IRONMACE’s Dark and Darker had quietly run its pre-beta playtests until this most recent phase two. This weekend, live streams and YouTube channels were lit up as hundreds of streamers, large and small participated in the free beta window.
The game is a ‘looter/shooter extraction’ genre that has serious Tarkov tones in a classic medieval fantasy setting, complete with RPG classes.
Newly formed, Republic of Korea-based IRONMACE has exactly one title in development, and, from what I’ve seen this week, is all they’ll need if they stay on track.
Dark and Darker is being lovingly coined as “Dungeons and Dragons Tarkov” by a lot of high-profile creators from Battlestate’s Escape From Tarkov pedigree. The community is still settling on the genre, but to most, it’s known as a looter/shooter extraction game. The genre sees players entering a match with a mix of other players and AI enemies, geared with whatever they have in their ‘stash’ in a friend-or-foe battle royale. The catch is that if you die in the match/session, you lose everything you brought in. Make your way out alive, however, and you carry the spoils with you.
The estimated release of the game is listed as Q4 2023, but I’d bet there will be a few more of these playtest weekends in the near future.
IRONMACE describes themselves as “a merry band of veteran game developers disillusioned by the exploitative and greedy practices [they] once helped create,” and “experts who have worked on many of the biggest hits in Korea.” For a new game in its second alpha playtest, it is very polished. I had a LOT of fun in my first (and only) handful of hours with it.
This second pre-beta run included several classes to play, like fighter, rogue, barbarian, cleric, wizard, etc. Each had its own pros and cons, equipment sets, skills, and perks with level trees teased for an upcoming release (we hope).
Here are some stats from this Dark and Darker playtest weekend:
- Peak 22,275 concurrent players on Steam alone
- Average of 15.1k players over the weekend
- 7M hours watched on Twitch
- 110 average channels streaming to a peak of 83.4k viewers
What it means for gamers:
Dark and Darker shows that there is still a lot of space in the looter/shooter extraction genre for innovation and competition. Since Tarkov really defined the style, we’ve seen upstarts like The Cycle: Frontier (Yager Dev), Marauders (Small Impact, Team17) and now Dark and Darker enter the scene.
I personally love the genre, and I think Dark and Darker shows a LOT of promise – even if you simply have any kind of preference for medieval fantasy. With the dedication and value the dev team seems to be putting into the title, I’m truly excited to watch it evolve; however, I’ve been burned on this before – Valheim comes to mind.
For that reason, I’ll remain carefully optimistic.
That said, I’m taking a minute to write this in between server downtime, so my inability to peel away from the game is worth points. I find myself anxiously awaiting the release of the other features and for the game to become available again. All in all, I’d say Dark and Darker is a strong competitor in the genre whereas others have failed to really take a bite out of Tarkov’s player base. Even if just for the dungeon-delving D&D aspects that no other dev is really nailing down right now.
Keep an eye on it, and if you have a minute to jump in on a Dark and Darker playtest, I highly recommend giving it a try!