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Dark and Darker Steam reviews sink as Ironmace issues new statement

Dark and Dark Steam reviews are down as developer Ironmace admits that its ideas about making the RPG free to play need to be revised.

Dark and Darker Steam reviews: A knight exploring a cavern in Steam RPG Dark and Darker

Since it disappeared from Valve’s platform in 2023, players have been eagerly awaiting the Dark and Darker Steam relaunch. As of Friday June 7, Dark and Darker is back not just on Steam, but the Epic Games Store as well, freeing the RPG from the dedicated Ironmace launcher which had previously been its only home. As part of the comeback, certain sections and components of Dark and Darker are currently free to access, but despite Ironmace’s original intentions, players on Steam are sharing criticisms regarding the game’s new free-to-sample model. In response, Ironmace says it has “failed” in anticipating players’ expectations.

Dark and Darker vanished from Steam amid legal challenges from Nexon, the publisher that formerly employed several Ironmace developers. A moody, bleak RPG with hints of Diablo and Dark Souls, it’s now back on Valve’s store in a slightly reworked form. The basic ‘Normal’ Dark and Darker dungeons can now be explored and experienced for free. However, in order to access other areas of the game and equip and use the more sophisticated loot and equipment, players still need to pay – to get into the ‘High Roller’ dungeons and use the full breadth of Dark and Darker’s gear, there is a one-time fee of $30.

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“We apologize to anyone who felt misled by the game being marketed as free to play and acknowledge that we should have chosen a better method to introduce it in that regard,” Ironmace says in a new statement. “The main reason we released our game as free to play was because we made a promise to our early loyal adopters on Blacksmith [the original Ironmace-owned platform from which Dark and Darker launched] that we’d do everything possible to not force them to repurchase the game again if it went to major platforms.

“We do not believe in double-dipping or taking advantage of our fans who are the sole reason we’ve come this far. When we had the opportunity to release the game on the Epic Games Store and Steam we were thrilled to be back on large global platforms. However, due to the large number of previous customers on Blacksmith, it was not feasible nor fair to our platform partners for us to distribute thousands of keys to Blacksmith customers for free, increasing their risk with little benefit to them.

“The solution to overcome the technical, logistical, and contractual hurdles we faced was to transition to a free-to-play model which would allow our current customers to naturally transition to a partner platform of their choice without the use of any abusable keys.”

Ironmace explains that it wanted to avoid its existing and historic customers feeling “taken advantage of” and wanted to compensate the long-time Dark and Darker faithful by ensuring they wouldn’t be charged outright to play the game on other platforms.

“We decided to open the Normal mode to the free version precisely because of its high value to the community,” the developer explains. “We naively thought this mode would be compelling enough for incoming players since they got access to the most popular and accessible mode in the game for free. We had failed to take into consideration how brand-new players – not knowing the development context – would have a different perceived value for this mode, and how it could easily be construed as us trying to bait and switch them.”

Dark and Darker Steam reviews: Responses from players to Steam RPG Dark and Darker

As it stands, three days since the Dark and Darker Steam relaunch, the game has an overall ‘mixed’ rating – of the 7,403 user reviews that have been posted so far, 48.02% are positive. Ironmace explains how the free Normal mode of Dark and Darker is intended to act as a “barrier” against hackers, and prevent would-be malicious actors from creating free accounts and accessing the High Roller sections of the game.

“We knew that once we went free to play, we would be sending an open invitation to hackers around the world,” Ironmace says. “In our quest against hackers, our bans show they almost exclusively attempt to exploit the High Roller dungeons as that was where their exploits would bear the most fruit. Limiting hackers with free accounts to the less disruptive Normal modes was also a preventative measure to try and compartmentalize the damage they could do.

“Despite our intentions, we failed in anticipating the expectations that new players would have when approaching our game. We did not intend to deceive our players, and we now realize that the current Normal and High Roller bifurcation is not well designed for free-to-play players. We built a full loot extraction game and then forced upon a large contingent of the player-base the inability to utilize their hard-earned loot without any workarounds. We now understand the absurdity of that situation and are looking to make amends.”

Dark and Darker Steam reviews: A dungeon in Steam RPG Dark and Darker

Ironmace says it is currently working on a variety of solutions that will “take into consideration” the needs of both existing and new Dark and Darker players. The game has so far secured a healthy initial user base, hitting a concurrent Steam player count high of almost 29,000 during the last 24 hours.

“Our goal is to give new players the ability to experience a complete loop of a full loot extraction experience and risk their loot while still respecting the loyalty of our existing players,” Ironmance concludes. “We’re still working on the details for that plan that will address access to the High Roller dungeons, the ability to unlock character slots, and will make an announcement very soon as the details are finalized.”

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