The ataraxia with which THE DARK EYE is introduced, where the inexpressive and blunt visage of our character contemplates himself in the reflection of the water, is interceded by the cold and disquieting reception in his uncle’s house, an old man isolated in his thoughts and painting habits. A warmer reception is provided by the older brother, a man who has been travelling around the world and is now determined to settle for his passion, the old uncle’s daughter and cousin to the character.
After greeting both the brother and the cousin in the piano room, our character seems to fall to a strange indisposition which alternates his reality to another dimension of transfigured space. It is in such digressive moments where the player is able to encounter the vestigial memories, echoes of horrendous events from another time and space, residing in pairs of objects: each of them a portal the boundaries of the murdering or murdered mind.
The game experience doesn’t impose any particular rules to the player’s conduct in these absent moments, where the eventual completion of an act makes the central story advance. The progressive balance is thus obtained between the developments of both narrative dimensions, only punctuated by a few optional moments, intimately linked to the main story, where the player watches illustrated enactments of two singular poems authored by Allan Poe.
The supportive theme to the interactive current is vast and provoking, mirroring a considerable portion of the same human characteristics portrayed by the illustrious author throughout his career. Besides death, recurring theme in all the visited scopes of the game, madness, or the escalade towards mental insanity, is the impulse to the evolution of the central character and that of the multiple personalities which he embodies. Each of them, despite their different sicknesses and motivations, suffer from a psychological frailty which narrows the barrier between sanity, or normal behaviour, and the instinctive extremism which compels them to commit insane acts. The obsession for objects or physical characteristics of the victims, the duality of feelings towards them, or even the unending enunciation of grudges are presented as pseudo-rational validations by the criminal minds who we visit, moments before they explode in distemper.
Opposing to the immediate and inglorious death, there is also another often cited in Poe’s prolific work: the death by means of infirmity, particularly tuberculosis. This prolonged decline is uniquely pronounced by the inclusion of his poem ‘The Red Death’, openly related with an in-game character, an allegory to the symptom which defines this disease, almost irreversible at the time the game recreates. Russ Lees also established original solutions to enhance the spirit of the chronological time in which the game is played, like the insertion of the obsolete scientific discipline Phrenology, exceptionally replicated in the map of events, ordered in subdivisions of the mind.
Part of the absolute effect of disquietude provided by THE DARK EYE derives from the spatial oscillation between the seclusion of the interior spaces to the open spaces of unknown streets or the confusing labyrinth of a damp cellar. The nearly complete absence of objects to interact focuses the player in the central objectives, not allowing many diversions, at the same time it produces a deep sense of emptiness: the shallowness of the house and of the life led by the Uncle character.
The accumulation of these components results in a brief experimental model, according to the current game lenght tendencies, though able to strike a deep wound in the modern and generalized conception of how a literary adaptation to a videogame should work.
Poe’s work is ubiquitous within THE DARK EYE. Yet it doesn’t overlay the originality of the creative team’s contents whose struggle for the design of spaces and characters with a measure of their own, as well as a perfectly unique surrounding, is blatantly evident and delightful. With his ingenious and poetic writing, Lees has attained the degree of superiority which is scarcely found within the medium, in what stands as the paradigm of playwriting for virtual stages. The frivolous liberty granted to the player in the resolution of the different acts opposes the vigorous element of Destiny: a unique and irreversible finale for a wild narrative verbalized by a plural subject.
III. Interview with Russ Lees >>