Developer: Epiphany Games
Release Date: October 30th, 2014
Available On: Mobile, PC
Reviewer’s Note: I played this game on the PC. There may be differences between versions.
It must be hard to be an indie episodic game. Without the ability to have an assured release schedule like Telltale or Dontnod can do, instead the developer is going to have to find something else to draw in a crowd. Majestic Nights claims to be a top down game of stealth, intrigue, and action, and most importantly the first episode is free. Sadly, all Sunset Ater Dark does is assure I won’t want to play the other episodes.
Sunset After Dark starts things off by following John Q Cardholder, a secret agent of some kind who has to find Stanley Kubrick, er– I’m sorry, I mean Hanley Rubric (yes seriously), as he believes Rubric may be in trouble. Yet Rubric is at the center of many conspiracies, and not all of them are as fake as Cardholder may believe. While the overarching game’s story may pan out to be really interesting, Sunset After Dark is basically just setting it up and doesn’t do anything on its own. I don’t understand why Cardholder is doing anything, who half of the people he interacts with are, why he cares about Rubric so much, really anything at all, and Sunset After Dark does nothing to clear any of this up.
Somehow playing the game is worse. Majestic Nights plays from a top down perspective, and is mostly broken into three parts. Some of the game is talking, and this suffers from basically not having much of a clue what to do. At one point Cardholder has to order a specific drink and then give a couple of passwords to a bartender so he can get information. Cardholder can’t actually order the drink until another person at the bar (who seems to know Cardholder for some reason never specified) strongly suggests he does, which at least makes some sense. But how is Cardholder supposed to know the password? By constantly repeating the conversation and re-guessing over and over again until he gets it right apparently. Try as I might, I couldn’t seem to find anything that gave the correct information, but with no consequences for failing the conversation I never really saw much reason to try and find it.
Stealth is the second big part of Majestic Nights and it’s laughably simple. As long as Cardholder is inside of a shadowy area he is invisible to any enemies that may be around. If he’s not in a shadowy area then he just has to stay out of line of sight. Stealth is hilariously easy as there are no real anythings that need to be kept track of. So long as Cardholder is kept out of line of sight then the enemy will never know he’s there. I was also assisted by dumb AI: I got to watch a line of agents run to a dead body and get shot one-by-one. At other points I had enemies that were stuck staring at walls, or shooting at nothing.
Finally we have the combat, which is just an absolute disaster. Once Cardholder got his gun then I was able to aim with the right stick and fire with the right trigger. For some awful reason Cardholder can’t aim and move at the same time, so combat always felt like an extremely clunky mess. None of this is aided by a cover system that just doesn’t work. If I pressed Cardholder up against objects he should theoretically take cover and pop out when I aim. In practice he just kind of got jammed and rarely came out when needed. The only weapon in the episode was a silenced pistol that had unlimited ammo but fired slowly, and the only enemy was FBI/CSI/Government agents of some kind that all died in one hit anyway. Cardholder, on the other hand, can take quite a few shots and recovers easily enough. The whole thing almost felt like a bit of a joke with Cardholder being some kind of superhuman.
Sunset After Dark lasted me about one painful hour, which makes sense since it’s supposed to be a free demo for the rest of Majestic Nights. Instead Sunset After Dark convinced me that I don’t want to continue Majestic Nights and that no one should be subject to such a terrible game. What a shame, I was actually interested in the idea.