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Light's End (Xbox 360) artwork

Light's End (Xbox 360) review


"This mechanic lends Light’s End a unique feel; there’s no battle engine to be found or any statistics to build; it’s purely a character-based puzzler where you need to jump from differing perspectives throughout the game to keep the story moving along."



Light’s End came into my life unexpectedly when a botched download attempt left my newly online 360 with a trial version of the game sitting on its already bloated hard drive. Call it fate; call it serendipity, but the odd accident catapulted me into a hand-drawn simplistic mining village almost completely filled with rugged, bearded miners, a warehouse full of jewels and a world on the mend from a civil war that’s torn it in half.

Crystal, though, cares not for this plight. She’s a teenage girl and, as such, hates everything that thinks they know better! Pining for her boyfriend, who left the sleepy little village to join the remnants of the Royal army, and suffocating under the oppressive thumb of her overbearing father, she’s filled with prepubescent angst. She bites out at her father, sneaks out at night with the rest of the disenfranchised teenage girls and as such, thanks to some tight dialogue, isn’t especially likeable. She’s selfish, overbearing and wrong in almost everything she says or does, yet still maintains the attitude that she’s the only person in the world that makes any sense.

Even when she sneaks into the mine in the game’s opening, her unsavoury personality is what takes centre stage. Trespassing in the forbidden caves, she finds an unusual statue that, when disturbed, issues a white flame into her body. Most people would be freaked out by this, but Crystal’s too preoccupied running a self-serving dialogue of how worthless her life is and why suicide is the only option open to her. Something turned completely around when the mine starts to cave in and she’s left cowering in the corner, pleading for her life not to end.

Though she opens the story, Crystal is not Light’s End’s true protagonist. You play, instead, the role of the white flame she released and, as such, you can jump from her body into anyone she’s near to and control them instead. When the floor beneath her starts to crumble, you must jump into the body of her worried father who chased her into the mines and pull off a thankless rescue attempt that has you leaping from body to body until the girl is safe.

This mechanic lends Light’s End a unique feel; there’s no battle engine to be found or any statistics to build; it’s purely a character-based puzzler where you need to jump from differing perspectives throughout the game to keep the story moving along. When Crystal makes it to Sol, the game’s biggest town, she’s left with the problem of tracking some people down. A homeless guy has the information she needs, but he’s unwilling to cooperate without something to eat in return. Just going up to store owners and asking for food for her new hungry chum doesn’t result in success, but manipulating the townsfolk into a calculated chain reaction of planted gossip and sweet-talk through the mouths of those you can possess will slowly reveal the solution for you. The situations can radically differ: you might need to chase down threads of gossip to open one door or use several people to fill a target with pride in another. There’s a definite thought process you need to adopt in order to snake your way through all the game’s obstacles, but the solution is never too far away nor too well hidden.

But perhaps Light’s End‘s biggest selling point is just how good the writing can be on occasion. Though there’s an over branching plot about the decaying kingdom’s warring faction between the old Royalists, the anti-monarchy rebellion and a group out outlawed bandits, it’s very much a character-driven tale. Through the subsequent childish and insolent actions she takes, Crystal quickly finds she needs to grow up when she the world outside of Daddy’s gaze doesn't glady baby her. Likewise, other characters can surprise you with their growth, disappoint you with their actions or sober you with their sacrifices. All the while, the game is split into chapters narrated by a mysterious lonely voice speaking out against the injustice of a harsh, intolerable world. What starts life as a collection of loose threads ends it as a fully woven tapestry.

At between three to five hours, Light’s End is never going to be a rolling epic of a game, but it’s the perfect example of why indie developers remain so important to our industry. In many ways, it’s a unique experience that belies the homely graphics and instead has faith in its own sense of depth and intelligence. It might be a game I discovered by accident, but this makes it no less rewarding.

Rating: 8/10

EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (April 02, 2010)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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Feedback

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zippdementia posted April 04, 2010:

You sold me. But I don't have an Xbox 360. It makes me want one, though. Is this scheduled for PS3 release?

By the way... when you can make me want an Xplosion 360, you've done a damn good job of selling a game. Nice work. That's not me lashing out at the Xbox, either. I really do believe that they explode on a regular basis.
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EmP posted April 04, 2010:

Thanks for reading. As for the chances of a PS3 release, I would say extremely low. I'm not even sure PSN offer an indie service and, if they don't, I'll happily trade this off for a machine I may need to go without for a week while Microsoft fix their dodgy circuit breakers every couple of years.
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zippdementia posted April 04, 2010:

You mean, if they "do?"

I think they must have SOME Indie service, because they've been highly in support of games like Flow, Flower, and Everyday Shooter.
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zigfried posted April 04, 2010:

PSN does not have an indie game service. What they do offer is similar to Xbox Live Arcade, where a game can be released if it goes through the standard (somewhat strict) approval process. That's very different from stuff like this.

Regarding Light's End, I thought it was pretty terrible, but I'll admit that the conversation/"light" mechanic was a cool idea and a strong focus for the review.

//Zig
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EmP posted April 04, 2010:

I have to say, I'm really digging the indie scene of XBLA right now: I've not payed more than 80msp for the vast majority of the games, and am getting a lot of game time out of them.

I'm a little surprised you didn't like the game, Zig.
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zigfried posted April 04, 2010:

I'll give it another try sometime. Maybe I was just in a bad mood and wasn't receptive to the story or something.

The art was pretty atrocious, but that's more forgivable as long as the ideas are good (especially in an indie game).

//Zig
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EmP posted April 04, 2010:

I think what drove me through the opening stages was just how unlikable Crystal was. Once the game forces her to grow the hell up and she becomes less interesting, you're already in a bigger location, the puzzles you need to solve take centre stage, and the pretence that she's the main character is well and truly dropped.
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wolfqueen001 posted April 04, 2010:

This review makes me want an Xbox. Out-of-the-box games have always interested me, even though I've never actually played any.

I did try Flower for a little bit at a friend's house, though. I actually found it quite nice.
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zippdementia posted April 04, 2010:

Flower is awesome.

Thanks for the clarification on the Indie thing, Zig.

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