Operation Darkness mea culpa

So anyway, there's a mistake in my review of Operation Darkness. Well, that's not entirely accurate. The review is a perfectly honest accounting of my experiences with the game, and my analyses of them, both qualitative and quantitative. The problem is that I was playing the game incorrectly, and that mistake coloured my opinions about the experience, which led to me being unfairly harsh to the game in one important area, the difficulty level.

If you've read the review, you'll notice that I clearly state that I found the game so difficult that I was unable to complete it, due entirely to what I perceived as an imbalance in the game design. Specifically, that my characters seemed to lumber around like stoned koalas, while the enemies, even tanks, zipped about the map like ostriches on methamphetamines. Since I was playing an advance copy of the game, I was unable to just check the manual for help. Someone on the team was nice enough to respond about the speed differential in electronic mail format:

"The speed difference between you and the enemies is designed to make you be selective about what to take and, more importantly, NOT take. It forces you to plan ahead for long battles, while at the same time, learn to minimize your load, make what you brought into battle last you for as long as possible, and learn to obtain additional items from fallen Nazis in a pinch."

While I appreciate my correspondent's attempt to assist me with the problem, I didn't find his advice especially helpful. Why not? Because he didn't come right out and tell me that the only way I could have asked such a silly question is if I'd been playing the game incorrectly. There is no speed difference between the player and the enemies, my own misunderstanding had created one.

I'll explain. Like many strategy and role-playing games, Operation Darkness' characters have load limits that keep them from carrying ridiculous amounts of weaponry into battle. In OD, these limits take two forms: A maximum of five weapons and five items may be carried by a character at a given time, and each character has a weight limit based on their strength. It's the second one of these that got me into trouble.

You see, when unencumbered, a character's weight stat is given as a blue zero. As items are added to the inventory, that number rises, but stays blue. Once a certain threshold of weight has been passed, the number turns yellow to signify overloading. If the player continues loading the character up, that number will eventually turn red, which is never a good sign.

My mistake, and I hope it was an understandable one, was assuming that encumbrance only started affecting a character's mobility once the number changed from blue to yellow. It turns out that no, speed penalties begin the second anything is added to a character's inventory. This is what created the perceived speed imbalance. While my characters were equipped with a gun, some grenades, and ample healing and ammunition, the enemies carry almost nothing, so even though all have the same speed statistic, they have very different mobility.

After the review was published I discovered my mistake by asking other fans on Atlus' message boards, I went back and tried the game again, and discovered it much easier the second time around. Suddenly my characters had just as many moves as the enemies, and my werewolves were no longer slower than zombies. I wound up playing the entire game again, enjoying the experience far more now that I knew the rules.

It seems like a foolish thing to have missed, but it was the result of a confluence of little problems. My assumption that the colour change was significant, the fact that the game (nor manual, which I later procured) never explains the rules of encumbrance, the lack of a line on the character stat screen showing encumbered speed, and my contact's suggestions of ways to work around the problem, thus reinforcing my impression that the problem actually, you know, existed.

Sill, even with all of the contributing factors, in the end, I'm the one who made the mistake, and possibly discouraged people from trying a wonderful game by describing it as more difficult and unfair than it actually was. I apologize to the developers for printing any errors or mischaracterizations about Operation Darkness.