Dark Vortex Introduction
Oh boy, where to start. When finally catching the opportunity to try Dark Vortex we had absolutely no clue what to expect. We had read nothing about it prior to our test run, and upon loading the game, our eyes wandered all across the screen in order to obtain and process as much information as possible in an attempt to try and grasp what was in front of us.
Nonetheless, it took us a couple of minutes to realise that Yggdrasil, possibly inspired by Big Time Gaming's 'Feature Drop', had implemented a Buy-A-Bonus button. To a cost of 80 times the stake, inpatient players will be allowed access directly into the free spins game with the added benefit of playing with a 97% RTP as opposed to the standard 96.5% RTP when triggering the bonus the conventional way. We're interested to see if this is a one-off or something Yggdrasil intends to incorporate in upcoming titles as well.
Initially called Dark Portal, this 5-reel, win-all-ways slot has no paylines, meaning any combination of three or more identical symbols awards a win - both ways! In its default state it offers 243 ways to win, but with the help of something called Vortex Reels it can expand to 3125 win ways. Optimized for all devices, Dark Vortex allows players to place bets between €0.10 and €50 per spin making it suitable for low and high rollers alike.
Yggdrasil never fails to captivate and intrigue us when it comes to visual production. Dark Vortex comes with a ghostly audio track and an awesome looking reelset flanked by creepy stone sculptures. It all comes together perfectly set against a backdrop of billowing mist flowing through an abandoned fortress. It really sets the mood well! Outstanding Yggdrasil.
Dark Vortex Paytable & Features
The game has 10 regular symbols, 1 wild symbol, 2 orb symbols and 1 Vortex symbol. The 5 low paying symbols are made out of various spellbooks while monsters and creatures represent the premiums. The Red Devil woman is the most valuable symbol and yields a 6 times the stake win for five of a kind.
The wild substitutes for all symbols bar the Vortex (Scatter) and Orb symbols and only appear on Vortex, and Free Spins reels 2, 3 and 4. Central to the game are the two Orb symbols which we will talk about below. You probably also wonder what all this talk about Vortex is about, which brings us to the next section of this review.
Vortex Reels & Free Spins
What you want to look out for in the main game are the so-called Vortex symbols, or Scatter symbols if you prefer. It takes 5 of them, one on each reel, to trigger the Free Spins, but there's more to it than that. Fun stuff happens even by landing 2 of them adjacent to each other. This initiates 3 Vortex spins - a dark portal sucks the reels in and converts them from 3 high to 5, which of course increases the win ways. Each additional adjacent Vortex symbol awards an extra Vortex reel and 2 extra spins. Vortex reels remain open until all Vortex Spins have been played.
This is also where the orbs come into play as they only appear in Vortex reels and help enhance the Vortex spins. Pink orbs extend the wild stack size and only appear on Vortex reels 1 and 5. Each pink orb collected adds 1 more wild to the 3 centre reels. The Blue orbs on the other hand increase number of free spins and only appear on Vortex reels 2, 3 and 4. Each blue orb collected adds an extra free spin.
The free spins game is activated by opening all 5 Vortex reels before running out of Vortex spins. Vortex Free Spins have 5x5 reels and 3125 ways to win. The centre 3 reels all have stacked wilds which are increased by 1 wild for each Pink orb collected. There's massive potential to be found here with possible wins of over 7000 times the stake.
Dark Vortex Conclusion
We're looking at a slot that could very well turn out to be Yggdrasil's strongest title this year. Not only does the high variance and outstanding potential appeal to us, but it's also an innovative slot with exceptional visuals. Reading this review it might come across as complicated and confusing when actually it is not. Sure, it's not the most straight-forward slot, but it's engaging and fast paced, and the pieces fall into place rather quickly as you start spinning the reels.
The Buy-A-Bonus option was a huge surprise and something we definitely did not expect to find here. Not sure how we feel about it from a responsible gaming point of view but seeing how well it has worked for Big Time Gaming one can't blame Yggdrasil for wanting to get into the game as well.
To sum it up, Dark Vortex has all the ingredients we like to see in an online slot - innovative features, stunning visuals, smooth gameplay, a smashing paytable, and most importantly, massive potential. Be careful, however, as it's a high variance slot (7 out of 10 on Yggdrasil's volatility index) which means you are likely to have many long dry spells before landing any satisfactory wins. After all, it's the nature of the beast.