Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena (PC)

By Zott820Zott820


I had already written a written a review for the remade Butcher Bay campaign for Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Athena, but now, having played through the Dark Athena Campaign, I can finally complete my review of the full box offering. This review will focus on the single player campaign of Dark Athena. If you are interested in my other review, I suggest checking out my Riddick Butcher Bay Campaign review. Most of the mechanics from that review stay true to this one, IE weapon selection wheel, and fast loading times.

Storyline: The story takes place just after the events of Butcher Bay. Johns and Riddick are resting in stasis aboard their ship when they are grappled in by a pirate vessel, the Dark Athena. This begins Riddick's adventure to discover new characters and new places; relatively.


The first portion of the game is sort of a refresher of the game's mechanics being another tutorial/dream stage. Unlike the first game's tutorial, this one felt more individualized, in that it could have been its own little mini-story. It served to introduce the new Drone that Riddick would be facing for most of the game which are a bit different than the usual human fare as will be discussed later. Unfortunately, since the dream sequence effect was used in the first game, its use was not as original and surprising when the game cut to the actual storyline.

Dark Athena starts the game off quickly. Riddick finds the usage of guns from the arms of drones. While the first game eased the player into the use of hand-to-hand, and then transitioned to firearms, Dark Athena does the opposite. After being able to shoot a couple bullets from drone hand guns, Riddick obtains the ulaks from a guard for more personal fights through the bowls of the ship.


Along the way Riddick finds that there are prisoners on the ship, and somewhat similar to the lower level prisons in Butcher Bay, Riddick must talk to these characters, find out what they want, bring the item they request, and advance the story. Unlike Butcher Bay, there are fewer optional questions. This means that the story, which was linear anyways, has that linear-ness especially stuffed down the player's throat. This isn't to say it is bad, linear games are good at building a cinematic experience, but the experience for story in this game is a mixed bag to begin with.

These fetch-quests from the prisoners grow tiresome and annoying since there are about four of them in tandem. It is depressing to bring one items to someone only to be commanded to find another item for another person in jail, only to have them give you yet another quest.

Thankfully, the game keeps these "fetch" quests from getting boring by introducing more spaces on the Dark Athena to unlock and play around in. These areas are not poorly designed either, so this choice plot advancement and design could have been far worse. Sections where Riddick is forced to backtrack are usually repopulated with enemies to dispatch, and thankfully makes sense within the storyline; meaning the guards do not suddenly appear out of nowhere.

After completing the fetch quests Riddick is able to release the prisoners and escape from the Dark Athena. However, this is where the game should have ended. Most of the plot points were tied up as far as I was interested in them, and it didn’t feel like there needed to be more from the game. Sure, the little girl may have been stuck on a ship, but it wasn’t Riddick’s problem to begin with. But, ala Butcher Bay, when the game feels like it is going to end, it doesn’t. There is another whole chapter of the surface of a planet, which is devoted to just pure action. There really is little character development, and gameplay, while following the same Riddick mechanics, feels very different.


After the interlude on the planet, Riddick returns to the Dark Athena to redo most of what he had already completed. He even fights the same boss again, one who I thought he had killed, but noOOoo, I guess a knife to the throat doesn’t do it now a days.

There are too many sections of the story that feel incomplete and unnatural. For example, the game never shows what happens to Johns. Johns has to survive, since he appears in the movies, which take place after the games, but still, what happened man? Last, we see him, Revas has him in her arms on the prison block, but then we never see him again.

On that note, during the part of the game where the prisoners are released and fighting the guards, I was unsure who died, and who lived. People I thought I saw bodies of lying on the ground seemed to be alive at later times. During that same prisoner release scene, apparently Revas and Johns were there, judging by the wall textures, but I never saw them anywhere close after the cutscene. The whole prisoner release scene did not feel fleshed out, and so in its raw state I wasn’t sure who lived, who died, and what happened. There are a couple other cutscenes like this, and I was disappointed that the cutscenes distanced me from the game rather than draw me closer into it.



Revas: Evil Ship Captain, has two lives.

Riddick: Same from the last campaign, but this time with ulaks to kick ass with.

Spinner: Second in command, cooler than Revas but all talk, no substance. Doesn’t have much of a hand in the plot.

Johns: Irreverent

Dacker: Mercenary whom helps Riddick, but if you know about what happens to people who help Riddick, you probably know the rest. Stays in contact through radio links throughout the ship.

Prisoners: Men and women who need Riddick’s help, or not.


New Enemies:
Drones: Slow until you show yourself. They generally care little about themselves and will rush out into danger. Riddick can use their hand guns for as long as it has ammo and is quite accurate and deadly; one of the better guns in the game.

