Dark Cloud is an Action RPG developed by Level-5. If you’re not familiar with the development studio Level-5, you may be familiar with some of their fantastic works; Dragon Quest VIII, Rogue Galaxy & Ni No Kuni to name but a few.
Dark Cloud was Level-5’s first contribution to the world of gaming and I must say they entered in strong. Dark Cloud was released close to the beginning of the PS2’s lifespan. It originally launched in Japan on December 14, 2000. Soon after, it would go on to be released in North America (May 29th, 2001) and in Europe (September 21st, 2001).
Meet Dark Cloud
Dark Cloud was the first ever game I owned for the Sony PlayStation 2. It was the Christmas of 2001. I had finally gotten a hold of my very on PS2. What came along with it a singular game; a peculiar looking one I might add. In all honesty, if I hadn’t received this as a gift, I would likely have never given Dark Cloud a second thought. I know exactly why it was bought for me though. I’ve always been a fan of The Legend of Zelda series. Glancing at the protagonist on the front cover, you can certainly see the resemblance.
If it were up to me, I likely would have chosen a better-known title at the time. Not that I was ungrateful. For me, getting a PS2 at Christmas was like rolling all my birthdays into one. I couldn’t get away fast enough to try out my new game. When I finally got to try it, I immediately loved it.
Dark Cloud – Your Mission
The premise behind Dark Cloud is that a powerful evil genie has been unleashed. This genie has ravaged settlements across the world, entrapping vital parts of them inside things called Atla. It’s up to you as the hero to venture into dungeons and recover the Atla. By doing so you’re granted with settlement pieces. These allow you to rebuild the games many villages in practically any way you see fit. These pieces can range from a group of trees to the leader of the town.
There’s a satisfying sense of repetition in the game. This makes it easy to follow and at the same time incredibly addictive. Each dungeon has different levels that are randomly generated. You make your way through the levels whilst fighting monsters, picking up upgrades and collecting Atla. Eventually, you make your way to the area’s boss, a guardian who has been corrupted by the immense power of the evil genie. To free them, they must be defeated.
Dark Cloud Gameplay
I honestly can’t properly define what type of game Dark Cloud is. It’s an Action RPG by definition, but there’s more to it than that. One minute you’re traversing dungeon levels, the next you’re putting together a quaint village.
But for me, that’s what makes Dark Cloud great. Isn’t it nice to have a relaxing break from evil monsters every now and again? I personally loved taking time out to recreate villages. You can also do other things like fishing. Or, just explore if you like; there are plenty of treasure chests to find full of valuable loot. The more I write this review, the more it sounds like a Zelda game. I assure you though, it’s unique in it’s own right.
Why I Love Dark Cloud
There are so many reasons I love Dark Cloud. Each area you visit feels unique and the companions you gather along the way are all fantastic. Each have their own unique ability and none are carbon copies of another. They range from the son of a legendary warrior who wields a giant mallet to a flying robot who fires a machine gun. And on the topic of weapons, there are plenty to find throughout Dark Cloud. Here’s a hint, be on the lookout for Steve the talking slingshot.
The feature that really stands out for me is the settlement building. You can choose to rebuild the settlements as you collect the pieces or do it all in one big swoop. This is all carried out in real-time, so the transition between ground exploration and the overhead building is seamless.
There’s something really rewarding about piecing together these settlements. It helps to make the game feel personal to you. You can also chat with the settlement residents and fulfill their requests. For example, one person may want their home to be placed near a lake. You don’t have to do this of course, but you might get a nice reward if you choose to do so.
Things I Dislike About Dark Cloud
There’s a thirst meter! It’s unnecessary, annoying and it depletes too quickly. Thankfully, you only get thirsty in dungeons. As such, you need to make sure that you come fully supplied with water. Otherwise, you’ll need to pray that you come across a water source inside.
Weapon durability is also present in the game. But don’t worry it’s not as bad as in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild; you can repair them at least. If you happen to get into a heated battle, however, your weapon could potentially break. I hate finding a really cool weapon only for it to shatter into oblivion.
I’ll also address the somewhat repetitive nature of Dark Cloud. Although I quite enjoy this aspect, I can see why a lot of people wouldn’t. In each area, you will be fighting a lot of the same enemies and the randomly generated levels can look very similar. However, each main area you visit is unique. One area is set in a forest and one’s set on the moon. In that respect, there’s plenty of diversity.
Dark Cloud – Overall Verdict
If you haven’t played Dark Cloud yet, add it to your shopping list. As with many role-playing games on the PS2, it will cost you more than your average game. A copy of Dark Cloud costs in the region of £15 ($19.44) on eBay. That’s still not a lot of money for a game which will provide you with plenty of hours of enjoyment. What’s more, you can pick up a digital copy on the PlayStation Store for a bit cheaper (a lot cheaper if it’s on offer) and play right away! I personally love Dark Cloud on the PS2 and I hope you will as well. Try it for yourself and see.