While Dark Souls has become a bit of a dirty word in games journalism due to some tending to use it far too much to describe or compare a game, it is the only one comparison to bring to Fall of Light (developed by RuneHeads) too. A logical conclusion of sorts. The protagonist is a voiceless warrior who has grown old, forced to fight through droves of enemies that are unrelenting while progressing through a dying world where most light has escaped, save for his daughter Aether, who shines brilliantly. The game is similar to Dark Souls in tone, theme, design, art style, and “plot” (though there is very little of interest that doesn’t just feel like a lazy rehash of Dark Souls own loosely defined plot.) Fall of Light, for all intents and purposes, is the Coke Zero to Dark Souls’ Coke. It feels empty and tasteless, but that is only because there is no lesser comparison to equate it towards.
The differences are there to not make it actually a Dark Souls clone, having an isometric camera similar to the Diablo series, which floats above the player as they progress from one dreary environment to the next. Though again, these environments are so closely modeled to similarly of Dark Souls it is baffling. Multiple times while playing I thought “Oh look, it’s Blight Town,” or “Now I’m in Undead Parish.” The one thing afforded to the game in this level/art design is that it feels like a dark fantasy told in the form of a storybook, everything looking like a papercraft form or a toy. This doesn’t save the game from having awful environment designs that make it not only boring to look at but actively hard to remember where you’re going due to the fact every area looks so similar to the next it’s more like traversing a maze than a world to explore. Finally, there is a distinct lack of music in the game, with the only thing close is the light humming of the wind as it blows.
Other elements are unabashedly lifted from the game’s inspiration, such as the burn signs on the ground that provide hints to players or shrines that act exactly as bonfires do in Dark Souls, where a player resets the enemies, heals, levels up, and saves the game. The combat tries to emulate Dark Souls but is so grueling and boring in its incredible lack of variety that it becomes tiresome and irritating to the point I simply sighed in annoyance whenever I crossed paths with a new enemy, who all seem to have more variety in their attacks than the player does. One final element is the very basis of the world, which again seems to copy it. The world is dying, the light (i.e. “The last flame” in Dark Souls) is dying out and your quest is to reach it before it does. It cannot be stressed how lazy this feels to play through.
Some readers might notice, if looking at the game’s key art and what I mentioned early on, there is a daughter character, Aether. She is essentially a lifeless walking husk you drag around behind you as you progress, as there is nothing interesting or affecting about her that truly makes the player care about the character or what happens to her. This is entirely true of most if not all the game’s characters, who are accompanied by phoned-in voice acting from actors who sounded as if they couldn’t be bothered to care. Aether’s presence in fact only turns the game into one long escort mission, something that gamers were already frustrated and done with by about 2007 at least. A game over state doesn’t occur when she dies, so one would think it wouldn’t be so bad. The problem is, when the player dies she is left where they die. The player then must leave one of the praying altars (shrines) and make their way to her, because it will be impossible to progress without her. If Aether is not with the player, they cannot make a new checkpoint, level up, or save, forcing a grinding halt where if you are to die at the end of a dungeon, you repeat it until you finally reach her.
Even this wouldn’t be so bad if in my playthrough I didn’t encounter multiple bugs that killed me outright. There were times when I would pull my stick to roll backward, and my character would roll sideways and become magnetized to a piece of geography such as a torch, spinning in a circle and dropping me off a ledge to my death. This was an extreme and constant problem, as the majority of my deaths were not from combat, but annoyances like this. Another bug worthy of mention was dying next to a lever and having the prompt to ‘Press A’ when near it. This would stay after death, and if you dared to ever press said button your character would not be able to do anything (move, attack, interact, etc.,) nor could enemies hit me.
Fall of Light has an innumerable amount of problems I could go over and over about, but the basics are is the game is in no way interesting or fun to play. I could forgive lifting elements wholesale from Dark Souls if something innovative or different was done with them. I can’t forgive the game for feeling like work instead of something I was excited to play.