Alpha Drone: A poorly designed enemy that only appears in the second portion of Dark Athena. The game doesn’t tell the player how to defeat them. I tried bursting a air burst shots on one, once at a time, in the hopes to decrease his health slowly but surely. No matter how many times I tried this, the beast wouldn’t die. Turns out, you have to stack about five on an Alpha Drone bursting them all at once. After bursting the shots, it would put the enemy in a weakened state where he could be finished off with a melee quicktime event. I wouldn’t have known how to win against this foe if it wasn’t for a game walkthrough. The game gives no hints what to do. Worse, if the player fails to do the quicktime event in time, the 5 burst combo as to be done again. It goes without saying, that getting all these shots to hit their mark is difficult under pressure, so doing it twice sucks.

Spider Drone: Another very annoying enemy. The drones hide on walls before the player arrives, or they will crawl up the wall as the player arrives. A red laser signifies its presence. Once the Spider Drone sees the player and plays an alert noise it the player has about 2 seconds to dispatch the horrid device before it locks on the player and fires devastating shots. Once it does so there is no more two second grace period, the spider drone is ruthless. The shots’ damage is crippling, almost a whole block of health per dart; this is on the normal difficulty mind you. If the player leaves the area of fire and returns, the spider drone almost always gets the first shot off. The developers would have wise to either decrease the damage per shot, letting the player absorb the damage to dispatch the beast, or they would have reinstated the 2 second lag time to fire when the player gets out of range and then back into range.


New Weapons:

Air Burst Grenade launcher: Slow, but has unlimited ammo. Fires a yellow pellet that can be remotely detonated. Low Radius of explosion, but up to six can be released at once.

SMG: Fires many fast and weak bullets. Large Clip size. Not the best weapon, but good for rushing positions when the player doesn’t have the opportunity to reload.


Drone Gun: Fires Strong accurate bullets. Limited by mobility. Because the guns are part of the Drones, the bodies have to be dragged around. Riddick can either weld the gun and only move slowly backward, or he can opt to leave the gun position and throw the drone around manually for faster positioning, but lack of offense. The guns are limited to a small supply of bullets which do not recharge.

Gameplay: The game follows much of the same method as Butcher Bay. Guns are just as bad as they were before, and I still can’t recommend their use. I recall firing at point blank range at enemies and still missing. The shotgun also seems less effective than I remember. Therefore, go for the Ulacks or other melee weapon, and catch guards when they are alone. The stun gun continues to be a viable offensive weapon, especially in some of the earlier close quarter areas of the Dark Athena. It also works against drones, disabling their link to the human controller, and shutting them down. Curb stomp them to sever the connection permanently.


Dark Athena copies the Mech scene from Butcher Bay, except in space rather than a hanger. I was hoping for more originality, but at least they fixed it to make it more exciting. Mechs are now more representative of their visual strength and so the player’s cannot really go 1 to 1 with them. Therefore, when in mech suit himself, Riddick has to act decisively, for the enemies do not simply spaz out and die like before. Later Riddick is able to control a Drone, which makes up for the replicant mech scene.


The artificial intelligence seems about the same as the Butcher Bay Remake. Enemies would generally do a fine job of acting their roles. Drones would wander around slowly, and ignoring cover, since they were less concerned with life preservation. The humans on the other hand were good at taking cover from behind boxes. One thing about the AI that felt new was that when the grenade launcher, a new weapon, was used. Human enemies would not only dodge the grenades when you chucked at them, but when they landed on the ground, waiting for their remote detonation, the AI would seemingly avoid that part of the ground, as they should. This made the grenade launcher extremely difficult to use to kill enemies unless it was a direct hit, and players took into account the dodging, predictively firing the second shot as the enemy moved out of the way of the first. The AI while good doesn’t stop the occasional hilarity; enemies that walk right off cliffs. It happened only once making it funnier to see, a human retreating one moment, and gone the next, flying off into a gravity generator.


