Dark Years – Review
Follow Genre: Action Adventure Noir Drama
Developer: RSK Entertainment
Publisher: KISS Ltd
Platforms: PC
Tested on: PC

Dark Years – Review

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Good: Interesting historical-political story, music
Bad: Graphics, gameplay, voice acting
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Most people probably associate historical-political games with being as dull as watching paint dry. This however didn’t put RSK Entertainment off, instead working to bring us Dark Years– a noir action-adventure drama set in Iran in the 1950s. With a promising story luring us in, will the other aspects of the game hold up? Hint: sadly not.



London, 1953. A journalist is investigating some important documents that uncover a serious conspiracy going on, but he has to be careful- it seems that the authorities are close on his tail. Meanwhile in Tehran, a man named Major Afshar has been given the unenviable task of finding out who would commit a number of gruesome murders that seem to have happened without explanation. The deeper both characters go, the more sinister things become as they uncover plans for a coup backed by Anglo-American governments in order to seize Iran’s oil. Exposing them, however, will be no easy matter, for there are storms on the horizon.

Based on true events that lead to the overthrowing of the democratically elected government of Mohammad Mosaddegh, Dark Years certainly has a politically charged but interesting story under its belt- and thankfully so, considering it’s the part of the game that actually makes it worth playing.



There are, rather unfortunately, very few positive things that can be said about the graphics in Dark Years. The only redeeming feature in the game is at the very start, where the player is introduced to the situation by a cartoon that is in part animated to add more atmosphere. Whilst this does not necessarily tell you what is going on, it’s a nice feature in an otherwise graphically poor game.

We’ve had the good, and now we move on to the bad and the ugly- and goodness, does it get ugly. The graphics are so outdated that it’s hard to believe that this title would have come out 10 years ago, let alone just a few months. The camera shakes when going down stairs or the bridge in the starting map, and moves randomly by itself on occasion. The textures, even on better settings, are far from smooth. They are simply a number of sharp lines and unfinished buildings, with stairs that disappear when you run into them because they are just for aesthetic purposes.


Additionally, in some instances where there objects such as barrels and bits of wood on the ground, they appear to hover- rather than being properly fixed to their environment. Even objects used by characters themselves, such as telephones, aren’t animated properly, and clipping through doors is commonplace. Worst of all where environment is concerned, the historical accuracy is severely lacking. With clothing that is on occasion not even from the period (and sometimes not even the country it’s supposed to be based in), and police cars that look like they’re actually from the late 60’s and 70’s rather than 1953, it is hard to immerse yourself when the game doesn’t even take its history seriously.

Above all, perhaps what jars most in this game is the consistently broken English. If the developers wish to promote this game to an English-speaking audience, it would be greatly preferable if they had consulted a native English speaker to ensure that everything was in order. After all, nothing ruins the impression of a title more than failing to properly communicate in the target language. Overall, it is a real shame that the execution of the graphics does not match the interesting story that is being told.



When it comes to music, Dark Years does pretty well. The title theme is a dark and melancholy cello number, which fits very well with the idea of noir drama. Once you get into the game, there is a brief interlude of Adagio for Strings by Barber whilst the main character is trying to escape from his bonds. Whilst it seems a little weird to use this music at this point, it is also a quality piece of music that everyone knows well, so one can understand a little why it might have been used. Themes used later on verge on a Middle Eastern theme, which is one thing done absolutely and wonderfully right in this game.

However, there is always a downside in this title, and this lies this time within its voice acting. It’s all too clear again that there is a small issue in communicating emotions in English, as the lines sound as if they’re being read off a script rather than properly acted. In contrast, when in the original Persian dub, the characters are much more believable and don’t sound as awkward. Perhaps keeping the original language, and having coherent English subtitles, might have been the way to go.



Dark Years is a noir action adventure game with a number of different elements included, such as shooting, driving and puzzles. Although the explanations for controls rather annoyingly go on whilst you are reading the first note of the game, they are pretty standard. The WSAD keys are to move, the mousepad changes the camera- although this combination is a little deadly, as it seems that the camera is far too sensitive for the movement of the character- which is, by the way, a massive challenge on its own. Left Shift allows you to run, E is used to interact with objects and people, N is to bring up the journal, Q is to quit a puzzle, and you can shoot your gun by clicking the Left Mouse Button.

When you get to some of the puzzles, however, it is far from simple to navigate them. The irritating thing is that these puzzles are actually fairly easy in theory, but the controls have not been optimised in the best way- making it far more difficult for all the wrong reasons. The driving is possibly one of the few things that isn’t too bad, although the car does tend to glide a lot more than one would expect in real life.


Finding objects for your inventory and using them can also be a bit of a trial. You have to be in a certain spot to interact with an item, otherwise it won’t trigger the prompt to pick it up. And be prepared for that ol’ adventure game logic of ‘we’re going to put this object in this location, which is far away from you, just so you have to travel’- because seriously, there’s a lot of that.

There was also an attempt to introduce QTEs to the game at the start, although this is again poorly used. Instead, it’s so slow that there’s no sense of worry about whether you might miss it, and this is the only point at which it’s introduced- so it feels like the devs have just included it so that you can interact with what would simply be a cutscene of a man talking to himself about how to get himself out of his bonds. Essentially, almost every aspect of the gameplay is clunky and needs improvement.



Dark Years could really have been a great way to educate people on the sneaky antics of the British and American governments to secure Iran’s oil in the 1950s if it had been better executed. Sure, the music is great and the story is interesting, but there is only so far that these two areas can redeem an otherwise under-refined title that makes one question why it was deemed that it was in a fit state to be released. This is truly a game that should have been much more than it was.

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