Shardlight (2016)

Shardlight (2016),  a game by Ben Chandler, Fransico Gonzales, written by Fransisco Gonzales, developed by Wadjet Eye Games, published by Wadjet Eye Games

Shardlight might be the best game indie studio Wadjet Eye has put out. I know a lot of people scream here, what about Blackwell series, to which I can honestly say, never cared much for them. Shardlight has been the first time when I've been genuinely interested in the story and the characters to the end in any of their games. This despite the story isn't always as good as it could be.

After the 3rd world war, all has gone to hell. People try to scrape by, scavenging the wastes and the show is ran by Tiberius, a masked head to the Aristocracy, that is keeping the populace in a tight lease by carefully dispensing them an antidote against the Green Lung, a plague that will eventually kill everyone if no treated right. Those who get terminally ill are eventually taken into the Quarantine Zone, from where the only way out is by dying.

In irder to get the rare vaccine, people need to either be important enough or take a lottery job, that will give them a ticket, that has a potential to win a dose. This is where we meet the hero of the story, Amy Wellard, who's a mechinc on a lottery run. Her job is to turn on a reactor under the city ruins.

As she enters the reactor room, she finds a man there, crushed under a heap of rubble. He was the maintenance man, but as he's incapacitated, it's up to Amy to turn the reactor on again. As his last dying wish, he gives Amy an envelope, addressed to someone called Denton. She promises to deliver it as well as she promises to let the poor man out from his misery by firing a crossbow bolt into his head.

As you might imagine, Shardlight, a name that comes from the pieces or uranium glass sewn all around the cityscape to provide some amount of light, is grim tones story set in a dystopian world after a devastating war. While the story is mostly relatively toned down, it does have its moments of trying too hard, especially when it progresses to the Quarantine Zone, which is easily the hammiest part of the whole tale with its scenery of hanged bodies everywhere.

Overall the story and the characters are pretty good though. I especially liked the design of the Aristocrats and their militia, all in their revolutionary war era clothing and weapons. Tiberius especially is a pretty good villain with his mask and wig covered head.

While the story itself is pretty linear, there are a couple of places, where you can choose what happens. These little bits come at the end part of the game, so they don't affect on the main bulk of the game, but you do have a choice from three different endings.

The puzzle design is mostly pretty solid. All the puzzles can be solved by using regular logic, which is always a plus on an adventure game. But then again, this isn't anything new for a Wadjet Eye, as most of their titles do follow the convention of making the puzzles fairly logical. Even the hardest puzzles in the game are solvable with a little thinking and exploration.

The user interface is, just like it's become a custom for any modern adventure game, a smart cursor system, where you control things by left and right click. Left click interacts with hotspots as well as moves the character to a click location. Right click can be used to examine. Very simple and works as well as you'd imagine. So no problem there.

Graphically Shardlight is what you'd expect from Wadjet Eye. a low-resolution, retro-themed game. the art is okay, very atmospheric at best, serviceable in worst. The character sprites are big and detailed, but the animation isn't anything special. The walk cycles and special case animations are pretty stiff and low frame, but I've seen worse as well.

Voice acting is probably best I've heard from in Wadjet Eye production. This is one aspect in their games that keeps getting better with each production they do and this is not an exception.  Music, while not memorable, is adequate in setting a tone for the game.

All in all, Shardlight is a solid adventure, that should provide around 6 hours of gameplay. This, I feel, is a good length for an adventure game, especially for one that is story heavy, as it doesn't feel like it would be wearing out its welcome.

Shardlight can be bought from GOG and Steam. I wholeheartedly recommend it.