Every now and then a game comes along that can only be described as “a cross between Game X and Game Y”. And so it is with Fall of Light: Darkest Edition, the latest title from the development team at Rune Heads.
The games in question this time around are Dark Souls, for the gameplay and mechanics, and Diablo, for the camera angle and view of the action. So can a third person, action adventure experience with the difficulty of Dark Souls and a non-movable camera fly in this day and age? The developers claim to have been inspired by the classic Ico game as well, so how does this mixture come together? I set off into the darkness to find out.
The story of Fall of Light revolves around a grizzled old warrior, Nyx. As the world around him descends into darkness and the general end of the world type problems occur, he resolves to take his daughter, Aether, to safety in the last place on Earth that still sees the light. Aether is known as “The Indigo Child”, and being a young girl, she needs to be protected from all the bad people between the village and the ultimate destination. Aether can be told to wait while you scout ahead, but if she is near to Nyx she powers up his attacks, causing his sword to flame and extra damage to occur. If she is left alone though then she can come under attack from the minions of the Darkness, so there’s a decent risk/reward mechanic you have to take into account throughout. You can also hold her hand to keep her near you as you run through the ruined world.
As you’d expect from a game like this, the story isn’t handed to you on a plate; you have to do a bit of work to piece it together by speaking to NPCs and exploring to find clues. This can be quite rewarding, as there seems to be a good amount of depth to the back story, something that always please me. Of course, the more you run around exploring, the more enemies you’ll come into contact with, inevitably leading to combat.
On the whole, the combat is done well, with the familiar lock on circle that anyone who has played Souls will be familiar with. Unfortunately, the response to the controls simply isn’t fast enough to keep up with the demands of a game like this, a fact that is brought home to you as early as the first boss battle. See, this guy has a very annoying fireball attack that you have to dodge, but the split second delay in between pressing the button and the guy on screen trying to roll is usually enough to get at least one of the fireballs to hit, and if that happens it’s pretty much game over, as they knock you off your feet, and the time it takes Nyx to regain his footing is almost exactly the same as it takes for the next fireball to hit you. Add to this the fact that you need to take the first boss down to gain the power to heal yourself, and this is one of the most frustrating opening sections of a game I’ve ever played. Many, many bad words were uttered before I finally took him down, but weirdly once he’s dead, Fall of Light opens out into a much more balanced and almost user friendly experience.
The other issue with the combat is a proper sense of impact; a sense that you are applying the pointy end of a lump of metal to the faces of bad people. The range of the sword also seems a little hit and miss, if you’ll pardon the pun, sometimes harmlessly swishing past allowing an enemy an easy cheap shot.
The rest of the familiar Dark Souls tropes are all present and correct. The bonfires this time around can be kindled, the light from them keeping the enemies at bay, allowing Aether to be alone for a while. Normally these coincide with a section of many enemies, so leaving her there can be a good move.
Aether can also consecrate statues, allowing them to be used as save and respawn points if you should die. Interacting with them has the effect of resetting the enemies in the level, and if you die this also happens. If you do perish however, Aether also dies: this is very affecting the first time you see it, as you have to revive her from a pile of glowing ash. Of course, in order to revive her you have to reach her, and that can sometimes be easier said than done.
Luckily, or unluckily depending on how you look at it, defeating enemies allows you to heal. Put another way, you have to fight and risk death in order to be able to heal, and this is another way that risk/reward can come into play. Of course, Dark Souls tactics work well here, and baiting enemies to approach you for a damn good thrashing one at a time is always preferable to getting swarmed.
Graphically and Fall of Light: Darkest Edition works well, barring certain camera related issues. The viewpoint is decent for the most part, allowing you to see what’s happening, but problems arise when there are walls in the way. The accepted practice in most games is for the wall to become translucent, so you can still see what’s happening. This doesn’t happen in Fall of Light though, and more than once I managed to kill myself walking off a narrow path I couldn’t see. Accompanying the visuals is the usual audio presence, but if I’m honest, it doesn’t really feature that much. This does however seem to be a stylistic choice; the silence as you walk and fight actually helps with the feeling of oppression, with the sense that you are walking through a world barely hanging on.
Fall of Light: Darkest Edition is a game that does enough to just about make it worthy of recommendation. The graphics and art style work in the setting, the story is interesting and the combat can be rewarding – at least when it’s not pad bitingly frustrating. There is a little trick to the fighting that I’m not going to reveal here, but around 90% of the time it will enable you to take down the biggest enemies fairly easily. This does cheapen the experience somewhat, but overall this is a interesting entry into the Souls genre. While problems with combat and the camera can make Fall of Light harder than it needs to be, the pull is there to push through and see what comes next.