Review by Nathan Miller
D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die is an interactive experience comparable to a point and click adventure game that has been introduced to crack cocaine. The game takes place in Boston and is an episodic adventure game (similar to The Walking Dead) with more episodes coming soon. D4 is unlike any other game currently available for current generation consoles, and it is a Xbox One exclusive. The game was created for the Kinect camera but gives you the option to use the controller. You palm or click your way around as private detective, David Young, who's only life goal is to find out who murdered his beloved wife Peggy. Everyone and everything within this game is beyond what is expected by casual gamers. The game's characters are crazier than circus performers, and the story is completely clown shoes. Although that should not be a surprise to anyone familiar with the developer behind the game, the infamous writer/director Swery (of Deadly Premonition fame) is known for his strange storytelling and abnormal characters. D4 is an unusual game, so let me start breaking it down for you.
As I stated before, the story focuses on David's quest of discovering the truth behind his wife's murder. He and his wife were shot by the same assailant, but due to a bullet lodged in his head, David lost all memories of the event. The only thing David does remember is Peggy's last words: "Look for D." Those words continue to haunt him throughout the game as he associates anyone named D with being a possible suspect. Coincidentally, David gained powers from the traumatic event that allows him to go back in time. If he comes in contact with a memento, or a spiritually charged object, he is able to "dive" into the past (surrounding that object) regardless of place or time before the crime occurs. This leads to David believing there is a chance of undoing the injustice committed to him and his wife. When David was on the police squad, he investigated cases dealing with a drug called "True Blood." He associates his near death experience with "True Blood," so he generally investigates cases involving the substance for the likeliness that a lead to "D" may come up. The two episodes (besides the prologue) included in the initial release surrounds an unsolved case where a "True Blood" drug dealer disappears mid-flight off a plane. Forrest, who still works for Boston PD, is David's inside man in the force and his best friend. He brings the case forward to David because the dealer gone missing stated he had information on the mysterious "D." David then "Dives" into the past to not only solve the case but hopefully get one step closer to his wife's killer.
D4 is a point and click adventure game that does sprinkle in a few quick time events throughout the experience. You can examine or push just about everything in the game, but it is not mandatory unless you are tasked with finding something for a current objective. If you do examine something, you earn credits that can be used for purchasing items, new music, or costumes for your character. Certain objects will trigger a flashback for David and elaborate more about certain characters in the game. A key thing to pay attention to whenever you are playing is your Stamina bar. Each time you examine something or talk to someone, you lose stamina. If the stamina bar reaches zero, you pass out and wake up back in David's apartment. In order to avoid passing out, you need to find or buy food to gain more stamina. When you speak to a character in the game, you get to choose the responses during key parts of the conversation. Clicking the wrong response will result in a lost of "Sync" but doing so will not end the game or change anything other than the response back. If you are ever stumped or cannot figure out what items you had already examined, there is a vision button (Y) that will show you items untouched with a yellow glow. Also, It is useful because a character will glow if you need to speak to them.
All speaking characters in D4 have side quests that can provide more information on characters or simply give you a few laughs. For example: there is a fashion designer who finds your attire atrocious so refuses to speak with you until you change. In order to complete this quest, you return home from the dive (you can leave the mission at anytime and return with no lost progress) and change into something more fashionable. It was a learning experience for me because I was not aware that you could go back home mid-level, so it helped me learn a new aspect of the game. Another character's side quest is a mini game that is collecting falling clovers before they reach the bottom of your screen. Most of the side quests do not give any information dealing with the actual case you are on but at least they are there.
Lastly, the quick time events are the active orientated part of D4. When using the Kinect, you must move your body and arms in different directions to either avoid incoming attacks or flying objects. When using the controller, you use the two analog sticks along with different button responses to avoid any damage. You can lose health during these events which can result in a game over if not careful. These events can be hilarious if you do fail on a few of its sections, so you should not feel too bad if you do. Your "Sync" in the game can be bad whenever you are late with responses or do the wrong response, but you should not worry about it because "Sync" does not matter (Unless you are a perfectionist).
Swery makes games that are interesting and original; D4 is no exception. It has an attitude and disregard towards the norm that cannot be copied. The duality of serious and goofy complement the not so exciting examining that encompasses the game. The customization options are more in depth than most games, and the soundtrack is quite good. The quick time events are fun while the zaniness of the situation is intriguing to say the least. The game is strangely addictive. I would compare it to farming in a MMO. You push for more and more with each discovery that it further adds to your desire to collect or find everything. It is a desire to leave no stone unturned. It is a weird sensation finding a trigger for an event simply by the act of looking. D4 is not forcing you to find any of the surprises hidden in the game, but I loved the fact that they were there. I spent hours finding and collecting everything I could which surprised me because I felt there would not have been that much content in the game without those experiences. D4 has a lot going for it if you give it the chance to show you.
D4 is not a game without its issues. I had moments during the game where furniture would not load or graphical twitches would ruin an experience. While the game overall runs well, I felt the responses to my controls or my character's movement lagged. I used the controller because the Kinect controls were not very fun to use. I would then struggle during quick time events because the Kinect would try to override my control settings as I attempted to complete the event (You can actually see an example of it in my first gameplay video below). The game was built around Kinect so when you are using the controller, it feels tacked on. The sensation of figuring out how to move and play can be discouraging. Needless to say, I do not see the gameplay appealing to those outside graphic novel or point and click adventure game fans. If you wanted to experience the story alone, you would breeze right through D4. The story mission about the plane itself does not get resolved. Hell, nothing is resolved. You are left in the middle of a crazy discovery on the plane while everything is spiraling into insanity. The story was reaching its climax before it suddenly stops! It forces you to wait for the next installment of episodes which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but the moment they chose left a bad taste in my mount. One of the worst cliffhangers I have ever experienced in a game. It made me feel a bit cheated as if I did not receive the full experience, and I am sure others who have played can relate to that statement.
D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die appeals to a different type of a gamer. You need to be willing to look past its issues in order to fully embrace the game. D4 is filled with out of this world characters and situations that may extrapolate most minds; however, that is not the issue with this game. The issues plaguing D4 are technical and deal mainly with its controls (which isn't helped with its cliffhanger story either). Nonetheless, D4 is a mysterious and interesting experience unlike anything else on the Xbox One. The selling price ($15) is a bit much for a game that requires DLC in order to complete it, but it is not horribly overpriced either. I recommend waiting for the DLC to release before purchasing D4. You will avoid the cliffhanger and hopefully there will be patches released that stabilize issues in the game.