High Pressure Front - Dark Storm: Ascension Demo Impressions

Here's a tasty bit of stealth action, dipping in and out of the frigid arctic fog of alphadom. Dark Storm: Ascension is currently seeking Kickstarter funding by a team of talented hopefuls, and I've been lucky enough to get a taste of what's to come. But first, the pitch:

New stealth/action game in the style of Metal Gear Solid and Deus Ex.
Explore a gripping campaign set on the eve of a new era for mankind, as the world’s energy crisis has reached epidemic proportions. The last hope of humanity is the exploitation of Dark Matter, which has the potential to usher in a new era of clean and independent energy resources for the whole world. However, shadowy powers don’t want to see this promising vision come to pass, as an elite team of soldiers attack the Apex Facility - a high-tech installation located in the heart of Alaska that has just recently cracked the Dark Matter Formula.
Play as Amber Kingsley, a former, dishonorably discharged Special Forces officer who has only recently been hired by Ancile – the private military company charged with protecting the Apex Facility. Alone, and surrounded by the enemy, Amber seeks to find her lifelong friend, Jill Haley, who is trapped in the facility. Together, Amber and Jill will unlock the identity of the mysterious attackers, and what they hope to accomplish.

Sounds rather fetching, and the emphasis on two female leads -- sensibly-written and sidestepping the teen horndog undertones of the admittedly excellent Fear Effect series -- is a fresh and welcome change. 

Impressions from the alpha demo are quite favourable. It's still obviously early days, but being able to traipse around the Ancile training facility in the Dark Storm VR Training module of the game gives a good indication of where things are heading. If you take a more lithe, fluid and far-less busted Alpha Protocol, graft it into the bough of Deus Ex: Human Revolution and dust lightly with Metal Gear Solid and Perfect Dark, you'll have an inkling of what Dark Storm: Ascension is swinging for. 

Player animations are still relatively rudimentary in the third-person view, but I can see there's going to be a lot of love invested in making both Kingsley a mantling, combat-rolling, CQC'ing machine. I do hope we get to see that kind of nuanced rigging, particularly if the developers are committed to the option of a non-first-person viewpoint. Nothing killed the experience more than the stodgy midway animatronics channeled in Alpha Protocol.

The first-person mechanics of Dark Storm: Ascension are quite accomplished. It feels like a more brazen, more liquid Deus Ex. There's gun positional awareness when hugging up against walls and cover, and while I would love to see some lean toggles down the line, the VR missions had me skulking about and unleashing suppressed hell on the Eastern Bloc rent-a-goons populating the training levels and feeling quite stealthy. Gunplay isn't anaemic, with stylised realism taking any sort of bullet-sponge superheroism out of the equation. The lethal nature of combat fits nicely, and while some collision detection had me catching hell in cover, Dark Storm feels mighty fair when stealth goes south.

I've a good feeling about the game, and in the event punters push it through the fiscal rigors of crowd-funding, Dark Storm: Ascension should provide at least a pleasant stealth-action diversion. It's a tough genre to crack, given the influential heavies of the set, but if the writing and mission design is locked down, Kingsley and company just might earn themselves a seat at the table. 

Break out Steam and try the demo for yourself.