D4 – Dark Dreams Don’t Die – Season One

Score: 9.0

2015 PC (2014 Xbox One)

I already wrote about this Xbox One exclusive adventure by Swery65 finally being released for PC. Now I grabbed the game from the Steam summer sale, eager to play as David – the ex Boston Police detective and a handsome devil – who lost his wife a couple of years ago, and is now working as a PI, diving (in more senses than one) into the past to solve the most important case of his life.

David is somewhat a cliche with the scruffy looks, a lost love and a personal case to obsess over. But that’s really where the familiar ground ends. Every character in this game is rather strange, some are very colourful and flamboyant, some just weird and scary. But the peculiar people and events create a rather unique and somewhat surreal atmosphere, one that I personally found very appealing.

The first season of D4 consists of a rather short prologue and somewhat longer episodes 1 and 2. The story ends with a cliffhanger and unnerving ‘To be continued’ but is definitely an interesting play and worth the time – even if the second season would never actually come out. But let’s all hope it does! And buy lots of copies of Dark Dreams Don’t Die to make it happen.

The story contains a fair amount of violence as well as weird and disturbing incidents, also handling illegal drugs. The age rating of 17+ seems about right. The bloody and honest reality of drug related deaths mixed with the quirky personalities make the game feel a bit like an acid trip itself (not that I have actually experienced one – don’t arrest me) with some cool highs and scary and disturbing lows.

David is haunted by the death of his wife and insists that he can go back to prevent it. He does travel into past, at least in some sense, but people keep telling him that it’s impossible to actually change things. David is determined to keep trying though, and the first episodes already start revealing things that are more complex than just the death of David’s Little Peggy.

The gameplay in D4 is a mix of point and click and some QTE events. It’s possible to choose between a gamepad and the new mouse controls, which are infinitely easier to master. The action scenes are also quite rare, so they are no reason to shy away from the game. D4 provides a decent tutorial in the beginning to learn the basics. After that there wasn’t really much frustration caused by the controls.

Most of the gameplay is just looking around and poking at things. There are some more conventional puzzles mixed in but they aren’t hard. The main case requires a certain amount of clues to be uncovered, and then the plot will advance automatically. David can also acquire extra cases from the people he meets and the necessary clues to solve them can be found by examining new glimmering hotspots. Those extra cases are not really as much cases as random conversations, but there are a lot of them and they give out some background information about the characters.

The extra cases are not the only optional parts of this game. D4 is filled with flavour items and easter eggs. Four characters can be dressed up in different styles, several magazine articles can be collected as well as the songs for the game soundtrack. David’s catty friend Amanda keeps up a store where many of these items can be purchased with the “game points” the player acquires with pretty much each action.

The mechanics tied to stamina, health and vision are also actual gameplay mechanics, like stats in a RPG. But there are limitless ways to fill them up as well as gain boosts to them – from different outfits and the likes – that they work much more like another extra flavour aspect. It can be funny or immersion-breaking how much crisps and jelly beans David munches while he conducts his investigations.

I enjoyed playing as David quite a lot. Not only is he a gorgeous and delightfully quirky guy, he is also surrounded by things that actually make him seem like the most boring man out there. And while he does brush off a lot of the weird stuff as something he sees every day, there are some good moments when he acknowledges the craziness around him. It is also quite uncertain if everything truly is as David perceives it to be.

In short, I love David and Dark Dreams Don’t Die. I really wish we get a continuation to this story that is only beginning to unravel all of its mysteries. Now I’m scoring it “only” at 9.0 because of the strange action scenes and unfortunately abrupt ending. If we get a completed story that doesn’t ruin the game, I might go even closer to full score.

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