Dark Envoy: Director’s Cut – The Extended Adventure of Malakai and Kaela

REVIEW – It’s a new update to an indie CRPG released in 2023, so it’s not quite a brand new game that Event Horizon released a week ago, but a major update to Dark Envoy. The game took no less than four years between its announcement and release, and gives us a glimpse into the battle between the two factions.


These two factions would be the Empire and the League (not very creative), and this duality manifests itself in other ways as well, as Malakai and Kaela will be our two protagonists, so you don’t have to create just one protagonist at the beginning of the game, but two right away. The two siblings are treasure hunters who want to settle down in Jäan’s world, away from the fighting.



Not a Dime a Dozen Character Types


At first glance, you might think that Dark Envoy only has four character types (the spell-casting Adept, the tech-savvy Engineer, the exploring Ranger, and the combat-oriented Warrior), but each type has three subclasses with different abilities, and you can gain more “specializations” over time. Since Malakai and Kaela are the ones you’ll be spending a lot of time with, it’s worth thinking early on about who you want to make a tank out of, and who should be someone who, say, fights well from a distance. This means that the initial experience can vary from player to player, as you can make quite a combination out of the two heroes. Six more characters will be added later, but they’ll already have their character class set, so it’s probably best to focus on balanced teams, and since you can only have four members in your team at a time, there’s a lot of variation here, but one thing is even: everyone gets the same amount of experience points, and there’s no need to worry about someone evolving badly, as you can always respec without penalty.

And the combat mixes real-time strategy with what you see in classic CRPGs. Its isometric view is something that has been used in many places. You can slow time down or even stop it, so you can set up everyone’s actions and coordinate the whole thing. The problem is that there are a lot of enemies coming in waves and it gets a bit tiring. Since the battles are not turn-based, it’s a bit chaotic with everyone throwing abilities at each other, so the battles take much longer than expected, which ruins the atmosphere. Micro-management also rears its head here, which is never good in any way. And if you go beyond that, the interface can be full of AOE areas. The pacing would have been better if there had been fewer battles, because after a short while we’ll be fumbling around trying to keep our team members alive, because some of them are so stupid that they’ll throw up the gauntlet at any moment. Maybe that was an attempt to make Dark Envoy longer…



Lack of depth even in the director’s cut


The two main characters are developed, that’s fine. Beyond that, however, the characters feel rather superficial, and at first the cutscenes (it’s not a coincidence that this term is used) look a bit amateurish with their robot animation. But even if that weren’t a problem, the first half of the game consists of tutorials, and the second half of the game forces you to do these tedious fetch quests almost to the end, when it finally gets exciting. This structure is inexplicable, so 12 or 13 of the 15 or so hours won’t be very memorable. But then we settle in and suddenly the credits roll. The interface feels a bit slow, and almost all the time you get the feeling that the fights are deliberately packed with lots of enemies coming in waves, because without them the whole thing would be too short. Sometimes less would have been more, and Dark Envoy is no exception.

The Director’s Cut (in this version since May 15th) ties the story more closely to the Tower of Time universe (the studio’s previous game), the main scenes have been reworked (which is why it was FIRST bad, it looks better without it), the voice acting has been improved a bit, and the narrative has been modified. Balancing, much needed tweaks have been done, the map has been tweaked a bit, and the memory hogging bug that used to be there has been removed. The game runs better, but the same can’t really be said for Steam Deck. The intro on this machine is just a slideshow, and the controls are awkward. (That’s why it’s designed for mouse and keyboard.) The frame rate on this machine is still over 30 FPS on higher settings, so it’s mostly okay, but it might not be recommended to try it on Valve’s portable PC…



Jäan was, Jäan will not be


Dark Envoy would have been a 6/10 by default, but with the update you could say it is a 6.5. It’s improved, but still a bit of a chore in the long run. It might be worth it to play it for shorter periods of time, but otherwise it might not be worth it. Since it’s a big effort from a smaller studio, it can’t really be criticized as coming from a AAA studio. And for that, it’s not bad.



+ Mixes CRPG with RTS during combat
+ Skills can be repackaged at any time because it allows experimentation
+ Different teams can be built, so the experience can be different for each player


– The number of opponents per battle is a bit ridiculous
– The pace of the game fluctuates inexplicably
– Our teammates tend to die sometimes

Publisher: Event Horizon

Developer: Event Horizon

Style: CRPG

Release: October 24, 2023 (base game)/2024. May 15 (Director’s Cut)

Dark Envoy: Director's Cut

Gameplay - 7.3
Graphics - 6.2
Story - 7.4
Music/Audio - 7.6
Ambience - 6



They're still expanding it six months after release, which is persistent... but will the player be one?

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Grabbing controllers since the middle of the nineties. Mostly he has no idea what he does - and he loves Diablo III. (Not.)

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