Video Game Review - The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena
When Escape from Butcher Bay hit Xboxes it was immediately labeled a must-play, a sleeper-hit and Vin Diesel-iscious. Five years later it steps out of the darkness, recast in high-def, spruced up with a second campaign, and bolstered by multiplayer. Can Riddick still represent as he assaults Dark Athena?
There are two distinct scenarios, the original Butcher Bay is Riddick's story of multiple escape attempts from one of the most notorious jail slams in the galaxy. As he works his way up to triple maximum security, he makes the acquaintance of guards and inmates, with agendas of their own. With the large cast and great voice work, the prison environment really works, even if it's a far out sci-fi one.
Dark Athena continues the story, with Riddick upgraded from prisoner to stowaway aboard a mutinous vessel of mercenaries. There are far less characters on the Athena, and the interesting ones, like a little girl named Lyne, are underused. Both campaigns have great antagonists, always on the ready to keep a good Riddick down through any means necessary. Athena also likes to crib and remix some of the elements from Butcher Bay, though it does add something unique, such as human drones and an interesting take on shore leave.
Story isn't the only place where Athena stands in the opaque shadow of Butcher Bay. The prison world creates an adventure told in the first-person, with unique takes on weapon restrictions, stealth, and even platforming. It also crams in light RPG elements like inventories, upgrades, and side quests, with enough twists and gameplay singularities to keep things interesting and rewarding. It's a secret sauce of genres, viewpoints and violence, worthy of the kudos garnered.
A half-decade later and it still holds up. It may not be as miraculous or as good-looking, but it's still a solid effort. Dark Athena comes across more like a straight-to-video release. Elements are recycled, and the big side effects and little details are cut back. There's no doubt that Athena is still a compelling six-hour play, but the years have not brought many improvements with them. The narrative structure leads to more repeated areas, a more linear approach, and less side-quests.
The guns you couldn't pick up in Butcher Bay are now fused to the drones sent to destroy you, basically turning them into turrets to be used after being dispatched. Later you acquire a full arsenal just to lose it--just like the Bay. It's a different take on the weapon issue, but ultimately, a lesser one.
Likewise, the ship's own brig acts as the hub, just like Butcher Bay's cell blocks. Riddick's eyeshine ability, effectively night vision, is available from the get-go in Athena, so the rampant darkness is never as menacing. Athena lives up to the assault in its title, with its slight tilt towards combat. Some cool gameplay change-ups are repeated, thus less effective, though there are some novelties.