Monday, June 22, 2009

Light's End Review


Old Skool RPG lovers rejoice, and join me for a celebratory drink! I've been keeping an eye on this one since it's low-key announcement, and I took a couple days to reflect, just to make sure I wasn't overreacting. I wasn't. This is a really cool (and yet modest) game.

Yes, I love RPGs and therefore you can accuse me of a bias, but I would argue that regardless of your like/dislike of RPGs, that Light's End does so many things right that you can still acknowledge it as a great game. Whether or not you enjoy playing it is another story.

First up on the awesome list, innovation. Any game that brings a fresh mechanic to the table and does it well gets points. Light's End approaches the RPG from a new angle and asks the question, "What if you don't just play as one one character, but as all characters?" And I am not referring to a party of characters - I mean you can literally play as anyone that you meet in the game. You just hit 'Y' and a small flame indicates the transfer of control.

Now then, this is cool on a couple levels. First, as a puzzle-solving mechanic it creates some creative scenarios. In order to advance the game, you need to encourage interactions between the right characters - paying attention to dialogue clues can help point you in the right direction, and there are some very clever solutions. (no spoilers here folks) There's also a great amount of well-written dialogue that of course changes depending who you're controlling.

Second, the character-switching mechanic is geniusly tied to the plot. I can't go into detail, but there is a reason why the game is played in this manner and it all comes together in the end. And for a game with no combat (neither turn-based, nor live) and no 'big boss battles' the ending was quite a treat.

You may look at the screenshots, and think that it's nothing special graphically. And it's true, you'll need to appreciate the charm of simple 2D graphics, but it's actually far more appealing once you see it in action - they grew on me. Also, the design is so tight that it becomes easier to love, and some wonderful music tracks raise the bar up again.

All of this said, plenty of people will likely feel starved or grow bored of a game that is primarily based on dialogue and one stand-out character-switching mechanic. There is lots of reading to do, and some puzzle solving that may get tedious for some. You won't fight monsters, gather loot, or explore huge maps. But you will experience a wonderful short story with dynamic characters and some thought-provoking social commentary.

At 200MP, this is a no brainer in my book. It's a tight, unique experience. The auto save feature lets you replay the demo until you make it through the first chapter (nice touch) - so there's no risk in trying it out and seeing if it strikes a chord.

1 comment:

  1. Agreed. This is a really great game. I hope there are more xbox indie games that recognise you can do so much with a new idea and a strong story.