This game is hard. Just like Butcher Bay, it throws a large number of enemies at the player at one time and expects the player to be in able condition to be able to dispatch them with their equipment as given. Sadly, the given equipment is either not good enough, or the odds are seriously against Riddick. A few examples where this felt especially true include one where I fought two Alpha Drones at once, and another where I had to fight an Alpha Drone in a tiny room, not given any space to hide or avoid the behemoth enemy. Also plentiful and annoying were rooms where I had to take down 5 enemies, but only had the air burst grenade launcher. These enemies would all just rush me and I couldn’t even fire fast enough to take them down. Either that, or the enemy was far away and sniping me. An attempt to counter snipe was futile with the inaccurate guns, and their ability to dodge my air burst grenade launcher. Throwing the spider Drones into the mix made these scenes worse. These baddies had impeccable aim and dealt disastrous damage. Thankfully, the hardest parts of the game were at the end, usually planet side, or else I might not have finished the game. The odds are really that much against Riddick, hiding doesn’t either since the planet is a sunny outdoor daylight, and sadly that is like 1/3 of the game mechanics thrown out the window. One reprieve is that if Riddick dies, he will recover one block of health. This will stack, so that if Riddick dies twice, he will come back with two more blocks of health than when he went through the checkpoint. Dying became necessary to survive, if that makes any sense.


Getting around the game is a bit of a chore due to vague objectives and enigmatic level design. One such moment was the following: I had just opened up a vent but since I couldn’t jump and grab the ledge now in view after countless tries I figured it must not be the right way and backtracked through the game. Finding no suitable path, I simply quit. It took me many more tries after returning to the game to grab onto that ledge, which turned out to be the correct path. Other situations of inability to grab ledges were also present. I never quite figured out if I had to press a button to get Riddick to grab a ledge or if it was automatic. Sometimes it felt automatic, other times it didn’t. I know that pushing a button was required for overhangs, but they had a visible indicator thankfully. On that same note, there were situations in the game where Riddick had to do a lot of dangling and grabbing. One “stage” planetside had me doing this for 5 minutes over a watery death, with no enemies to bother me. It felt like it belonged in a game like Uncharted, based on its design, rather than the sneaking/shooter that is Riddick. I’m fine with a couple jumping up here, shimming across here, just not so much that it feels like a chore, or breaks the flow of the game. Heck, it would have worked better in the tutorial stage, to introduce Riddick’s move rather than the near endgame it was. Riddick in not Nathan Drake, don’t make him hop around like he is.


It is this getting lost and stuck that caused me to pine for a map or hint system. Sadly, the developers chose to remove the toggle able room map compared to Butcher Bay’s. Instead, room maps appear on the ship’s walls, which are not immensely helpful at finding goal oriented routes. There was one time, one time, where the game gave me a hint on where to go, and what to do. I was in awe when it did, for I hadn’t seen a hint through my entire play through of Butcher Bay, and indeed not one following this occurrence. I had reached a puzzle that required me to drag a drone through a vent and use its gun to shatter a window. It seems simple, but since the drone and window are in different rooms, it doesn’t “feel” right. The developers threw in a hint which appears after a certain duration telling me what to do. THANK YOU! I liked this a lot, but why is it not more prevalent? I could have used it for fighting the Alpha Drones, I could have used it when I wandered around for twenty minutes finding the proper path. Such a great figure doesn’t have to ruin a game, or remove the sense of exploration. It doesn’t even have to have a path mechanic like Dead Space or Army of Two. Just throw up a hint. Or make it an optional one, with a window to open if the player chooses. In either case, I like what was done for that room, but the hint system overall could have been more robust to remove the tiresomeness.



The game engine is the same one that I reviewed for the Butcher Bay Remake, so I won’t go too much about what I have already talked about. Instead, I will say that this game does utilize the more advanced features of the new engine that were not utilized for the remake. The developers did not want to change up the gameplay of the original Butcher bay too much, so it makes sense that not all the features of the new engine would be used for that particular campaign.

For Dark Athena, it seems that the developers did a better job with the use of light sources. This isn’t to say the lighting is better, it seems about the same, but there are parts of the game that are designed to specifically to use flashlight/searchlight graphics of the new engine. IE There is a level where the player has to stay out of the light as he climbs some cargo crates. If he is spotted with the light, then the enemies open fire on him. The light sources gracefully scan the sides of the cargo hold, as the accompanying shadows move smoothly.

Another good use of graphics was the water in this game. This game has perhaps some of the best water in a game that I have seen. This comes with a large caveat, the water is not interactive. You can shoot into it, fall into it, or throw things into it and it remains in the same motion that he had before attempts to distort it. This was a little sad to see, since it was so beautiful and it called to me like a kitten to be touched and played with. However, water plays absolutely no part in the game besides an instant death hazard, ala Mario, and so it makes sense for the developers not to waste time programming particles effects for it. Especially since this may have decreased the visual splendor. Best water in a game I’ve seen sans Crysis.


