The level design in Damnation is awful. Proof lies within the AI partner, one whom is so confused as to where it needs to go, it simply lies in wait and warps when the player figures everything out. In the worst case when it chooses to forge ahead, the computer controlled partner may actually fall and die, something that happened twice during the play through.
It is funny that using the available online co-op feature doesn’t change much. While the AI doesn’t seem to contain any programming at times (enemies stand around with no reaction despite being shot), another human player won’t be able to figure out this terrible collection of puzzle-like levels any better.
Damnation is even funnier though, asking the player to stop in the middle of a battle to revive a partner, yet completely failing to specify where they’re located. It’s even worse when you’ve ascended a structure to the top, and a single enemy with a shotgun found a way to kill your ally. At that point, they can stay dead because you’re not going to try to read the minds of the level designer again.
Stages contain countless useless items, from ladders to ropes. Part of the problem is that no logic has been applied. Since the main character, Hamilton Rourke, can climb and jump like Lara Croft, it’s easy to see how he can traverse these maps. How then, one should ask, do all of the drugged miners find their way into these structures? There are rarely any steps to climb because that would make sense, and this game has none.
Instead, developer Blue Omega uses their first chance to impress the world (this is their debut game) with a series of never connected ledges and windows that show no change from one level to the next. There is no sense of progression, no clues as to which ledge is correct, and there are numerous ways to approach each section. You could be repeating the same climb again from a different angle and not realize it until you end up on top. It’s a muddy confusing mess.
Combat lacks fluidity, settling into a realm of choppy firefights with enemy placement that goes against the player every time. The game’s introduction of “Spirit Vision” is a crutch, letting players see enemies through walls since the muted graphics engine makes everything blend together, further making enemies difficult to fight. The camera during combat is fine, although when hanging on a rope it can have a mind of its own.
Unnecessarily complex controls put reload on the left stick, and it can only be done when the gun is drawn with the left trigger. Someone must have been working on their first third-person shooter to come up with that scheme.
Damnation is a series of baffling design decisions, but does teach the world one thing. When you are close to your final moments of life, the world will turn blurry and gray as you fade into nothingness. If that is how death happens, at least in the real world there would be some actual color loss, not a simple degradation of brown shades. What a miserable way to go that would be.