Developer RuneHeads is one year old, fronted by just two people, and based in Italy. Combined, these three factors make Fall of Light: Darkest Edition’s release on PS4 a surprising one thanks to the speed at which it has arrived, as well as the lack of staff on board to manage the port. Unfortunately though, after releasing to moderate praise last year on PC, it appears that this PlayStation 4 version needed more time in the oven. Fall of Light likes to think of itself as a blend of ICO and Dark Souls, but it fails to capitalise on what made either of those experiences so special.
Pitched as an isometric dungeon crawler, you must assist your daughter in navigating a world lost to darkness, in an effort to find the last place on Earth that still sees light. In order to do that, however, you’ll have to overcome all manner of enemies, puzzles, and traps.
The comparisons to ICO are apparent immediately. Fall of Light is effectively one long escort mission, but its mechanics remain fairly basic. You’ll be able to command your daughter Aether to follow you, stop in a certain place, or hold her hand for added protection. It works for the most part, but it’s definitely not anywhere near intriguing. And with a lot of the plot left up to interpretation besides a deep dive into the backstory of the title in the very beginning, this is going to be your main attachment to any sort of story beats. Those who look in the right places will come across some lore, but for the general player, gameplay very much takes the centre stage.
When you’re not hand-holding, engaging in combat is what you’ll spend the majority of your time doing. With a different foe around every corner, you’d think there would be a variety of aggressive options to sink your teeth into, but that’s not the case thanks to a limited number of capabilities that can’t even begin to rival that of your counterparts. Limited by a stamina bar, you’ll hack and slash your way through a number of different enemies with a light and heavy attack, but while there are the likes of dual-wielding and different types of stances, that’s it in terms of your own means of attack.
Other armaments on offer include halberds, daggers, and longswords, but these only ever affect the range at which you deal damage. It all feels a bit too basic, and as such, it’s easy to fall into the trap of spamming the attack button until your stamina runs out, retreating in order to fill the meter back up, and then going back in for the kill. It’s a tactic that certainly gets the job done, but it gets boring quickly. The illusion of variety is there, but in practice, it’s the same thing over and over again.
Elsewhere, you’ll be exploring the environment in order to forge a route ahead, but the element of discovery present can’t hold a candle to that of a FromSoftware title. Numerous dull and dreary locations leave little room for exploration as many supposed side paths are either inaccessible due to invisible walls, or you’re forced down linear pathways that spell death if you fall off them.
Altogether, it makes for an incredibly plodding experience. You’ll wander about the historic settings searching for the next passage forward while placing your life on the line against adversaries who always seem to have the upper hand, especially when they hunt in packs. There’s a deal of satisfaction to be attained from defeating these foes, but gameplay thrills are generally kept to a minimum.
Perhaps the biggest offender of all though is the controls, which suffer from a ludicrous amount of input lag. There’s a very, very noticeable difference between the moment you press a button and the action then being carried out on-screen, and it’s in combat where this flaw rears its ugly head the most. You’re constantly second guessing whether a strike will actually connect when your distance to the creature and the input lag is taken into account, and it’s this that all but ruins the experience. The controls themselves also feel especially weighty as well, as if you’re manoeuvring an 18 wheeler around an obstacle course rather than a retired warrior. To add to that, their unresponsiveness causes issues when navigating tight pathways, whereby you’ll fall to your death through no fault of your own. And if that wasn’t enough, you’ll end up repeating interactive animations over and over again due to your initial button press not immediately doing anything, and so you try again, which in turn triggers everything to occur twice. With all of this working against you, Fall of Light becomes a very frustrating game to play, to the point where it feels like a chore.
As well as the vague nature of the world and story, the Dark Souls comparisons also come into play when encountering Shrines of Power. Here, you can rekindle your health, level up, and fill up what is basically your Estus Flask, while also reviving every downed enemy in the area. Due to operating in the exact manner that a Bonfire does, instead of injecting a bit of innovation into the mechanic, Shrines of Power are more of a carbon copy than something that has put its own twist on an inspiration.
Presentation wise, the art style is somewhat likeable. The nightly atmosphere casts deep blacks across the majority of the environments, while torches and lamps projects shadows across a world lost to darkness. It’s nothing overwhelmingly impressive, but it gets the job done.
Fall of Light: Darkest Edition is far too basic and frustrating for us to consider any sort of recommendation. Thanks to a woeful control scheme that prioritises input lag and unresponsiveness, every one of its mediocre mechanics suffer to the point where Fall of Light feels more like work than fun.