Skip to content

Dark Envoy Review

The strategy and RPG genres have been some of the biggest since decades of gaming. But rarely do we get a mash-up of these genres. The biggest example of a mash-up is the Spellforce series. The developers of Dark Envoy decided to give it a shot and brought us this RPG and strategy hybrid. You can read our Dark Envoy review below to find out how it worked out.

Technology and magic collides

Dark Envoy takes place in a world where technology and magic collide. On a planet in the galaxy inhabited by elves and other mythical creatures, humans arrived through magic because their own world was dying. While initially they got along, conflict was inevitable as the magical minded elves of the League and the technology wielding humans of the Empire clashed. Hundreds of years later, the world is at odds. However, you play as two siblings called Kaela and Malakai, who live in a place far away from this conflict. But not for long.

During the course of the story, you’ll explore Kaela and Malakai’s sibling relation with each other. Both their struggles and bond comes to light. As the story progresses, you’ll discover they are relic hunters, searching for ancient powerful relics. They’ll be sucked into the war between the League and the Empire in their own way. You’ll discover various companions along the way, which will be joining your party. While the story is fairly predictable at times, it was exciting enough to make me want to keep playing. The story is an important driving factor for this game.

Mixing it up

The gameplay of Dark Envoy can best be described as a mix of Isometric Action RPG like Diablo and strategy games like Warcraft. In the end, it plays very similar to the latest Spellforce titles. However, unlike most strategy games you won’t have units besides your heroes. You’ll start out with just Kaela and Malakai and eventually get an entire party of heroes to use. You’ll only bring four at a time, but can switch out between missions. The trick is to compose a balanced party to face the challenges ahead.

While the companions all have set classes, you can build out Kaela and Malakai as you see fit. As you start the game, you’ll start out with the character creator for your siblings. First up is appearance. You’ll be able to customize them as you see fit, apart from gender. Next up are the most important choices, starting with your class. There are four classes in total. The Warrior, Ranger, Engineer and Adept. The warrior is a melee class focused on martial skills, the ranger a (cross)bow wielding class utilizing traps and poisons, the engineer uses technology for guns and summons and the adept is a spellcaster focused on a variety of uses.

Specializations

Now, while all these classes fit some classic archetypes, each of them has three specializations. They wildly change their playstyle. Warriors can either be damage dealing power houses or tanks ready to soak up damage. Rangers can focus on traps and creating deadly battlefields or glass cannons. Adepts can focus on healing, crowd control or pure damage dealing. And engineers can focus on all sorts of utility skills. The specializations are initially well designed and truly give each class different flavors, something not every game succeeds at. Unfortunately, the way combat works in the game kind of negates this effect.

Combat in this game is a mix of real time strategy and RPG gameplay. The RPG gameplay is found in skill based character combat. You click skills and determine what to kill. As you enter battle, you’ll automatically go into pause mode or a slow motion mode. Either can be toggled. This allows you to strategically decide how to go about combat. You set up your orders and there they go. Much like a strategy game. The game starts out pretty basic, with only two characters and some basic skills. But as you get further in, your options expand. Sadly, the challenge doesn’t really rely on complex mechanics but rather the zerging of your opponents. 90% of the time you are faced with generic enemies that rely mostly on swarming tactics because the enemy pathing isn’t very good.

Zerg tactics

Now zerg tactics in itself aren’t bad. They can be dealt with easily through AoE and crowd control. But what makes combat frustrating is that every combat, reinforcements arrive. And they arrive through magical portals out of nowhere. It seemed completely random to me, so there’s no way to strategize for it. As there’s also hitbox detection, your units can easily get stuck due to the number of enemies, leaving them easy pickings. There are multiple skills you can use to get around this, however due to a limited amount of mana you can’t keep on spamming these.

I started the game with a warrior focused on tanking and a spellcaster focused on damage and healing. However due to the mechanics described above, I quickly found out this isn’t viable at all. The best way to play for me was to make heavy hitters to blast away everything as fast as I could, in order to stand a chance. The difficulty ramps up very quickly, which evens out a bit as you get your fourth party member.

Control the battlefield

One of the great things though, is the amount of skills. Apart from skills doing pure damage, there are a lot of interesting utility skills that can be used to transform the battlefield. You can make stone walls in order to block off enemies from the battlefield. It also prevents line of sight and thus spellcasting. You can herd enemies like a tower defense game this way. Or you can make walls of flames, litter the battlefield with traps, summons and so on. It’s a shame that your mana pool only allows for one or two spells to be cast in sequence at a time. It takes multiple seconds to recharge, which is fairly long, as by that time enemies can get around your obstacles and you have to begin again. A little more room for skills to be used would be great. Additionally, your ranged attackers can also take cover behind objects much like in Xcom games. It reduces damage to keep them safe.

While combat is flawed, there are some great aspects to Dark Envoy as well. The itemization is heaven for min-maxers. Every character can be equipped with items you either loot or craft. There’s a few named items but everything else can be crafted and enchanted. You find loads of resources in the dungeons you’ll enter. When crafting (And provided you unlocked the recipes), you’ll be able to adjust the item’s rarity and tier. These decide how strong the crafted item is and how many stat slots are available. The rarer the item, the more stats can be enchanted. You’ll roll for stats and can further enchant your gear. There’s a ton to customize and players who love these systems will have their work cut out for them!

Dungeon crawling together

Every mission plays out in something resembling a dungeon. You’ll be given a map obscured through fog of war and need to explore to find out where to go. A classic dungeon crawler experience. Sidetracking is rewarded with mini bosses and extra loot or resources. In order to get around faster, you’ll unlock teleportation points underway to speed up the walking. Unfortunately, later in the game the maps get pretty predictable so you’ll mostly be checking your minimap for items worth picking up.

One of my favorite features in Dark Envoy is online co-op. You can play the entire game from start to finish with a friend. The game allows two players to control one or two units in the party in order to beat the game. If you can, it’s highly recommended as it’s easier to coordinate two units instead of four. You’re not locked to the same screen either, so you could even explore separately even though it’s not recommended.

Sounds & Visuals

In terms of visuals and sound, Dark Envoy faces some interesting duality. The graphics are gorgeous for an indie game of this production value. However, animations are fairly stiff. Especially the walking animations, which sometimes makes it seem like characters are running on an escalator. Facial animations are very static. There is lip sync, but no moving eyes. It feels very off to see an angry dialogue with a smirking face all the time. However, the voice acting is great which surprised me at times. There’s a good amount of emotion noticeable in the dialogues to the excellent voice acting. There’s plenty of cheesy lines, but the delivery is great.

Conclusion

I have mixed feelings about Dark Envoy. I very much enjoyed the story, due to some surprises and excellent delivery from the voice actors. However, its combat is not nearly as fun as it could have been. It often frustrated me and felt far too hard at times. On the other hand, there’s a great deal of customization to be found and playing it with a friend is a great option. I would say, if you’re curious about mixing RPG and strategy games, give it a try when it’s on sale or part of a subscription. I appreciate their effort but hope to see something more solid in the future!

Pros:

  • Good variety of skills and classes
  • Great itemization
  • Good story delivery

Cons:

  • Combat can be frustrating
  • Poor animations
  • Enemy AI isn’t great
  • Skill rotation seems off

Grade: 6

That was it for our Dark Envoy review. Dark Envoy is available through GeForce Now. Be sure to follow us on Twitter right here.