Shardlight is a thing of absolute storytelling beauty that is, in my eyes, a serious contender for the best indie game of 2016.
Set two decades after the end of modern civilization, humanity stubbornly clings to the fragments of the old world as everything continues to decay around them. While a potential end-times scenario has been visited and revisited by a slew writers over the years in video games, the narrative and mechanics housed within the code of this work of art are fresh. The player gets to venture through this lengthy adventure as the young mechanic, Amy Wellard, who’s story begins as she is on her way to fix a faulty reactor.
As a post-apocalyptic, point and click game that focuses on puzzle solving over raw action, Shardlight instantly paints the grim overture with a palate that would be likely named ‘rotting bodies’ by any respectable artist. This makes it clear just how the rest of the story will be to the player; bleak, unpleasant and very attractive in a horribly macabre way. Even on the smallest scale, the attention to detail never fails to impress either, as it would be easy to spend a whole hour just sitting and absorbing only a couple of areas.
The introduction lays out the mechanics nicely without holding the player’s hand throughout the process. The expectation is to click on everything and learn about it all while enjoying the brilliant voice acting before moving onto a new room or section. Each item has a purpose too. There’s nothing placed at random. As the game begins, Amy descends a rusted ladder into a bunker-esque generator hall. While no music is provided for most areas in the game, the ambient noises, like the chirping of birds or clunk of machinery, are more than enough to nail the mood. After being given a lottery job for a chance to receive a free ‘Green Lung’ vaccine, she discovers a dying man in the reactor hall itself, begging for her aid. The man reveals himself to be the original engineer sent here to fix the fault before he became trapped under a collapse. When speaking to him, he offers her something that seems too vague and too good to be true. The man makes a request to deliver a sealed envelope to a person named ‘Danton’ in the Markets, then proceeds to ask Amy to kill him as a kindness… and that’s only the beginning of this blood-stained roller coaster.
All things considered, this isn’t an experience for those who don’t enjoy the smaller details or exploration games. A considerable amount of time is spent on singular puzzles only to discover that the solution was hidden under a drape or behind a rock. It’s rewarding when done correctly and at times exasperating when done incorrectly. This shouldn’t put anyone off, however, as the narrative is perfect for the setting and atmosphere, pulling the player in and making them care.
Genres: Adventure, Point and Click, Narrative
Release date: 03/08/2016
Publisher: Wadjet Eye Games
Developer: Wadjet Eye Games