Darkness Rises, by Nexon, is not a typical video game for mobile. At first, it looks totally out of place. Are you looking for a game which blends elements of an ARPG and an MMORPG? No? I wasn’t either. What about if it’s on your phone, though, and has near console-level graphics? And it was also free to play. Ok, now it’s got my interest.
Darkness Rises is a small download (for me only about 80 MB to start playing), and the game begins with you thick in the action. You’ll choose a character from four classes: Warrior (male), Wizard (female), Berserker (male), and Assassin (female). Sadly, the classes are gender-locked and that doesn’t seem likely to change, which can seem a bit odd.
No matter what character you choose, you’ll find that your home is under attack from numerous bad guys, including orcs, trolls, and even a dragon. As you start slaying them, however, the action is frequently paused by the mandatory tutorial as you are led step-by-step in how to fight and use your abilities in Darkness Rises.
This is a mixed bag. While it’s a blessing for some, it felt unnecessary to me, especially since there is a handy help button on almost every screen. Expect the tutorial to feel tedious as it painstakingly guides you through every window to ensure you know where to find everything you’ll need.
That’s the worst part of the beginning of the game. The combat in Darkness Rises is fast-paced and gorgeous in every detail. Your character feels very much alive as you swing, stab or cast your way to victory, thanks to the lively animations and executions.
There is detailed character customization in the game, but you won’t be able to do it until you’ve completed the first chapter of the story. At that time, Darkness Rises asks if you’re happy with what you’ve seen thus far, and would you like to download the rest of the game (about 700 Megabytes). If you tap yes, it will begin downloading the rest of the game while you customize your character.
Darkness Rises – Player Modes
If you’ve made it this far, many paths to increasing your power in Darkness Rises are now available. The first is solo PvE, which you’ll have already glimpsed, but there are also multiplayer options!
Single Player Modes
The main single player modes in Darkness Rises are Story and Adventure. There are also multiple Dungeons and an Infinite Tower mode.
Story mode is a standard linear tale with no branching options or dialogue choices. Adventure mode has 18 maps, with each map having 10 levels, with a predictable rate of difficulty increase as you advance. You have a certain number of keys that are given to you to limit how much/often you can play, and you have the option to buy more keys for real money. But I honestly almost never run out. If I do, I just switch to my other character and use his.
There is an option to let the AI auto-play PvE for you, but don’t expect this to win anything other than easy battles. I’ve seen it waste my powerful ultimate on one poor orc, only to have everything on cooldown and nothing left to throw at the boss just around the corner.
Want to team up to defeat Darkness Rises? Well, then there’s the co-op options, which includes Duo Dungeons (two players vs. waves of monsters & bosses), and Raids (four players vs. one multi-phase boss). Raid tracks who inflicts the most damage with a loot bonus for the MVP. There is also a third option on the menu which currently says “Coming Soon”.
If PvE isn’t to your liking, there’s plenty of PvP. The first is Ranked, which, while being listed under PvP, is technically not because you’re only fighting AI-controlled versions of other players in 1v1 duels. While the AI is very solid and has beaten me repeatedly, it’s still not the real thing.
Actual PvP takes place under Duel (1v1), Team (random 3v3), and Guild (selected 3v3) against real live humans. Or are they? On occasion, the lag has been so terrible in PvP that I can’t be quite sure. During those times, the action is often more comedic than anything else, as everyone continually hits nothing but air. I’m pretty sure this is due to how many people are playing right now since it just released and is likely to improve in the near future as server load drops.
In PvP battles, you’ll have to pick three combat skills out of a total of ten. In PvE each skill is linked to one other, so you’ll pick three out of five. You’ll be given an ultimate ability, as well as a dodge. You’ll also have an extremely useful block/counterattack move which is unfortunately only available in PvP mode.
Tips for Playing Darkness Rises
Keep in mind that while using any skill, including defensive ones, your other skills won’t be reducing their cooldowns. This helps make the gameplay in Darkness Rises a bit more tactical and strategic, rather simply button mashing.
In all of the player modes, you’ll be getting loot thrown at you left and right (sometimes even if you lose you will still receive a participation award). You can take this new equipment to the gear screen and outfit your character. Items which aren’t an upgrade can still be used to level up your equipped armor and make it stronger.
Don’t like how your gear looks? Extract the appearance of the items you do like, and wear it in your wardrobe. Too colorful, or too bland? Dye it! Unfortunately, what color you receive is random, so be prepared to look fabulous. Yeah, baby!
For those worried about if their phones can handle Darkness Rises, there are graphic selection settings ranging from Low-Ultra for Graphics, Resolution, and Frame Rate. My own testing was done with a Pixel and a Pixel 2 XL. Neither had any issues outside the norm, though of course, the latter ran the game a bit smoother and without any noticeable heat increase. Using medium settings, both could run the game for over 4 hours before running low on battery power.
Final Thoughts on Darkness Rises
Lastly, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Darkness Rises is a free game to play. Is it pay to win? Yes, but only in PvE. Someone can plunk down $1,000 and have a huge advantage, but only in PvE. Power doesn’t matter when you’re fighting actual humans.
Can you play a game this good, pay nothing, and yet still contend with someone who drops over $1,000 on it? Most definitely. In fact, last I checked most of the top PvP spots are occupied by free to play gamers.
While there’s much more that could be covered, that sums up the majority of the game. Overall, Darkness Rises is a breath of fresh air in the mobile gaming arena. Love it, hate it, or meh, it’s guaranteed to have at least a couple of surprises for you. You’ve never seen anything quite like Darkness Rises on your phone before.