There Are No Light Impressions – Cults and Goosebumps

A month ago I noticed for the first time There is no light while browsing upcoming Steam games. From the screenshots and gameplay videos, I figured this would be right up my alley. Now, with its recent release, I’m not even sure anymore.

This hack-and-slash offering from Zelart and HypeTrain Digital provides periodic thrills. Unfortunately, it’s weighed down by a poor narrative, unnecessarily confusing navigation, and tedious overall progression.

speak by hand

There is no light begins with your character (later dubbed Blondie) spending a relaxing evening with his wife and newborn baby. Suddenly, soldiers attack, taking the child with them. This sets your hero on a journey to kill The Hand, an entity that the cult populace began to worship after the collapse of civilization.

You end up doing just that within the first 10 minutes, after which The Hand seals the entrance to his room. Now you need to find four keys to remove the seal. Sounds like a recipe for a typical adventure. Then everything falls apart as you progress.

First, there’s the use of cryptic and obtuse storytelling techniques to present the world around you. This has become commonplace with games attempting to emulate souls-like titles. In some ways, this can be a crutch, as the player has no choice but to piece together lore and fluff, all compounded by a confusing exposition of various NPCs. Unfortunately, that, too, is hampered by jarring cutscenes that feel rushed, leaving you no pause to figure out what’s going on.

Second, I really have no idea what’s going on with the bosses. Normally you are only given a small hint as to their true nature and how they relate to the overall arc. That doesn’t seem to be the case here. Is Random Boss No. 15 supposed to be a lieutenant of The Hand? Is Beefed-up Baddie No. 10 a mutated revenge build? I don’t know, because it’s like areas and bosses are thrown in there for good measure.

There is no light Review Impressions 1b

Spamming sword strikes

At the start of the campaign There is no light, you are given a sword. The “X” button is your normal attack, which also cancels your enemies’ normal moves (i.e. red flash). The “Y” button, on the other hand, is your special attack, which can be triggered once you fill up your meter via regular hits. This too is used to counter your opponents abilities (i.e. yellow flash). You also have reliable dodging and a healing mechanic (i.e. filling up a gauge via special attacks).

The above looks simple and effective. Indeed, the battles of There is no light is fast, fluid and, in some situations, downright thrilling. However, it can also be extremely tedious and boring in the long run.

There is no light Review Impressions 2a

Most of the time, you’ll just do two swipes, one dodge, then a few strikes again. It turns out that bosses tend to use special attacks, which means your normal hits are there to boost your counter for your own counter. You’ll repeat this often over many encounters, leading to a rather boring and forgettable affair.

Admittedly, this is a skill-based hack-and-slash game, so plenty of combat is expected. Still, there should have been mechanics to make the battles more enjoyable. As it stands, you’re stuck with a sword for several hours (until you clear a multi-stage area to get another weapon). Weapon passives aren’t particularly appealing either, and there’s no way for you to improve your stats or health.

There is no light Review Impressions 2b

There is no light? More like there’s no map

On a positive note, There is no light manages to capture a dark and tense atmosphere, presented in beautiful old-school pixel graphics (think Children of Morta). The areas range from those offering a gothic feel and serene backgrounds to the most eerie depths. Likewise, there are landscapes that have eerie, creepy vibes that you can’t wait until you get out of there.

Unfortunately, these get screwed over once you realize there’s no map at all. While some games are successful even without the use of a map, the way these levels are constructed shows a clue or landmark, allowing you to remember these sections. That’s not the case here, as you’re mostly traversing identical corridors or waterways. There may be a secret or an inaccessible object in a certain room, but the overall level design makes it difficult to remember where they were, especially if you plan to see them again later.

Tinlt Rev 1a

As for how the “world” is structured, there is a central hub with four branches. Each branch has about three zones with up to 10 zones. It looks huge when you look at it as a whole, although linear progression still applies, so good luck if you missed something early on.

By the time I finished the second branch, I was already exhausted. It was just repetitive and strenuous the whole way through, with hardly any variation to keep me on my toes.

Tinlt Rev 1b

About Harold Hartman

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