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There Is No Light

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: HypeTrain Digital
Developer: Zelart
Release Date: Q3 2021


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Switch/PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'There Is No Light'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Sept. 9, 2020 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

There Is No Light is a pixel-art post-apocalyptic action/adventure where you explore a grim underworld and slay hordes of demonic creatures.

There Is No Light begins in a familiar place, with the world in ruins and a decaying underground society where people are struggling to survive among creatures and monsters. Your protagonist forms a pact with an otherworldly creature and is granted the power to fight against these monsters — but with the promise that he is not allowed to die because he now belongs to the creature. It feels familiar but has enough style to stand out among similar titles.

There Is No Light has a recognizable over-the-head combat system. You can walk and dash around freely and swap weapons with the touch of a button. The dungeons are designed like mazes, with multiple paths and hidden areas to explore, which can unlock skill points to upgrade your characters, healing items, or other cool upgrades. It's nothing you haven't seen before, but the game style works well, and the combat is simple to learn, if difficult to master.

What makes the combat stand out is its rage and weapon durability systems. Weapons can be used freely, but using certain attacks causes them to break and temporarily disables further use. This usually only last a few moments, so it's less about preserving the weapons for an emergency and more about deciding on the right moment. No matter what, your default sword remains a remarkably effective weapon.

One attack that breaks weapons involves the Rage meter. Attack, and you'll build up Rage, and when you build up enough Rage, you can use a weapon-specific special move, which is usually powerful and has an area of effect. Rage is shared between weapons, so you can swap to another and use its special move. Rage isn't always a positive, though. At least one weapon — the fists — builds up Rage very quickly but with a heavy negative; once it is full, you can't attack with the fists, forcing you to use a special move and temporarily disable it. This can be both a plus and a negative, but it means that you can't depend on only one weapon.

One interesting aspect of There Is No Light is that it uses a pip-based health system instead of the more common number-based system. Rather than taking 30 out of 500 HP, you'll take 1 out of 5 pips when you're damaged, and the same rules apply to enemies. I found this to be an engaging gameplay design decision because every blow feels significantly more impactful when compared to a lot of similar games. Even a boss battle only has a small number of pips, which keep them feeling fast-paced and not like you're chipping away at a huge HP number. It also means the game can throw more enemies at you at once because you have a clear idea of how much damage is needed to take down foes.

Outside of combat, we got a few glimpses of the elements that might await us. There are towns full of people who are in various states of distress. This is not a happy world in the slightest. When speaking to people, you can make simple dialogue choices, which amount to "Question/Yes/No/Advance Dialogue." Answering in certain ways seems to cause a small meter to advance either toward red or green, which seems to roughly correspond to mean or nice. Obviously, it's tough to get a feel about the final effect of this from a preview build, but it hints at something more than just hacking and slashing.

There Is No Light also stands out for having incredible sprite work. The character animations and backgrounds are striking and distinctive. The various monsters move in unnerving ways, and there's a ton of background details to add flavor and atmosphere to the game. Wandering through a monster-spider's nest and seeing the trembling victims adds a sense of horror, and things only get creepier from there. I'm genuinely curious to see where the game goes from what we've seen because it's already pretty darn spooky.

There Is No Light is shaping up very well so far. The preview build gave us a good chunk of gameplay and let us see a little bit of every system. Between the simple but engaging gameplay and the excellent sprite work, there's a lot of potential here. As of this writing, There Is No Light's Kickstarter campaign just launched, and from what we can see, it should have no problem getting funded. Here's hoping the final version is as good as the preview build that we played.

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