. By covering Kemco's library, I could cover titles my peers overlooked while also securing a position on the first or second page of search results.

At first I thought I had found a "can't lose" proposition…until I played a dozen or two of the publisher's games and realized they were causing me to fall even further out of love with the JRPG. Sure, the ones I tried were short and, for the most part, I was able to complete at least their main quest before losing interest. But there was a feeling of deja vu that grew more pronounced with each new conquest (no mean feat, considering that Kemco has enlisted the services of multiple teams over the past decade or so).

After a couple of years spent blasting out one review after another for mostly mediocre games that were remarkable primarily for their cut-and-paste qualities, I finally abandoned the Khallenge. Any given game from any given team was bound to feature palette-swapped versions of every enemy design, until the redundancy went full-circle and actually became impressive in a twisted way. All of them would feature plot elements and premises that would then be recycled in subsequent offerings.

Alas, the tablet that houses all of those games still works. Make that double alas, since I occasionally find myself on the road, bored and thinking that 30 or 45 minutes playing a JRPG on my tablet is preferable to staring blankly at wallpaper patterns or scrolling through Twitter for the umpteenth time. So it is that I recently made it through Dark Seven, a game so impressive that I made it nearly five paragraphs into this review without saying a single thing about it specifically. Sigh…the Kemco Khallenge might not be an active, full-time pursuit for me anymore, but some things about my reviews for the publisher's games will never change!

So, let's try to do a bit of "too little, too late" rectifying of that. Dark Seven was created by Magitec and was one of that team's final games Kemco published. It became available in 2015 and takes the whole "too short to get tiresome" thing to the extreme; I spent fewer than 10 hours doing all the mandatory stuff and reaching the final credits. Well, at least the game got the "short" part down, though I must admit I found myself getting bored with it even though I only seemed to play it for an hour or so every few weeks.

There were a decent number of reasons for the disinterest. Of all the teams Kemco employs to provide new content, Magitec is the worst of the bunch where aesthetics are concerned. Virtually everything except for the admittedly well-drawn character portraits is small and blocky, with only your characters possessing even the slightest bit of animation in fights. Random first-dungeon enemy, the game's final boss, whatever--they all get small, nondescript sprites and like it! The game's world itself is also quite small, with nothing to differentiate it from any number of tiny, generic maps that could have been sketched out on paper in under a minute. Worse, your path through all of it is painfully linear. You won't be getting side quests or finding optional locations to explore unless you gain enough in-app purchase currency to acquire a dungeon hidden behind a paywall.

You WILL get a pretty decent class system that grants you any number of potentially useful skills and spells, however. And you likely will under-utilize it because this game's difficulty never moves past non-threatening. Sure, you could dig into things and find the perfect mix-n-match combination of characters and classes, but there's no real point when maxing out two or so classes per party member will likely give you all the abilities you need to cruise through to the end. One thing that does come in handy is the game's "dice" mechanic. One party member has a set of dice with mystical powers. In battle, when the sum of combat points you earn by executing commands matches your dice total, you start to fill a gauge. Doing so allows you to bank a special attack that's great for boss fights when you need to massively deplete their health. This is actually a pretty neat system, since you have to carefully regulate what each character does on a turn-by-turn basis.

There also is a plot that would be pretty decent, if it weren't condensed to the point of meaninglessness. To truncate my summary in the same way: you control a band of heroes trying to stop the world's various rulers. They all suffered dramatic changes to their personality after acquiring malevolent artwork. The paintings in question gave each ruler great power but also caused them to become monstrous demons at heart; their love for their people perverted into something far different. You go to each land, fight its ruler, acquire a painting and move on until you've reached the ringleaders behind the whole scheme. There is one plot twist that would have been effective if only I wasn't cursed with this self-inflicted familiarity with Kemco's games, but my experience with past titles meant I knew almost immediately just how things with one particular character would go.

When my "compliments" for a game relate to a decent class system that the player can easily overlook and a passable plot weakened by its brisk pace, it's probably for the best that the experience ends quickly. Purchased on the cheap, it might even serve as a tolerable time-killer. Maybe. But given how I've mustered up more enthusiasm for my effort to find ways to delay talking about the game than I have for the task of actually reviewing it, I can't exactly fault anyone who comes to the conclusion that Dark Seven is a deeply-mediocre offering. I mean, "You should try out this game; I was able to complete it in 9-10 hours over the span of about six months!" isn't going to convince me!

But that's Kemco and that's why the Kemco Khallenge went from being a habit of mine to a "writing challenge on life support" that I might revisit once or twice per year. The publisher's games do occasionally do enough right that I can ignore the usual flaws, but Dark Seven doesn't fall within that narrow category. It might be somewhat competent, and I was eventually able to get through it without abandoning the effort, but I'm not going to waste my time searching for any better compliments than that.


overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (March 15, 2020)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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