Fall of Light – review
What do Dark Souls and ICO have in common? Absolutely nothing? It would be a legitimate answer for some purely playful aspects but on balance the points of contact could be at least a couple: the first is that they are two works born from the great Japanese talent, technically often not avant-garde but at the level of ideas still capable. to amaze. The second is that both have progressively influenced a good group of more or less well-known software houses, with more or less obvious inspirations that have slowly fleshed out the ranks of real sub-genres.
Fall of Light, the first work of the Italians of Runeheads, is admittedly a souls-like but at the same time tries to re-propose in its own way one of the key elements of ICO, namely the particular relationship between the two protagonists. In search of a mix that is as successful and original as possible, two big-time pieces have been bothered that certainly do not go unnoticed and that attract curiosity and indirectly expectations of a certain type.
Uniting two souls in many ways distant is as ambitious and potentially remarkable as it is risky. The danger is in fact not to do justice to either side, giving rise to mechanics unable to really leave something to the players. Faced with these critical issues, the fate of the action we will talk about today seems written: an absolute masterpiece and a real gem of the indie scene or disappointment across the board. The truth, as often happens, however, lies somewhere in between.
The setting outlined by the Runeheads duo is evidently inspired by the one proposed within the Souls and certain aspects seem almost taken in weight by the work of From Software. A world in total chaos, inhabited only by souls afflicted by an infinite torment and shrouded in Darkness until the arrival of Light, order, life and prosperity. A new world is born in which men can live in peace, at least until the arrival of the mysterious Pain and the return of Darkness.
It is a decidedly inhospitable world that we will have to explore as Nyx, an old warrior driven by one great desire: to save his daughter Aether. Nothing that makes you cry for originality even in some developments of a plot that, in line with the genre of belonging, remains for a large part of the adventure relegated to the margins of the gaming experience. Beyond some NPCs (dubbed in English with an overall good job) and a few short passages taken from the books scattered around the different areas, it is above all the atmosphere and the mysteries of a completely unknown setting to intrigue ..
Surely we could have done more but fortunately there are some sequences that manage to add a pinch of originality that never hurts and that reward in particular all those who decide to dedicate themselves to a little healthy exploration. A second narrative line which we will not talk about to avoid any spoilers but which at least partially raises a story that is too limited and enclosed by the typical Souls canons.
Speaking of spoilers, we can only briefly mention some gameplay phases focused above all on Aether. In some sections of rescue and transport (in which we will literally pick up our daughter) substantially reside the only variants to the fighting, the real fulcrum of the 14 hours we spent in the company of the Fall of Light. In fact, it is worth being immediately clear: the game fails to maintain the balance between the souls that compose it and tends decisively towards the souls-like one.
The need to look after our daughter fails to fully convince and at times ends in frustration. The biggest problem arises when “shadows” appear to try to kidnap Aether. By eliminating them we will save the young woman, while failing in the enterprise we will necessarily have to go in search of the cage in which she was imprisoned (a dedicated key indicates the direction to follow) and obviously free her. In the first hours of the game this mechanic is not particularly annoying and actually seems to work by not affecting the exploration of the various interconnected areas that make up the game world. By advancing and dying, by the way a lot, our opinion has partly changed.
Although at the base it is a not too veiled cliché, the dark world of Fall of Light manages at least to intrigue and offer some mystery that is anything but despicable.
In certain particularly complex areas characterized by not very close checkpoints having to constantly retrace our steps to save our daughter has become a considerable burden. The need to defend an affection of the protagonist (a fundamental character for the whole story) is one of the focuses of the game, it is the attempt to create a relationship similar to that between Ico and Yorda. Unfortunately, the result is not even vaguely up to the work of Ueda and associates.
Definitely more positive the other key aspect of Fall of Light, (the “Dark Souls” one so to speak). The setting is inevitably more simplistic with the only possibility of managing the weapons to be held and the one to keep in reserve, since it is not possible to carry all the weapons we come across but it is necessary to choose from time to time what to take with us leaving the discarded object on the ground. This is a potentially interesting mechanic for those who would like to experiment, perhaps in the Nightmare mode which can be unlocked later, but which actually fails to fully achieve its objective since the slower weapons are almost unusable against most enemies.
Going through the inventory we can change our loadout by wielding two-handed weapons, the weapon and shield combo, a ranged weapon, or even two weapons at the same time. The weapons do not have statistics directly but are intuitively more or less fast, have a small indicator that indicates the level of power and are characterized by a certain effect (bleeding, critical hit or ability to knock down the enemy to name a few).
To make our way through the enemies it is essential to follow a very cautious and wait-and-see approach, carefully taking into account our stamina and of course the life that can be restored through potions. These parameters can be improved by killing opponents and filling a dedicated bar to “spend” inside the checkpoints. At the level of enemies we have always had a very hard life, since an attack that is too brazen in many cases results in an early death even trying to make the best use of dodges and parries.
The various areas that we will explore are quite varied and in some cases offer pretty good views.
Both against bosses and against the most basic enemies, the clashes always maintain an unfortunately simplistic approach, made up of fleeting attacks and tactical parries and retreats that are based only on timing. In this sense it would have been indicated to insert a counterattack, a classic parry (intended not only as a block but also as leaving the opponent at the mercy of our offensive) which would have been a godsend for a combat system that is obviously based on Dark Souls but that in a certain sense does not go beyond the most classic of “homework”.
There are also some uncertainties on the technical side, although fortunately nothing capable of directly affecting the course of our adventure. There are, for example, slight problems in collisions with shots that do not always reach the target as they should and in the management of Aether, which in one case got stuck on the ground for no reason. Fortunately, the developers have been very receptive and have already released a few patches before launch, demonstrating how support will certainly be guaranteed even when the game hits the market.
We have to be honest: the evaluation of this title has haunted us in the course of every single moment we have lived as Nyx. There have been times in which the formula studied by Runeheads has proved successful and effective, and others in which only the flaws stood out, questioning any possible positive evaluation and also leading us to be undecided about a possible sufficiency. Our advice is inevitably one and only one: try the demo available on Steam for yourself. It is undoubtedly worth it and will help you to dispel several doubts and to understand if this project and its approach are in your strings or not.
The inventory is very basic and places a greater emphasis on the effects of weapons avoiding the typical statistics of the genre.
In closing, a brief reflection, which wants to go beyond the specific case of Fall of Light: do we really need this immense wave of souls-like indie? The idea of reproposing the fantastic work of From Software with more or less evident variations is not a bad idea a priori, on the contrary, but the results often manage to fully grasp only one aspect of that particular franchise: the difficulty.
The souls are much more than just difficulty and the homologation risk within the indie scene seems increasingly evident and sometimes disappointing. I like souls-like and many developers like to brand their creature with a name that in recent years seems to be considered synonymous with safe sales. In other words, drawing inspiration is legitimate and right but continuing on this path, stagnation will become an almost obligatory terminus.