The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena is first-person action shooter with a heavy emphasis on stealth gameplay. This title, available for Xbox 360, PS3, and PC comes packaged with the highly acclaimed Escape from Butcher Bay along with an entirely new campaign: Assault on Dark Athena. We played through both campaigns and tested out the multiplayer component on the Xbox 360 in order to bring you our detailed and true look at the game.
Escape from Butcher Bay
The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay was originally an Xbox game that, at the time of its release, was received well by fans and critics alike – something extremely rare for a movie licensed game. Unfortunately we were never able to play the original when it was released, so how fortunate it is that we have the opportunity to go back and enjoy something that we would have otherwise missed out on.
Escape from Butcher Bay takes place before Pitch Black and the Chronicles of Riddick movie and puts the player in the titular role of Riddick, a well known convict who has been captured by a merc and brought to a triple-max prison aptly named as Butcher Bay. Throughout the entire game your goal is to escape the prison. In order to do that, you must complete missions for some of the convicts. At times when you think you’re going to escape your plans are thwarted and you’re sent deeper back into the prison making it even harder for you to escape. In the beginning of the game you are in what looks to be relatively lax-security cells where prisoners can wander and talk to each other – you can even kill other convicts as long as the cameras and guards do not see you. Eventually you piss off the warden so much that he places you into cryogenic sleep containers where you are only awake for two minutes a day and you must use those two minutes to get a way out of that room otherwise you get sedated and must try again the next day. Without going further into details about the story, the Riddick universe is used well in the games; this coming from fans of the movies. Vin Diesel does a good job of growling out Riddick’s cliche one-liners making the player feel right at home with the game if they are familiar at all with other Riddick works.
At its core, EfBB is a FPS but for the majority of the game you will engage in melee combat. While the melee system was pretty good, it was at times difficult. Some of the opponents are ridiculously hard to fight and sometimes you’re almost encouraged to use cheap tacts like stabbing and running away to avoid being ‘butchered’. Most FPS game these days seems to have moved on to regenerating health systems because of their more user-friendly style. The Riddick games however still use a system where you have a certain number of little squares (which can be upgraded over time) which can regenerate if partially exhausted but can not be replenished if completely emptied unless you use nano-med units which can heal up to four health squares at a time. At times these feel few and far between, which also encourages the use of cheap tactics to overcome enemies.
EfBB is overall fun even though some of the gameplay mechanics feel outdated – but that’s to be expected from a game released in 2004. The stealth elements worked pretty well and definitely added another layer to the game. Other forms of gameplay include jumping into a giant riot suit and a heavy defender mech that feel great after having to sneak around everywhere. You won’t feel exhausted or stuck without a change of pace in EfBB.
Assault on Dark Athena
The first thing you notice when you switch to the Assault on Dark Athena campaign is that the visuals are a whole lot better than EfBB. Not only do the characters look better but a lot of the action feels smoother. Avoiding spoilers, AoDA’s campaign takes place shortly after Butcher Bay where you find yourself trapped on the Merc ship Dark Athena captained by Revas (Michelle
Forbes from Star Trek: TNG and Battlestar Galactica). Your goal in this game is similar to the original where Riddick must escape from the ship. Over the course of the game you find yourself in several unique situations such as: Once again using the battle mech suits (vastly improved from EfBB), taking control of the Drones to turn them against everyone, and even crash landings on a doomed colony.
Gameplay is similar to EfBB but there are new guns and a melee weapon called Ulaks (curved daggers) that are really fun to fight with. A lot of the gameplay elements feel more polished and improved upon. Players don’t necessarily have to be sneaky and get silent kills. If you want to you can run and gun but it will be a lot harder. Personally, we feel it is a lot more satisfying to sneak up on someone and get a backstab kill using the ulaks. Boss fights that require melee are insane. Some bosses feel like they have no counters so you’re going to have to be creative in your tactics.
Overall, we feel that Dark Athena is not a giant step away from Butcher Bay but rather an improvement upon and a continuation. Dark Athena is much better than Butcher Bay but don’t expect the formula to change all that much – not that it needs to after all.
Unfortunately the multiplayer component of the game is a bit lackluster. To be honest, it feels like it was tacked on. There are two modes which are completely unique to the game (Pitch Black and Butcher Bay Riot) and four other familiar modes (Deathmatch, TDM, CTF, and Arena). Pitch Black is a mode where one player is Riddick and the others are mercs trying to hunt him down. In theory this sounds really cool, like Splinter Cell’s spy vs. Merc multiplayer, but it wasn’t implemented as well. It’s too fast pace and it mainly involves trying to find Riddick in the dark. Riddick doesn’t have any goals or objectives except to just kill the enemy, which could have made it really spectacular. We were very disheartened to see how underpopulated multiplayer can be. When we tried to find a game there were only two available, one with 4/6 players and one with 1/2. No ranked matches were listed. How much of this is really the game’s fault is questionable though because when you look at games like this they can never hope to match the population of titles like “HALO” or “Call of Duty” or “Gears of War”.
Overall, The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena is a solid game with two really fun and engaging single-player campaigns. If you’re looking for a multiplayer experience, this isn’t it. The campaign lengths are great on their own and offer additional replayability with collectables, harder difficulties, and achievements. Looking for a fun single-player experience and/or a fan of Riddick? Get the game. It’s a must buy if you haven’t played Butcher Bay but still worth it if you have. If we were to rate this on a number system, we would give it an 8/10 because of how much enjoyment is packaged in this one box.