Map Review of dark-island

by dunkelschwamm | December 12, 2021 | 4754 characters

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If you had asked me a few years ago what my favorite map for Sven Co-op was, I'd probably say Dark Island. I replayed it for the first time in, well, probably a decade yesterday with a friend who has played it before and a friend who hasn't. Does it hold up?

Dark Island is an adventure map modeled after various adventure media, including but not limited to Lost, The Goonies, or old adventure pulps. The players are tasked with finding a ship supposedly lost deep within the Dark Island. By discovering clues, solving mysteries, and uncovering lost artifacts of the previous expedition, players simultaneously bring Dark Island to life and make it their bitch in pursuit of the lost ship.

Everything from the brushwork to the textures to the sound effects, palm trees, and opaque purple waters really contribute to the atmosphere.

With this grand scope, you might think that Dark Island would be a fairly serious adventure map, but it's riddled with pop culture gags and witty goofs, mostly in the enemy names. References to Clerks, Lord of the Rings, X-Com, or calling an early game miniboss "EVIL" after a note preludes it with "A GREAT EVIL HAS TAKEN OUR CAMP" or something to that effect. People who aren't familiar with Nipper's work may take a moment to get on track with his brand of humor (especially if they aren't expecting comedy within the map), but once you lean into it it's very funny any memorable.

When the player starts they have nothing but the medkit. They are unarmed through the first combat of the map until they retrieve a bone (crowbar) from a campsite. They are immediately overwhelmed by enemies which are not conducive to fighting with a crowbar- a gonome can run generally faster than a player, attack while running, and if they kill every player will almost certainly completely replenish their health- of which they have much of, as gonomes are frequently used as bosses in this map. This is particularly annoying early on, but this frustration makes for an almost greater alleviation as more weapons are gradually unlocked. Something very interesting about this progression is that most of the weapons the player unlocks are ones that don't require ammo pickups- crowbar, wrench, hivehand- until the shotgun. By that point the shotgun is treated almost like a BFG in the map due to how starved for powerful ranged weaponry we were. By the end of the map the players can literally gib gonarchs and it's the most empowering feeling in the world.

I also cannot praise the spawn area enough. Every weapon that the players find in the island becomes available in the spawn room and the spawn room has teleporters to each side approach of the island. The progression of the island itself is really fun, the way all of it opens up and eventually loops back into itself- the ultimate shape is a circle within a circle with a cross section between it, and it works out really well and didn't get terrible confusing to me. What did get confusing, however, was often where the next point of progression would be when it appears in a seemingly random spot on the island. It gives the sense of mystery and uncovering the secrets of the land, but can also grind the momentum of play to a halt as players run around groaning every time they swing a pickaxe at another respawning zombie.

Unfortunately for some the scavenger hunt like nature of the map which requires scouring its entire surface area for cleverly hidden passages or a key is not a good time. I, personally, enjoy this kind of thing, but I know my friends would sooner give up on the map than, say, search for the hidden key late in the map.

I think the many setpieces and fun battles of Dark Island, paired with its ambiance and sense of mystery, and its somehow effectively evocative tropical island vibe, make Dark Island a classic and still a contender for my favorite map. If you're looking for something fun to play with friends, I think Dark Island is a great time. If you're looking for something fun to throw on a server rotation, Dark Island would fit right in.


  • Perfect spawn area
  • Great environment really evokes a tropical island with ominous personality
  • I love the mystery
  • Fun sense of humor conveyed in the enemy names
  • Every battle is a blast, and very simple thanks to the weapon selection


  • Grinds to a halt sometimes while searching for progression
  • Early grind pays off later, but is still a grind when it's early grind
Score: 9.3 / 10
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