Is it better to do your own thing, unique, or at least more personal than the norm? Or to follow the leader blindly on a tried and true path to success?
This question has no doubt made the rounds in many an indie developer’s heads. While it is possible to do something that is unique and succesful, there’s some downfalls to this. It might not be succesful at all. And even if it is, it won’t stay unique for very long, many of the others who have pondered the question themselves choosing to follow you as their leader.
Not every indie is Undertale or Rocket League. With Steam allowing anyone to self publish, competition is stiff and plentiful. Not to mention the slightly worrisome amounts of shovelware, but that’s a topic for another day.
Today, we discuss a game that blindly followed the leader and failed in doing so. Fall of Light: Darkest Edition.
It’s right there in the title. Dark Souls also had a Prepare to Die Edition. To willingly compare yourself to a game the calibre of Dark Souls denotes either insane amounts of confidence or optimism, maybe both. Can’t wait to see how you improve the formula or put your own spin on it, Fall of Light!
Starting with the graphics, its far away camera does a good job of concealing what I presume are pretty low res textures. Overall however, it’s a fairly pretty game. Environment design screams Budget Souls, but it’s not atrocious to look at. Enemy design is good, because it’s ripped straight from Dark Souls. Zombies in knight armour and suspiciously big guys with or without armour. It’s hard to go wrong when you copy something this successful.
Music and sound effects are two steps above old timey cartoons, and voice effects aren’t. Literal stock screams left, right and center. I think I even recognised the Howie scream at one point. It lends a certain comedy edge to an otherwise quite bland experience, and here’s where I stop exchanging pleasantries with the game. Saddle up, because we’re getting into the good stuff.
The first big difference would be your daughter. Called Aether. Made very obviously from “The Fire” in Dark Souls. They did call it something different, but I’m gonna stick to “The Fire” if it’s all the same to you, mostly because it’s all the same to me.
Your daughter is a COMPLETELY mandatory escort quest, and most of you are already thinking this is the fastest way to piss in any player’s cornflakes. She’s completely useless in combat, dies in one hit, gets in the way, and gives you a meagre damage buff. Without her, however, you can’t open certain gates, mostly puzzle based, and you can’t SIT AT BONFIRES. Yes, yes, very experimental, she’s the last glimmer of hope for a completely dead world, all that. Very artsy, Fall of Light! And as a twofer, it also makes me foam at the mouth! What a joyous game mechanic.
She’s a daughter of the goddess of this world, and a little bit of the power of creation even as the world falls to entropy under some evil sorcerer named after that guy in Naruto. Pain! Quite edgy. Unfortunately, they fuck up whatever menace the character could have had by unironically stating that “He came silently” not twelve seconds after his edgy name is mentioned.
I agree, Pain. Male screamers just make things awkward. The game starts us off by introducing us to our daughter, and to it’s credit it doesn’t begin in an asylum, but a cemetery. However, we are very much fighting hollows and controlling a bucket helmet knight who never speaks. After getting our Estus Flask… Sorry, SHADOW AMULET, we are free to heal a little and use a powerup that frequently gets us killed. Goodie.
The game is an isometric hack n’ slash with fairly wonky hitboxes (Hey, Dark Souls has ’em too! It’s just being faithful to the source material!) and cookie cutter gameplay. You can block, which takes a lot of stamina, dodge, which takes a bit of stamina, or tank hits with your face, which takes a bit of health. Or most of your health. It depends on the enemy, really.
It features the same “input buffering gone mad” problem that Dark Souls has, but about three times as bad. I once punched in a dodge ten thousand light years ago, during a roll animation that I had already double pressed, and Generic Knighticus here promptly threw himself into a ball for the third time in a row, like a minigolf junkie who has gone without his dose for far too long.
Regardless, there’s nothing as interesting as the Dark Souls slightly more complicated system. You have no poise, or it is unnoticeable. The enemies however do, and frequently you’ll find that your attempts to stuff attacks with your own finish with a sword finding a new happy home between your ribs. So the game quickly trains you to attack precisely once and roll away. Which might get across the point of dangerous world, but is also terrible for pacing.
Pacing itself is very, very suspicious. The game is composed of what in other games would just be filler sections. Dying, and having to redo a section is fair enough. However dying, having to gather your dumbass fire-made daughter from the fridge she’s been stuffed in and walking back to the same place you died in, only to fall to another delightful instakill attack is quite another. The already slow as molasses combat teams up with Mr Slow-arse Knight and Sir No Sprint Button to bring one of the slowest games around.
I’ve read that it’ll take you eight hours to finish this romp through a field of particularly sticky boogers, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was longer than that. Aether has the balls to die even during loading screens, with a beautiful stock female scream, after which she can easily cost you a retread through two whole sections of the map, that you’ll have to do twice, once to pick her up from death-school, once to get back to where you were before. There’s no teleporting between checkpoints and no dying to speed things up either.
With no levelling up, there’s literally no point in fighting any of the enemies. In a spectacular show of wits, the game makes your daughter tire and fall over every few seconds so you need to stop and fight for a little while before moving on to the next shrine to consecrate, or bonfire to light, or lantern to buy for cheap at a dime store. I’ve asked around to my whole two friends whether they find this mechanic appealing, and they both said no, so maybe it really is as bad as I think. Or I need to get more friends before conducting further studies.
The final hurdle that finally convinced me to leave this game for dead was a particular bossfight. Three enemies, exactly identical, with just one attack, a crappy hadouken. A hadouken that nonetheless did a ton of damage. Swift gangbang and death ensued. Daughter lost, but perspective gained, I trundled slowly forward for a redo, like a deep sea diver who wants another go on the skill tester machine.
Managed to isolate two of them, and wailed until their skulls gave way. When I was heading for the third though, an almost-instant-death laser spawned. And that was my breaking point. GOT ‘EM moments are all well and good, but I can’t shake the idea that this game is just made to waste your time.
Stuffing your bra with a little filler is alright, so long as it’s subtle and it doesn’t get in the way. Throwing two basketballs in there will just torpedo your credibility. It’s all padding, no substance. Everything is made just to waste the player’s time, the story fails to grab attention, and it’s very “follow the leader” nature works against it. “Hey kids, do you like Dark Souls? Why not give this inferior product a go?” I’ll just stick to Dark Souls, I think. Thanks anyway.
Had it tried to do it’s own thing, I’d be inclined to be kinder to it. But comparing this jackass to the glorious white racehorse that is Dark Souls is just aggravating. Sadly, I can’t recommend this one. 15 bucks on Steam.
Final score: 3/10