Operation Darkness has been marketed as the strategy RPG in which you're pitted against Hitler's supernatural forces of evil–including Vampires, werewolves, and even dragons–during the height of World War II. While the merger of fantasy and reality isn't an entirely new concept (think Vampire: the Masquerade), the premise is promising with the potential for great atmosphere and even whimsy. Unfortunately, the developers of Operation Darkness spoiled any chances for either with a game that is so astonishingly boring, it will numb away any desire you once had to play it.
Opening with a mission in which main character Edward Kyle and his friend, Jude, are ambushed by a tank, Operation Darkness centers around the Wolf Pack, a special forces unit of men and women with supernatural abilities used by the Allies to battle the opposing forces of darkness. After being transferred to the Wolf Pack, Edward Kyle and Jude are engrossed in a world of zombies, werewolves, and other paranormal beings. When they incur the wrath of a villainous German vampire, the Wolf Pack must unite to battle the approaching evil and win the war for the safety of the people.
After the nonsensical blood transfusion that Edward Kyle receives as a result of being blasted by a tank, the plot remains nearly nonexistent until several hours later at which point the villain emerges in full cheesiness. From there, Operation Darkness attempts to be enigmatic and menacing, but it never succeeds. Instead, the storyline is stereotypical and shallow that the player will be tempted to skip story sequences in search of something more enthralling. If so, that player's search will have no end. The player's first impression of Operation Darkness will be nearly identical to his last.
The game proceeds thusly: generic WWII exposition, dialogue, mission, cutscene, and repeat nearly thirty times. While that degree of repetition isn't unheard of for a strategy RPG, the unbelievably inept execution of each segment is. Accompanied by stock footage of warfare that has little relevance to the words on screen, the wordy history lessons that play between missions are barely augmented by the game's mythology. After that, the player is confronted with dialogue and character interaction, but not in the form of cutscenes. Like many strategy RPGs, character portraits are displayed instead of full models, but unlike most SRPGs, they're set against uninteresting backdrops that barely represent a location. The dialogue is standard, and although entirely spoken, could easily put the player to sleep. That is, if one is not laughing at the on-and-off accents of half the cast. After a pathetic attempt at sentimentality and development of characters so stereotypical it will offend the player, a mission commences. Unfortunately, it's nothing to wake the player from slumber.
Operation Darkness's missions are traditional, grid-based, turn-based battles. Despite a wild and annoying camera, the combat isn't particularly flawed, except in its having a lack of anything engaging. Eventually, characters obtain special skills akin to magic, but the result is often disappointing or too mild to excite. Furthermore, small inconveniences plague the gameplay, such as a low possibility for character resurrection and irritating inventory management. Missions aren't dynamic either. Beyond token enemy reinforcements, nothing occurs that's worth experiencing. Add in the mindlessly boring process that is moving each character forward for ten minutes in the beginning of each mission without engaging the enemy, and the player will never want to replay a mission should he fail. The only thing worth staying awake for here is the advancement of the characters, but leveling up isn't exactly a special feature.
After each mission, a cutscene typically plays using the game's default graphics. Infrequently, a cutscene will unfold at another time, sometimes using more capable graphics, but that isn't saying much. Either way, the game looks like an uninspired, last generation title. Animations are choppy, lighting effects are PSOne-worthy, character models don't match portraits, and the environments are simplistic. If a character manages to get a shot off with a bazooka, the player can expect the terrain to respond accordingly, as structures topple and tanks explode. While that could possibly be the most entertaining aspect of the game, the graphics just don't deliver. A building may collapse, but it'll look as if it were made of playing cards. The joyless non-style of Operation Darkness is unbearably understimulating.
The player's eyes won't be the only bored sense, however. The ears, too, will be put to rest by the collection of forgettable tunes by which Operation Darkness unfolds. The composer obviously didn't know which direction to take with the music and, as a result, takes all of them. And, whether it's an oddly placed techno track, a shamelessly cliché piano solo, or rudimentary march-tempo fanfares, the player will remain unimpressed. Thankfully, once the console is powered down, they can all be forgotten.
Operation Darkness isn't so bad as to be unplayable, but it gives no motivation for the completion of more than a few hours of play. If the poor quality of the graphics and sound don't bore the player into dullness, the thoughtless characters and plot will. The developers botched a valid video game concept, and there's nothing in the game to warrant a purchase. If you can't get to sleep at night, however, consider investing in Operation Darkness, although it may keep you awake with nightmares brought about by the existence of such an uninspired RPG.