Guest Author - James Shea
Essentially a remake of the earlier "Butcher Bay" Riddick game, "Dark Athena" includes not only the original Butcher Bay campaign, but also a new campaign. However, many of its gameplay developments - original at the time - now feel kind of dated, and the game suffers as a result.
Butcher Bay, and by extension Dark Athena, is an FPS that tries to immerse the player in Riddick's perspective as much as possible. In Butcher Bay, this is done through a visceral combat system where stealth and guile is as necessary as shooting ability. Dark Athena, being a different scenario, is more cookie-cutter normal FPS gameplay. The basics are still there, but it doesn't feel the same as the original. The game is first-person with minimalist HUD, but this is undone when you climb a ladder or ledge, at which point the game switches to a jarring third-person camera.
While the whole "immersive FPS" thing was neat when the game came out, it's been surpassed so much that going into third-person sort of ruins any trace of immersion. There's the usual array of FPS guns - assault rifles, shotguns, grenade launchers, etc - but apart from the melee combos and disarms there isn't really anything original about the game's combat.
The game's graphics and sound, despite being the main part of the "updated game", aren't really great. The gunfire feels fake, the designs are kind of lame, and it all feels unreal in a lot of ways. The locales are all really generic in a futuristic kind of way - lots of grey (in Dark Athena) or tan (in Butcher Bay) and not a lot of actually interesting things. The whole Dark Athena expansion loses a lot of the stuff that made Butcher Bay interesting - the prison environment, the ID-tagged guns, and so on.
Overall, Dark Athena revives a game that should have been allowed to retire gracefully.
We purchased The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena with our own money from a gaming store. We were not reimbursed in any way for the purchase or for this review.