Draft of Darkness Early Access Preview: Will Light Prevail?

Draft of Darkness Early Access hits Steam today, and if you're a fan of indies, deck-building, horror, unique playthroughs... man, you're in luck.

Draft of Darkness is like a box of chocolates: once you pop… ah, I’ve effed that up. What I was going for is a comparison to how moreish this is. Ok, how about a packet of chocolate HobNobs, my fellow Brits?

Death is not the end. We’ve been told that many times before, and in this indie horror title, it means just that. It’s often brutal and entices you with a good clean run, then just as you’re rebuilding your self-confidence, one of your team gets hit with radiation, poison and a severe case of athlete’s foot and heads down that path to Deadsville.

When it’s your turn to die (more times than you’ll change your pants), you’re presented with a large button saying ‘Start New Run’. Do you even need to comprehend the words? You just do it, as Draft of Darkness Early Access is so addictive for all the right reasons, chipping away oh-so-slightly with that carrot dangle of maybe this time. Considering the high calibre of titles this past couple of weeks – ChernobyliteOmno and Song of Farca, with more titles to come, this is the game I can’t put down.

Draft Of Darkness Early Access Preview

Reminiscent of Raccoon City, you’re trapped in a high rise during an unspeakable pandemic that has corrupted society with malevolent mutations. Exploration is encouraged as you tread through claustrophobic corridors and anxiety-ridden open spaces, fighting off the infected and clutching at what few materials remain, with the hope of recruiting other survivors. 

Draft Of Darkness Early Access
Source: Steam

Draft of Darkness Early Access is a turn-based survival game using deck-building for combat. It’s the standard array of melee, ranged and support techniques, but with an added twist on the types, you can use. Besides self-explanatory ammo, chemicals are used in syringes to heal, poison and create buffs/debuff, batteries to inflict light damage from flashlights, and melee attacks from blades, blunts and the good ol’ pistol whip. Do note, cards apply to the individual, but resources, such as ammo, are shared.

It’s therefore paramount that you mix things up. Characters can dual wield weapons – perhaps a torch in one hand, a gun in the order, or even a two-handed blunt weapon. They also have a secondary loadout in case you run out of options (you will). Unfortunately, the types of weapons are locked to classes, so the nurses merely play a supportive role than as an axe-wielding berserker.

Draft of Darkness Early Access combat is turn-based using action points – once depleted, you end your turn, whereas exploration is free-roaming. Other consumables can be looted through wandering, side quests, and a recurring merchant, such as pills to replenish health or vaccines to combat a virus. These can be used on the world map, but also in battle – depending on the item. You can earn new weapons, armour with various buffs, and cards to add to your deck through random loot and at the end of each fight.

The Darkness

It’s worth noting that the story here is really good. Other than the primary objective of survival, there will be plenty of story arcs to pursue, and each time you unlock something new, it appears in a flow chart from the main menu. As this is procedurally generated, plus the difficulty, unlocking everything will take some time. You could consider switching to the easy mode to experience the story elements, but it’s encouraged to play on normal as the gameplay is much more satisfying.

Draft of Darkness - Snake
Jake is NOT a snake. Source: Screen capture

My initial assessment was that the visuals were a throwback to the original PlayStation. That’s a general comment to alert the masses who may judge a game from the graphics. From my perspective, it adds to the grittiness of the game, and in many respects, I wouldn’t change the appearance whatsoever. The character design is fantastic. Without any spoilers, the further you get, the more grotesque they become – like a Todd McFarlane concept piece or chimaeras from a John Carpenter film. The music used is superb, too. It’s thoroughly atmospheric and well-suited to the game, and I could not fault it.

Early Access is the perfect opportunity to fine tweak a game ready to be released into the wild, and Crawly Games encourages feedback. There’s a Discord server and a shortcut bug report too, but in all honesty, other than the awkwardness of walking through a doorway and the odd delay in fleeing a battle (I admit it), bring on the full release of Draft of Darkness

Draft of Darkness Early Access is available from today, and I could not recommend it more if you’re a fan of deck-building titles, horror elements with a sci-fi narrative, plus a genuine fan of indie titles. This game is brilliant, and I’m likely to start another run after this full stop.