grumbel's Damnation (PC) review

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A little outdated, but not bad at all

Damnation is a third person shooter/platform released back in 2009 and set in an alternative history Western/Steampunk universe. The game mixes Tomb Raider like jumping together with third person shooting elements. Newer gameplay gimmicks such as a cover system are missing and use of cover happens like in the old days by just ducking behind a wall. While the levels are linear in structure, they cover an impressive scale and have a lot of verticality to it. Objects visible far in the background generally tend to happen to be places that one will later visit in the level. Some short motorcycle section break up the action every now and then and provide some diversity.

It is obvious right from the start that the game can't hold a candle to the polished execution of a Gears of War or Halo due to it's rather weak animation, slightly outdated graphics and guns that lack some serious "umpf". However, while it might not be the prettiest game around, it is quite functional, the controls are responsive and especially the jumping works quite well once one gets the hang of it.

Accidental leaps to death are virtually non-existant in this game. The biggest flaw are probably the weapons, as while the sniper rifle will take the head of an enemy straight off, all the other weapons lack some punch and have a lot of spray to them. So taking down an enemy isn't very precise and requires dumping almost a whole magazin into them to get enough hits. Melee combat exist as well, but seems not very useful compared to the weapons.

The AI enemies, while not exactly the smartest guys in town, do provide a good challenge, as they are, just like the player, able to climb walls and glide down ropes, so they often show up in places that one wouldn't expect them to.

Overall I enjoyed the game quite a bit, it's not the most polished one around, but it's perfectly functional for what it is and the scale of the levels can be quite impressive. The mix between jumping and shooting elements is also not seen very often. The Steampunk universe and the characters of Damnation are interesting as well, nothing special, but decent enough by video game standards.

What I don't quite understand is how the game ended up getting as low a Metacritic score as it did. When it was released it was panned by critics and ended up receiving a Metascore of 41 for the PC version and a 36 for the Xbox360 version. At such a score I would expect a basically non-functioning game, but Damnation worked perfectly fine for me. The biggest problem that the game has is that it feels a few years late, it feels very much like an Xbox1 game or a very early Xbox360 title and lacks the advanced animations and control conventions one expects from a modern game. So I could understand a 70 or 60, but a 41 or 36? That's a lot worse then the experience I had with the game.

Damnation might not exactly be the best hidden gem out there, but for people that can still enjoy an Xbox1-style game and are interesting in a bit Tomb Raider'y platforming in a Steampunk world it's worth a look. The game also has a coop mode, but I didn't get to try that.

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