By – Matt Camp

D4 Dark Dreams Don't Die Review He

D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die, developed by Access Games, is likely the first Japanese game to be initially released on Microsoft’s Xbox One console. Being a format which is considered to be struggling in several markets, Japan in particular, there is little surprise that D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die has now been made available on the PC. This is the story of ex-detective David Young’s determination to discover the identity of his wife’s killer. He attempts this in a rather unconventional manner; by using ‘mementos’ to dive into the past from his bathroom.

During his investigation into a narcotic called “real blood”, thought to be connected to the death of his wife, David bumps shoulders with an outlandish cast. This includes a curious pair of flight attendants, a marshal and his prisoner, and a fashion designer obsessed with a mannequin. While several of these personalities are rather grating, Roland Walken is by far the most annoying. This doctor, in addition to constantly attempting to cut up the air around him with cutlery, has a penchant for butchering speech. The way in which every word is spoken a single syllable at a time, as slowly as possible, left me very frustrated. Although it is possible to skip lines of dialog before a character has finished speaking during a conversation phase, this is not the case in cut-scenes. Roland does have one redeeming feature however, he grants access to the Clover mini-game.

D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die is episodic in nature, consisting of a prologue and two full episodes. Each of these follow a fairly similar format composed of exploration phases, action sequences, and an evidence gathering section. The latter of which is not included in the prologue. Outside of action events, the player is free to explore the current location. This is done by navigating a sequence of hot spots interspersed throughout the area and rotating on the spot to explore various angles. This form of navigating a level may feel cumbersome, but it does make sense given the original controls were created with the Kinect in mind. Although support for the Kinect is not included in the PC version, this scheme has been transitioned to the mouse resulting in a very comfortable experience. D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die can be played entirely with the mouse alone and this was how I opted to play.

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Interacting with the game world isn’t perfect though. Almost every action requires performing a specific gesture, such as moving the mouse along an a vertical or horizontal arrow, or by dragging one circle to another. The constant use of these actions, in place of a simple click, do become tedious fairly quickly. Surprisingly, the action events are far more enjoyable. I usually despise quick time events. They bring little to a game other than annoyance upon failure. The format used in D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die is an exception, and I found it to be highly enjoyable. As a result, I’m a little disappointed that there are only a few of them.

The start of each action sequence is marked by the appearance of a time bar at the bottom of the screen. This serves two purposes: indicating when to start a motion, and the time in which to successfully perform it. For the former, small circular icons enter from the right of the screen. These icons show the type of move required. Although during gameplay I rarely noticed this, as I was too busy concentrating on completing the current step. In the case of the latter, the time bar is filled in blue. A response needs to be made before the bar empties. Unlike most QTEs, the time required to react is fairly generous. Faster completion of actions tends to result in a better Syncho Rate and may avoid damage. I never felt that a specific event was too difficult and could enjoy watching the action going on behind the prompts.

At certain points in an episode David will need to gather evidence. This is indicated by the appearance of several icons on the left side of the screen. Examining certain objects or talking to characters and selecting the correct responses, will award the player with a piece of one of these icons. Once all of them are completed David will automatically come to a conclusion and the story will advance. These sections play out in an identical manner to general exploration.

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Most actions within the gameworld, such as talking to characters, examining objects and opening doors, consume stamina. If this reaches zero, David will collapse. When this happens during a dive, the result is a game over. Credit can be spent to gain a second chance. These credits can be picked up the world, or earned by pushing objects. Stamina is replaced by eating any of the wide range of foodstuffs found scattered around. Alternatively, they can be purchased with credits from Amanda; either in human form within David’s home, or as a cat while diving. During my initial play through, this system dissuaded me from exploring as my initial score was still low. As each completed episode can be replayed and credits earned carried over, this becomes less of an issue later on.

Although the main story is on the short side – I was able to complete all episodes within 4 hours – there is a lot of additional content to be discovered. This comes in several forms, for example there are letters from Little Peggy, scrapbook entries taken from magazines, and extra cases. Despite the name, these generally only provide consequential dialogue or access to mini-games and are not related to solving crimes. Clovers is the most notable of the mini-games.

It may start off easy when initially accessed through an episode, but it also serves to award unlocks when certain scores are reached. As such, it can be accessed from all episodes when replaying them. The aim is simple: collect all the falling clovers without letting one leave the bottom of the screen. Lightening bolts also drop down and touching one of these will stun the cursor for several seconds. As more clovers and bolts drop at an increasing rate, this soon becomes a very enjoyable challenge.  D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die is served up with a cell-shaded graphical style. This is complemented with the ability to customize the appearance of David, Amanda, Forrest, and Olivia with a variety of custom unlocks. In David’s case, this is further expanded on with a range of beards. The current costume selection is reflected in all cut-scenes. Each episode has it’s own opening and ending sequences. Unfortunately these cannot be skipped, which can become frustrating when replaying episodes to build up credits.

Generally, D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die runs at a stable framerate averaging in the high fifties. However, there are noticeable drops in this whenever a magazine is opened. There is little in the way of graphical options and these need to be set in the launcher prior to running the game. Options only include whether to play in a window, the resolution to use, and toggling the use of both Vsync and dynamic shadows. Volume levels can be changed in game, with separate levels available for the music, sound effects, and voices.

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Conclusion – Is It Worth Your Money?

D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die tells an interesting tale of a mysterious drug, strange powers, and squeaking windows with a dash of time travel included for good measure.  I may not like several of the characters, but that didn’t stop me from being truly engaged in the somewhat silly storyline. The downside is it only has two full episodes and ends on a cliff-hanger. I’m hoping this PC release will allow Access Games to work on a second season.

D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die – Technical Summary

D4 Dark Dreams Don't Die Review Sum

  • Time Played – 6 Hours
  • Widescreen Support – Yes
  • Windowed Mode – Yes
  • Resolution Played – 1920×1080
  • Bugs/Crashes Encountered – None
  • DRM – Steam, DRM-Free
  • System Specs – 3.50 GHz i7 3770K , 8GB RAM, 4GB GeForce GTX 960
  • Control Scheme – Mouse, Controller – Mouse recommended
  • Game Acquisition Method – Review Copy
  • Availability – Steam, GOG
  • Demo – Yes
  • Saved Game Location – Steam\userdata\358090\remote OR Documents\My Games\D4 Dark Dreams Don’t Die\
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