The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena is an odd game to review, as we are looking at two distinct titles within one package. First, you have the remake of Escape from Butcher Bay “" which, by the way, despite being one of last generation’s better games, was not part of the Xbox backwards compatibility program-and secondly, you have the sequel to that game, Assault on Dark Athena. The names alone do a good job of explaining the differences between the two titles; in Escape, you sneak in the shadows and deliver as many stealthy kills as you can, like some kind of demon in the shadows that is terrorizing the prison. In Assault, you still have stealth kills, but there is more of an emphasis on gun play and blatantly open attacks on your pursuers. This is a problem, one that is obvious to anyone who has tried to utilize Riddick’s gun play over long stretches of time before.
That is not to say that the new content found in Assault on Dark Athena is bad; it’s just that after replaying an improved version of one of the last generation’s gems, the issues stand out and take away from the experience. In the end, depending on your level of tolerance, you’re going to end up with a fantastic remake that has yet to really show its age coupled with either a decent sequel in Athena or one that ultimately disappoints.
Developer: Tigon Studios/StarBreeze Studios
Apr. 7, 2009
As Richard B. Riddick, you help out some prisoners by doing them some favors “" favors which often involve killing other prisoners “" and they help you get on your way to escaping from Butcher Bay, a prison in the desert that no one has ever escaped from. You hide in the shadows, shoot out lights, snap necks, drop from the rafters “" all of these stealth kills are highly satisfying, and if you limit your gun play to involve shadows, even that is fun as the AI struggles to find where you are versus where you were when you fired. The AI is not stupid in this game, as they will find you and come after you once they sense you are in the area. They will turn if they hear you coming as well, so you need to be sneaky and quiet, not just unseen. Luckily, Riddick has a stealth mode that allows him to walk quietly, and also lets you know if you’re in anyone’s line of sight; blue vision means you are unseen, while a return to regular vision means someone has the potential to catch you. You do have to be careful in making sure that guards are not hiding in the shadows like you were, as once you pop out they could converge on you. Like I said, the AI is not stupid.
Escape from Butcher Bay is a game that had tons of attention lavished on it in the past, so I’m not going to go into too much detail here given that there’s an entire other game to review; just know that if you loved the original, this remake is fantastic, and is worth revisiting just for the visual upgrades, given that it comes in a package with another game.
That game is not up to par with Butcher Bay though; Assault on Dark Athena tries to mix run-and-gun gameplay with stealth, and it doesn’t do a great job of either. Here are some issues you need to deal with: there are tons of weapons and ammunition available, and the level design is set up in a way where there are tons of open spaces “" that means there isn’t anywhere to hide. Combine those two together, and you realize the game is telling you to shoot first and hide in the shadows later, which takes away from Riddick’s core gameplay. When you move from the confines of corridors into a more open world, this is magnified. Fewer places to hide, more shooting to be had, and as you will realize, that AI that is not so stupid is now also nearly impossible to kill with ease.
They could sense your presence in corridors when you weren’t visible if you made too much noise, but now you can’t even hide effectively. They have better accuracy and range than you do with Riddick’s limited (and imperfect) gun play, and they have far more health than you do as well; the imbalance between the number of shots you can take and the number you need to fire shows that this is meant to be a stealth game, but it’s tough to pull off when the level design screams run-and-gun. This is not a one-on-one thing either, as Athena often pits you against groups of enemies, or against a turret that can maul you in no time.
Again, this is a worthwhile package, even if you’re just buying the remake of Butcher Bay. You get two games for the price of one, and now Riddick gets to experience multiplayer as well, which is a neat addition to the series when you’re talking about the Pitch Black mode. If you have never experienced Escape from Butcher Bay before, you’re in for a wonderful game, while the remake is worth owning just to play through it again in it’s prettier form. The greatness of Escape from Butcher Bay is quite an experience (let’s say it’s a 9), while the disappointment that stems from playing ‚ Assault on Dark Athena is unavoidable (let’s give this one a 7), but at least you purchased both for the grand total of $60.
Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena is available on Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and PC, and retails for $59.99.