The preview for Fall of Light: Darkest Edition for the PS4 got me hooked: an isometric dungeon crawler that is story driven. Checking out its web page, I was greeted with the words “Dark Souls meets ICO,” and it made sense. The dark ambiance of the game’s environment looks like a textbook page out from an area in any of the three Dark Souls iterations, while the main character guiding a little girl all over the place is heavily reminiscent of the PlayStation masterpiece, ICO. While I haven’t played Dark Souls or ICO, I have a gist of how both games played via Let’s Plays. I can tell that the Dark Souls series is all about skill, since its difficulty is heavily reliant on your ability to be strategic and learn from your mistake. ICO, on the other hand, is all about puzzles and working with your companion to complete some of them.
Fall of Light tries to merge the two together to create an interesting blend of gameplay. However, before we get deep into that, let’s talk about the story. The game’s title refers to how the world was originally enveloped in darkness and chaos until a god named Luce appeared to provide light and order for 13 eras. However, an evil sorcerer named Pain emerges and drives away Luce inducing the fall of light and the return of the perpetual darkness.
The lore about sets up the journey you will take in Fall of Light as you take control of Nyx and his daughter, Aether, to see the last remnants of Luce’s light. In doing so, he protects his daughter from all sorts of dangers such as routing off attackers as well as guiding Aether from narrow cliffs and floor traps. Aether is a porcelain doll; she does not engage in combat and will try her best to avoid fights by ducking down, which really works well. However, in the off-chance you decide to run away from a fight that’s occurring, the enemies have a possibility of killing Aether instead of pursuing you.
Aether also follows you around like a puppy dog, and that is not really good thing when traps are littered all over dungeons and caves. Good thing though, that as Nyx, you indirectly control her by commanding her to stop following you and calling her to come to you as well as literally grabbing her hand and forcing her to follow you. This hand-holding aspect is what makes Fall of Light feel a lot like ICO. There are many points in the game that you will be relying on this gameplay tactics to solve puzzles or run away from impending danger.
With some many things that can decimate the whole family, dying seems inevitable in Fall of Light. Luckily, death is a normal occurrence, which is the aspect that the game borrowed from Dark Souls. There are several shrines of power that acts as savepoints throughout Nyx and Aether’s journey. After consecrating a shrine, if Nyx dies, he will respawn at that shrine. Aether dying, on the other hand, will leave her essence on the point where died, where Nyx will have to interact with in order to make her respawn. If Nyx is far away from where Aether dies, he is able to create a temporary guide of blue light to figure out where the essence is.
The best-case scenario of this respawn gameplay aspect is when Nyx is alive when Aether dies. He can literally revive Aether when it is safe. The problem is when both die, and the current consecrated shrine is miles away from where you died. It means that you will have to travel very far to get to Aether. What makes it even worse is that activating a consecrated shrine respawns enemies as well (yet another borrowed Dark Souls aspect). So this also means that you will not only have to travel far to get to Aether, but you will have to face the enemies you have slain along the way.
Fall of Light has a leveling and combat system that also resembles the Dark Souls franchise. Nyx earns experience points for every enemy he kills, and that amount is determined on the enemies’ toughness. After he accumulates enough points to fill his experience bar, consecrating at the shrine levels him up, making him stronger overall. Nyx is also allowed to carry a limited amount of items, which includes two weapons and a shield (if the weapons do not require two hands). Again, like Dark Souls, you are constantly improving your weapons, which means discarding the inferior ones, while keeping the strong ones only. The great part about this, is that with more than 10 different types of weapons, you are able to mix and match to figure out what works for combat style. (I prefer having an sword and shield for close battles and a crossbow for ranged ones.)
Overall, Fall of Light is a good blend of two different gaming genres: ICO and Dark Souls. It’s not just constantly solving puzzles all the time, and it’s not always trying to kill enemies with limited weapons and items. The balance is there. However, it falls short of being a great game by being irritatingly annoying with its respawn systems. You’re always constantly hoping the worst-case scenario never happens when both characters die and the respawn point is really far away.
This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.