I banged my hands on the desk and swore for the thousandth time before eventually giving up in a rage of frustration. That was my experience with There Is No Light. The game labels itself as a brutal action-adventure hack-and-slash, yet my time with the demo only really sold me on its being brutal for the wrong reasons.
The first stage of the demo introduces you to the lore of the world, dropping you in with a diagram of the controls before sending you off to explore. As you begin this journey, you can speak with the inhabitants of the settlement you find yourself in, although the conversations did little to help me understand where I was, why I was there, or what I was meant to be doing. To its credit, There Is No Light does have a gritty atmosphere that is present throughout the wide variety of environments shown in the demo. But despite the obvious tone communicated through the art style, the dialogue and gameplay lack the same clarity of vision.
What enticed me to try this demo was my weakness for the action-adventure hack-and-slash genre. Unfortunately, the combat just feels off — which is what caused my deep aggravation. The playable character has three weapons that feel indistinct from each other. One weapon has a wider range than the others, but even then, all attacks follow the same “hit twice, dodge, and repeat” cycle. Regardless of enemy type, this was the strategy required in every situation. Special abilities do little to improve the variety, instead leaving me open to take damage that often cost me my life.
The greatest sticking point for me in There Is No Light was a lack of precision when aiming weapons, making it difficult to attack enemies as they approached from different angles. I rarely felt like I could accurately hit my opponents because they were always just outside of my range. If the solution to this was using a different weapon type, I wish the game had better communicated this idea so that I could feel successful enough to want to play the full game. Attempting to play on a controller to remedy my issues with combat only made everything more difficult due to introducing a delayed response.
The enemy density was perfectly designed for constant attacks with no cool down, but the dodging nature of combat just made encounters unsatisfying and unnecessarily difficult. I died a lot but never felt like I learned or got better at the game because so many other factors were working against me. This type of gameplay may work well for others, but it just did not provide the same satisfaction that I have come to expect from this genre.
There Is No Light feels like it reveals too much of its experience through its demo, for better or worse. Zelart has been generous in showing players what they can expect from the full game, and hopefully this will help it find a suitable audience. However, as the demo stands, There Is No Light is still missing the spark of satisfaction that makes the action-adventure genre so appealing to me. For now, you will just need to check out the demo and see if you agree.