This game is a sequel to Chronicles of Riddick Escape from Butcher Bay and is now sold as a bundle that includes both games. So if you buy Dark Athena, it will automatically include a remade version of Butcher Bay even though this is not readily apparent. Once again, Dark Athena features Van Diesel as the character Riddick. A man of few words.
In the end of Escape from Butcher Bay, Johns, the man who originally took Riddick to the Butcher Bay prison for a bounty, helps him to escape in order to avoid becoming a prisoner himself. This game picks up where that story left off. Johns and Riddick are in cryogenic sleep aboard their vessel when they are picked up by the Dark Athena, a gigantic mercenary vessel run by Gale Revas and her second in command, Spinner. Riddick avoids capture as Revas and her men take Johns away. Stealthing his way through the ship, Riddick eventually finds some help when entering the prison cell block to find others who have been captured. His eventual goal is to find an escape pod and get out of Dodge.
In comparison, I would say this game is not quite as good as Butcher's Bay, which made Riddick feel so bad-ass and invincible. Here, there are lots of areas that are not suitable to stealth kills as you can't avoid the light. The AI are pretty smart and not particularly easy to kill. You need to move around a lot and dodge their attacks. In fact, the game was criticised for AI behavior in this regard as Riddick can be spotted even when not in view of the guards, which means more actual direct confrontation. This points to a weakness with the game, which is really quite impotent melee combat. So get yourself a gun, folks.
The ship is also populated by combat drones who are part human and part machine, the ultimate fate of the prisoners. Once dispatched, you can use the attached weapon in their hand, although you cannot move at all while you're doing this. There is a weapon wheel selector, but it doesn't work well as you hit empty slots while trying to scroll through them for a quick change. This will often get you killed, but there are only 2 hot button bindings, so not a perfect set-up.
One irritation was a lack of choice on how to kill the main bosses. They usually require some specific method to kill for eg, use of the environment. Not hard when you know the way the developers want you to do it, but who's playing this game – me or them? Otherwise, it can be hard or impossible to shave off their health. The game utilizes checkpoints and although you can quick load when you die, there is no quick save.
There is a certain point where you acquire an experimental weapon, which becomes the only really effective weapon after that, however it has a very slow reload time and I found it hard to aim precisely while moving. This makes the game a little harder as this weapon is the only one that really does the trick in the latter part of the game. Although, I missed getting the sniper rifle because I overlooked a place to climb for a bounty card, therefore didn't do a mini mission.
In the ship segment there is enough health and ammo until you get close to the end of this segment and then there is none. So be warned: this is a squeaker. There are some sequences where you can control the drones from a station and can just animate a new one when they die. You can also take control of some of the mechs when appropriate.
Assault on Dark Athena visuals is a world of greys, but they sure know how to do it well with lots of lighting and shadow effects and a splotch of color where effective. There are two main environments, the space ship and the planet Aguerra Prime. The game actually starts here, but it is just a tutorial, although you don't know that. The main game opens on the ship, Dark Athena. The ship segment is fairy long, in fact so long that when you get to the end of this segment and fight the boss, you think the game is over, but it's not. It took me by surprise that there was still plenty of game to go and the tutorial finally made sense.
To be honest, when I first fired this game up, I never got past the tutorial because of the irritating head- bobbing mechanic. It sat around a long time with its icon on my desktop continually reminding me to get back to it some day. And so this time, I gave it a fair shot and eventually adjusted to the point of not thinking about it every second. The game also suffers from a lip syncing problem with the audio.
Although the game is not really in the same league as the first one, it's still a pretty good romp. Some people might see it as a bit of betrayal to the initial premise of Riddick as it starts leaning more towards shooting than stealth. That shift negatively affects the previous Riddick aura that inspires fear in the hearts of his enemies. Since this game introduces multiplayer to the mix, I would be willing to hazard a guess that the development team got their p's and q's mixed up by introducing more multiplayer type elements into the single player mode instead of sticking with the previously successful formula. Dark Athena includes six-player and a twelve-player max multiplayer modes. Whether they are still active, I don't know. However, getting two single player games for the price of one is well worth it.
If you care about such things, collectibles come in the form of bounty cards for criminals, which opens up extra artwork and profiles.