When I first started Operation Darkness, its terribly outdated graphics and an awful camera upset me. Unless they were a cash-starved start-up, why would any developer produce a modern game with such low standards? As I pondered that at a battle's completion, my progress didn't save correctly and was lost. That would've been a frustrating blow from any strategy RPG, but it was another flaw to pile on Operation Darkness's heap. Things had just started, yet I feared a terribly punishing experience.
First impressions that poor could've been damning, but that mis-save was a blessing in disguise. While originally I felt the battlefields were too spacious, I was more aggressive on my second go-round, since I could take a few hits. Looting corpses and dodging between cover spots proved thrilling, and motivated me to draw out each battle for maximum benefit. All strategy RPGs should be so successful in that regard, even if Operation Darkness is far from perfect.
Operation Darkness isn't going to keep the poetic part of your mind captivated, but the strategist in you could get addicted.
The aforementioned graphics issue is very noteworthy, since archaic looks and awkward animations won't suck you in. When you're fighting, you can't pull the camera up and away from these too-large 3D characters and their unappealing landscape, making full battlefield view an impossibility. If only they'd taken the Fire Emblem route, with smaller models on a compacted battlefield (2D would've been even better), the experience would've been twice as nice. Considering the excellent quality of the character stills, too...
Outside of those visibility issues, they could've included a decent aural score. Forgettable orchestrated pieces do their bit during cut-scenes and menus, but all of the in-game battle music is so terrible it's offensive. Short, looping, and obnoxious, it's the cheapest breakbeat techno I've had the misfortune of hearing recently. To override the horror, I started playing my own MP3s halfway through the game. Few things can beat listening to Lunar's happiest tunes while blowing up Nazis, let me tell you.
Merry replacement music aside, there's fun to be had if you appreciate occasionally unrelenting SRPGs, such as Fire Emblem, Final Fantasy Tactics, and Disgaea. Truthfully, Operation Darkness feels like a mish-mash of all three. When your characters die they're gone forever, unless the sole man who can revive others is alive. Some foes have superb items you can't get without looting. A lot of your recruits will look identical, have no background story, and be entirely disposable. If you're like me, you still won't let them die; you'll trounce through each battlefield repeatedly if necessary.
That's really the way to enjoy Operation Darkness. The battle system is hindered by the awful camera, no doubt. Yet it's still a good system, well-executed otherwise, functional, and with lots of great touches. For example, if you pile a bunch of heavy machine guns onto a soldier, they'll be slow as molasses, while lightweight snipers sprint across the map. When you're targeting foes, dynamically updating hit and damage percentages make evaluating your attacks a breeze.
Operation Darkness isn't going to keep the poetic part of your mind captivated, but the strategist in you could get addicted. And you'll probably learn a few things about World War II in the process – fictional werewolves, zombies, and vampires aside.