Take a journey into the world of Massive Darkness, a dungeon-delving, Diablo-esque, fantasy world, brought to you by Cool Mini or Not (CMON), the team behind such favourites as Blood Rage, Rising Sun and Arcadia Quest. Massive Darkness is a purely co-operative affair, where you and a small band (up to six players) of adventurer friends, pit your wits against AI driven monster groups, which are spawned as the quest progresses.
The game gives the players 10 quests in total to complete, all of which can be tackled individually or conquered sequentially through the course of an ongoing campaign. Massive Darkness is full of character customisation – there are a number of different classes which each of the heroes can choose from, making each player unique. XP is spent to upgrade skills and further customise your hero.
CMON rarely disappoint when it comes to their miniatures, and Massive Darkness is no exception, boasting no less than 69 monster figures and six unique heroes. The plastic hero dashboards are a lovely addition, enabling the players to easily store and track their heroes progress (and inventory) as the quest continues.
The tile boards which make up the core of the gameplay surface area are wonderfully detailed, yet still functional, and easily depict the light and shadow areas delineated on the board, which are so vital to the game’s mechanics. The game also comes with a host of tokens to track numerous game effects and lootable furniture on the board. The numerous equipment and treasure cards give you a wide variety of loot to pick up as the game progresses.
The game is divided into game rounds, each of which has five phases. The five phases are played sequentially, starting with a player phase, followed by an enemy phase, experience phase, event phase and end phase (clear up phase).
Each player in the player phase can spend up to three actions, accomplishing a host of activities, including moving, attacking, and trading with allies. After your three actions are taken, play progresses to the next hero, though with one caveat – any minions you’ve attacked (and that have survived!) obtain the opportunity to activate and counter-attack.
The enemies’ phase follows the players’ phase, and every group of minions activates, following a series of AI driven decisions which the monsters follow, in order. An experience phase follows the enemies’ phase, where players get to spend their hard earned XP, levelling up to obtain new skills and attributes.
The game comes with a number of random events, one of which is drawn during the event phase. This can result in any number of things, from wandering monsters spawning, to heroes getting a chance to rest and heal.
The unique aspect about Massive Darkness is the light and shadow zones. Shadow zones are important in a number of ways – firstly they can be utilised to avoid nearby enemies, when they can activate, but most importantly shadow zones’ second use is in that it unlocks a powerful ‘shadow only’ ability, which each hero possesses. Timing when and where you appear in a shadow zone can be crucial.
Comparing Massive Darkness to the Blizzard PC game ‘Diablo’ is no mistake, as it shares a lot of aspects with that game. The heroes can be customised and upgraded – much like Diablo, combat is fast and furious, and there are always a plethora of minions to wade through – again like Diablo. The only thing that appears to be missing from Massive Darkness, is the strong theme of a narrative – all of the missions have an objective, though it is often masked by the hacking and slashing, and brawling your way through hordes of minions.
Massive Darkness Conclusions
Massive Darkness is a joy of a game to play through. In a market which is saturated with dungeon delving and dungeon exploration games, it stands out, mainly for the pure fun in hacking and slashing your way through hordes of monsters, all the while in the background, upgrading and levelling your hero, not to mention kitting them out with a wide variety of juicy weapons/artefacts!
The only aspect which lets the game down is its easiness. The game seems a tad too easy in its current form, and although that may make a fun game to play through, it is lacking in the real jeopardy of thinking; “can we make it through this turn?” When the answer is generally, “yes.” There is not too much of a narrative either, and although each mission is unique, they can feel like they blur together.
The key strength of Massive Darkness is its fun factor, rolling copious amounts of dice, and equipping your character with the best of equipment. No expense has been spared on the components, CMON always excel in this area, and I loved the artistic direction and feel that the game evoked.
There are also numerous expansions, so is ideal to expand as far as you want, adding new monster groups, missions or heroes. The easiness of the game can be mitigated by adding house rules, and I’m sure as we play through future missions they will increase in difficulty.