Assault on Dark Athena is the sequel to the surprise hit that was Escape from Butcher Bay.
Continuing the story of Richard B Riddick, players are similarly tasked with objectives which all revolve around acquisition and escape; fairly standard stuff for the FPS genre. What made it special in Escape from Butcher Bay was the quality of design, and what were (at the time) fresh ideas.
Assault on Dark Athena has some pretty big boots to fill.
Waking to find his vessel being scooped up by slave ship the Dark Athena, Riddick's primary goal is to sneak through the ship, trading his help in order to get the tools and information that he needs to make his escape.
Lacking any firepower other than two guns he was born with, Riddick is still armed well enough to take down pretty much any foe in the game, as long as you take the right approach. The night vision Riddick was granted in Butcher Bay has become his signature characteristic, and it allows you to stalk from shadow to shadow. By employing stealth, brute strength and knowledge of the human circulatory system, Assault on Dark Athena allows you to fully enjoy the experience of preying on would-be predators. Patience was a virtue, as I circled the drones and mercs that populated (past tense) the slave ship that is the Dark Athena, employing an array of what are quite violent assaults to gain access through the initial areas. It was where I found enjoyment from the title.
It is just a pity it didn't last.
A few hours in, and the game seems to shift gears. Simplistic level layout, borderline cheap A.I and the inclusion of guns all conspiring to hijack the game and force it into a direction it wasn't fully prepared to head.
Level design that originally had pockets of shadow for you stalk your prey are replaced with bright open and repetitive areas. These areas forced me to engage in clunky melee, or to use the rather bland projectile weaponry to pass through each locale as all other options were removed.
Apart from finding that straight-up combat isn't very satisfying, the enemy A.I is overly accurate, being able to instantly spot and target Riddick when he isn't in shadow. As a man whose sole form of armour is a wife beater singlet, and adding what feel like slightly sluggish controls, means that through no real fault of your own, you will die. A lot.
It's a case of memorising where everyone is instead of requiring quick reflexes and strategy. These frustrations aren't enough to ruin the game, but it felt like the more I played, the less I enjoyed myself.
Where the game does excel is in the voice acting and cussing. Vin Diesel reprises his role as Riddick, while other roles are filled by a variety actors such as b-movie superstar Lance Henriksen. They all invest enough emotion and actual talent to really give life to the few characters who populate the Dark Athena, and their inclusion was a genuine high point. The language is pretty no-holds-barred, with characters using all the language they would for the roles they play.
Assault on Dark Athena is ultimately a average game, but the score isn't going to reflect that for one reason. Due to an issue with backwards compatibility, Escape from Butcher Bay has been remade and included with Assault on Dark Athena. While it is slightly dated, we found it to still be enjoyable and more of an entertaining title than its sequel, and this would be the reason I would recommend a purchase. There is a new multiplayer component, but it sadly, still straddles the horse of average due to the control issues.
If you, like us, look forward to each new video game that has you playing as some variation of the man stallion that is Vin Diesel, then The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena, is worth a look, but it feels more like a cheap shine job than a sequel worthy of its predecessor.