Revenge rarely leads to anything good, but it does make for a good story premise. In fact, that’s the story inspiration Zelart decided to use when making There Is No Light. Another take on the gothic horror style with some otherworldly monsters to fight, this game asks you to brave the dark and risk your life repeatedly to reach your goal. At least you’re not just some guy — this time you’re just some guy with a sword and death on his side. Whether this is a good or bad thing is up to you to decide as you fight your way through fleshy foes.
Why There Is No Light
Some titles make it clear right from the start that there are not going to be any light-hearted moments. There Is No Light does just that by presenting a haunting reality. The end of the world has come, and humanity has only managed to survive by living underground. As a result, an organization offering hope serving the Great Hand has appeared and established dominance. They choose to act as they please, including raiding the hero’s settlement and kidnapping his pregnant wife. The hero dies trying to save her, but is brought back to life by a being composed of darkness that may or may not be the embodiment of death. With new life, new power, and a new sword, it’s time to slap the Great Hand.
Shining Bright In Spots
It can be tricky to make a dark gothic game shine through, but there are ways. There Is No Light has found some of those ways and shows them proudly. First and foremost is the visual detail and artwork. The game is a mix of painting and pixel art that mixes well across various regions. The pixels are mainly reserved for the enemy and character animations but they’re done in very precise detail that makes each one feel like a piece of a living creature. Their appearances and animations pop against a background mix of pixels and paint.
Then there’s how the game relies mainly on your skill. In Soulslike games, even having just one good item can make the difference between life and death. Here, it’s mostly about what abilities you choose to have and how you play. There’s a huge range of abilities giving you lots of options which is balanced against the fact that points to buy them aren’t the most plentiful. This really adds a lot to the decision-making and how it shapes your strategy. Even without abilities, as long as you practice dodging and picking your moments, your determination and grit can carry you through.
There’s a whole lot to find and learn in the game. A surprising number of NPCs are available for conversation, offering help and lore to enliven the world. Most paths are already open to you; you just need to decide which one you feel most comfortable walking down first.
There Is No Hiding Some Issues
Lighting is an important element in games with many relying on darkness, but it won’t hide problems. In terms of There Is No Light, some issues are clear as day. One notable one is the Karma system. Yes, this game includes a morality mechanic indicated by a red/green bar that appears at the bottom. The only real way to raise or lower it is by talking to certain NPCs who offer specific dialogue choices. No matter what choice you make, you’ll be locked out of a further conversation with them. This places no weight on your actions and seems to have no distinctive gameplay benefit, one way or the other.
The ability system is also a bit of an imbalanced area. Most of the time you’ll be playing with one active ability that you can use once you’ve smacked enough baddies. They can be quite powerful or quite lackluster, which reduces their overall value and efficiency. It does add a degree of strategy in choosing which abilities are better for certain enemy groups, but overall is kind of limiting and lop-sided.
Going Where There Is No Light
There Is No Light is a Soulslike pixel-art RPG about using the power of darkness to defeat a dangerous organization and rescue your family. It tests your skill rather than your loadout while showing off a visually beautiful world with animated characters and loads of interesting lore. The abilities aren’t as interesting or present as they could be, and the Karma mechanic feels kind of unnecessary. Still, if you want bloody action experience that takes place where there is no light, the plunge into shadows is worth the risk.
Will Quick is a freelance media wizard living in Spain. When he's not gaming or writing, he's doodling comics or whatever else pops in his head.