What Is Dark Cloud?
Dark Cloud is a combination of real time battle RPGs, city-builders, and roguelikes. In its time, it was a unique and surprising blend of genres, and I was happy to find it is still those things, and a delight to play.
You play as a boy whose town is destroyed by an evil genie recently released by a cult of people hell bent on world destruction. Just before it was destroyed, however, the Fairy King sealed everything in the town safely inside a bunch of Atla–magical orbs that protect or hide whatever is inside them. The Fairy King has entrusted you with the Atlamillia, a special gem that can open Atla and collect what is trapped inside. You must journey into the local cave and conquer each level/floor of the dungeon, opening Atla along the way.
Each floor is procedurally generated. Even if you die and come back after stocking up on supplies, Floor 1 will be completely different than the Floor 1 you remember from minutes ago. While you are in the dungeons, you need to manage your thirst so you don’t lose health from a painfully dry mouth (or dehydration, whatever). You also have to make sure to repair your weapon(s) with repair powder, or else your hard-earned weapon upgrades (via upgrade powder or absorbing energy from killing monsters) will be for naught when your broken weapon either disappears or, in the case of the default dagger, reverts to level one. The weapons system is complex and provides a large chunk of the fun in Dark Cloud.
The city-building is simple and not too intense, but fun enough to be another enjoyable part of the game. Villagers request to live near certain things, like a pond to fish in, for example. If you build a pond and put that particular villager’s house next to it, when you go pay them a visit they will give you a gift. Completing all these requests to create a “perfect” town gets you another reward. There are almost no loading times in the game, which impressed me quite a bit, especially with the instant walk-and-edit town building mechanic.
The party system adds another layer onto gameplay. Through playing the story, you can eventually adventure through the dungeons with a six-member party, each with their own weapons and abilities. You’ll have to maintain everyone’s HP, thirst, and weapon upgrades and attributes, as well. With all of this, Dark Cloud — originally released in 2001 — currently sits at a rating of 80 on Metacritic.
Dark Cloud PS4 - PS2 on PS4 Revisited
I was impressed with how much fun I had playing through this old title. The combination of a handful of different kinds of gameplay still holds the attention like any unique and well-rounded game. The game overall has aged well. I don’t expect lovely sparkling graphics from a PS2 game (notably a very early PS2 game), nor smoothly perfect controls. The soundtrack is still great 15 years later. The combination of game mechanics seems to be ahead of its time. Everything still comes together to be an enjoyable game.
The aspects that feel dated did not put me off enough to hinder my enjoyment. The constant walking around had me yawning a few times when the key to the next dungeon level finally dropped at the exact opposite side of the map from the door. The graphics and features of each dungeon are expectedly simplistic and barren, but I couldn’t help feeling bored by them, like the numbing monotony of a daily commute. It’s not a huge negative, but it makes me appreciate the details we enjoy in today’s games.
Sony worked with the developers of Dark Cloud to create and code a trophy list for playing on the PS4. It took two to three months to put in trophies, but it won’t take nearly that long to earn the Platinum for Dark Cloud. You’ll need to complete the game and clean up a few trophies that ensure you’ll get the complete Dark Cloud experience, but nothing too difficult like collecting maxed out ultimate weapons is required.
Dark Cloud PS4 review code provided by Sony. For more information on reviews, please read our Review Policy here.