Another cool graphical effect that really had me oohing and ahhing was the bump mapping on the broken glass of a mech later in the game. The red emergency light reflects off the strange angles of the shard but not all over. The alpha blending and selective overlay really caught my attention during that part of the game. If I am not mistaken, the original engine for Butcher Bay had bump mapping back when it was on the Xbox, but the implementation on the HUD just looks so good, that I’m considering it a bonus of the new engine.

Yet one more highlight on this roll was a gravity room. Here enemies would die and fly towards a spinning gravity generator. Bodies of the fallen would slide off platforms and so would their weaponry It was clearly different than most other games, especially since it wasn’t just gravity manipulations that affected the player, but indeed all the enemies in the game too. It is one thing to do a puzzle using gravity, but to have to dodge the enemy, and avoid being sucked into a gravity well, that’s different. It is too bad that the bullets from the gun did not curve, but one cannot have everything.


Sadly, the game fails for destructive environments. Even when Riddick gets a grenade-launching weapon, it doesn’t even make a whole in the game world. The only thing truly destructible that I found were wooden doors on the planet, but they were not satisfying one bit in their already halfway demolished state. The Butcher Bay remake had a cool mech scene where the floors would just explode when missiles hit them. How is it possible that a remake has more next-gen features than its sequel AND uses the game engine made FOR the sequel. Even the Dark Athena mech scenes don’t have destructible environments. Red Steel for Wii has destructible environments, and that is working with the Wii’s limitations. The materials of the Dark Athena must be light-years ahead of the Butcher Bay Prison, for it is tough to believe it could be so indestructible.

Sounds and Music:

The voices in this game are the highlight. There is enough diversity in the accents and voice actors that characters do not sound the same. This is so much better than walking into a room and having all the characters yell at you in the exact same way. I didn’t feel as though the characters were distant from their characters either.


The voices fit the personalities. Riddick maintains his terse verses, but other characters are much more outdoing. The prison section of the game probably has the bulk of the dialogue there. The crazy former captain sounds out of his wits and feeble. The crazy prisoners jump around their cages, swearing at Riddick and threatening his death. I will admit I was slightly masochistic and make sure to listen to all of their swears and insults. There were more interactions than I expected, each with a slightly different animation to accompany it. I am glad that the game did not skimp in the voice acting category. Unfortunately, Johns, who I quite liked the character of in Butcher Bay, says absolutely nothing throughout the entire game. It is possible that the developers did not hire his voice actor back for a second showing. Johns only has a slight showing but I would have liked him to at least say “Riddick” once in the entire game.


AS for the enemies that Riddick fights, I was amazed at the freshness of the guard voices. By this I mean there was quite a plethora of things for them to say. It was rare for me to hear the same death taunt multiple times when fighting Drones, a testament to the voice acting quantity. They insulted me in so many ways that I can’t even feel insulted, but just stunned with the sharp selection of their vocabulary. I guess the developers knew that their game was hard, and gamers would be dying a lot. My accolades to all those who wrote and acted the voices.

The voice syncing is as good as the Butcher Bay Remake though still not perfect. I never felt that the characters were miming their words, something that helped to listen to some of their extended dialogue scenes, but they did not match up 100%. This did not bother me too much, having played games from long ago, where voices would emanate from motionless faces, ala Perfect Dark.

I can’t really speak much about the music. During the sections of the game I was focused on the gameplay and did not often notice it. The stuff I did notice were the songs carried over from Butcher Bay. In fact, a lot of music was reused between the campaigns. I will forgive them since it wasn’t bad music, it is just that having to play through two games with the same music causes what is noticed to become repetitive.

As for the rest of the sounds, many of the weapons from Butcher bay were carried over, and so the sounds and their quality are the same. For sounds I especially enjoyed, one would have to be the full sounding boom on the rocket launcher. A good second is the mechanical creaking and hydraulics of the Drones, reminding me of the cybernetic Borg in Star Trek.


Despite my attempts to find a game, I never could. Consider it dead. It must have not been memorable enough on the PC scene for continued play. A shame since the multiplayer looked decent from videos I saw of it.



I had difficulty installing this game on Windows 7 x64. Apparently, the Direct2Drive version had some DRM that was not compatible with the new windows. The solution, go download the newest version of the DRM off the website of the DRM developer. I had to override the included Tages installer with a newer version during the installation of the game. I found it disappointing that I had to install DRM of my free will to get the game to work. I guess you could also use a Crack for the game, though I did this the more legal way.

Instead of collecting cigarette packets this time around, the player can pick up bounty cards, which tend to have humorous writings on them, and allow unlocking of bios on prisoners and other characters.

The Alpha Drone’s Missiles, during your first encounter with the beast, seek Riddick through walls. And the missiles clip through the walls. What is up with that?

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