It’s time to beat back the tide of darkness in the new Playstation 5 release of this morbid Metroidvania in our Dark Light review!
Way back in 1986, two little unassuming games were released on the NES called Metroid and Castlevania. Little did developers know that nearly 40 years later these classics would become a portmanteau of these titles and create its own sub-genre!
Metroidvania games are now more popular than ever with titles like Hollow Knight, Ori, Axiom Verge and even new entries to the Metroid and Castlevania series, taking the gaming world by storm. Sydney-based indie developer, Mirari & Co, have entered the fray with their take on the genre.
Dark Light is at its core a metroidvania but it incorporates other elements from popular genres including souls-like and rogue-lites. So does Dark Light shine bright in this sea of ever-increasing competitors or does it sink down beneath the earth? Find out in our review!
Your little drone also shows invisible monsters.
Dark Light Review – Story
The world has ended and the remnants of humanity now live in hidden shelters deep underground. You are one of the last remaining Dark Hunters, an elite squad of soldiers, to battle the creatures that have come from the Dark Void.
Lifts help you access other areas in a vertical fashion (you may have heard of them).
You begin at the lowest point of the underground and must work your way towards a settlement nearby. Unfortunately, most of the backstory and lore for this world is relegated to large paragraphs of text, which is disappointing because it’s quite an interesting and different take on the apocalypse. When you reach the settlement, Eztli will task you to end this nightmare with the hope to save humanity.
There’s a decent story somewhere in this paragraph, I can feel it!
The dark void is a portal that resides on top of a structure called the celestial tower, close to the surface of the Earth, which must be closed to halt the advances of the terrifying creatures spewing forth this otherworldly doorway. Skeletons, abominations, zombies and dragons are just some of the obstacles in your path on your journey.
Incredible art design.
Once reaching the end and beating the final boss, the story takes an interesting turn that whilst letting you finish the game, also lets you begin anew. Possibly a tried and tested mechanic that hasn’t worked well in the past (No Man’s Sky) but it suits this type of game and allows you to change factions and increase the quality of your gear in new game plus.
With around 10 areas to explore there has to be some good loot somewhere.
Dark Light Review – Gameplay
Usually with Metroidvania games, you get given upgrades as you progress the story and whilst that is somewhat true here, the other inclusions of souls-like and rogue-lite components add another twist to this. You begin with a basic sword and a gun with simple abilities like dodge, parry and jump. Going through the starting areas is quite tricky with limited equipment and it feels much more like a side scroller Dark Souls.
One tiny sword against an army of darkness, should be fine right?
After reaching the first settlement, the Cargo Bay, and being introduced to many mechanics, most of which are hardly explained, Dark Light starts to open up and become easier due to the abundance of upgrades and abilities available. There is a leveling system akin to Souls games with enemies dropping currency that is lost on death. Health and energy require additional materials to upgrade but are well worth investing in.
So many upgrades to choose from!
A big leap happens around two-thirds into the game where you can choose between two factions, the Blood Wolves or Diamond Order Knights. Once you pick you must eliminate the other faction to unlock a drone that gives you access to an impressive skill tree. You can see all the skills that are available before you pick a side to choose one that suits your play style.
The lair of the Blood Wolves.
The map is somewhat tricky to understand as this is all set in 2D whereas the world map is presented in 3D with a ton of fast travel points (portals) around. Once you get the hang of travelling between areas and what each location’s map entails, you can explore and even find new areas.
Simple yet effective map design.
When exploring, coming across power-up towers will give you a choice between 3 abilities to use until your next timely death. This feature is borrowed from roguelites (think Hades) which can be a great help depending on how lucky you are. However, most of these abilities are just early access to ones unlocked in the skill tree, making these slightly redundant in the later game.
Not bad choices this time.
With an array of parts grabbed from different games, Dark Light players are spoiled for choice making the last areas much easier. In addition to the above, there are also a few other parts that are worth noting, like shortcuts, weapon upgrades, throwables and replenishable health items.
Dark Light Review – Presentation
Apocalypse settings within media normally convey desolation or destruction, whereas Dark Light offers a slighter fresher take on this. Instead of barren wastelands, you explore a darker world under the surface filled with swamps, fire pits and hidden futuristic labs.
I swear these are the same teleport devices from Stargate.
As this is set in the future there is a decent amount of cyberpunk aesthetic to combine with the monstrosities of the Dark Void. Some enemies you face are rogue androids or even large machines. To complement this cyber theme, your gear is all cyberware in design, with no actual visual changes to your character whilst an interesting take on equipment it still would have been a nice addition.
I’ll be back…to find more gear.
Although not boasting incredibly realistic graphics, Dark Light shines in the background and creature designs. The developer has also thrown in the ability to switch to a pixelated view, giving off classic metroidvania vibes.
Whilst not specifically said, the suns and moons found underground all seem man-made!
The music choice to accompany this cybernetic adventure is relatively suited with futuristic overtones. However, it ends up being very repetitive with not much variety or even well-timed themes. Exploring an area with a crescendo building up was at first thrilling, the game letting you think something was about to happen. When it didn’t, it became a bit tiresome towards the end of the game.
A bit of gameplay and music can be found in this trailer!
Dark Light Review – What Else
Exploration of whole areas may or may not net you with additional upgrades. The other roguelike addition here is the drop rate and likelihood of rarer items, for better and for worse. Aside from taking on the handful of side missions to defeat non-mandatory bosses, there isn’t much to do aside from trying to level up your Dark hunter.
Is this actually another Skyrim re-release?
This becomes frustrating when looking for a certain item to upgrade health or energy to increase your odds against the next challenging boss. Some of the shops also weren’t explained in great detail, as before nearly completing the game, one shop was discovered to contain the actual health and energy items that were so desperately needed.
Health and Energy stones are randomly dropped by enemies making them a sought-after resource.
Lastly, the main draw card for extra content is the new game plus modes. As stated before, once finishing the game, you can choose to enter Nightmare mode and essentially start again. You are still on the same mission as before but keep all your gear and upgrades to battle even harder dark forces.
Do you dare?
Dark Light Review – Conclusion
Mirari & Co have created some intriguing ideas by integrating several key elements from different game types. Most of this works well enough but occasionally Dark Light feels a bit too bloated with an abundance of design choices. However, this doesn’t make it less fun or challenging, especially if you take advantage of the nightmare mode.
Fast travel points are these cool-looking portals.
The story has a great concept but lacks that final punch to really drive it home to the player. Admittedly, its flaws drag the game down but there’s no denying it has an addictive gameplay loop found in Dark Souls and the subtle pull at your need to explore every inch of the map. If you need a 2D Side Scrolling adventure with a tonne of gameplay options and fun combat then you need look no further.
Why don’t I get two swords?
So, why should you play Dark Light?
- Fan of Metroidvanias
- Amazing cyberpunk aesthetic and themes
- High Replayability
But why shouldn’t you play Dark Light?
- Story is quite loose
- Too many elements from other games
- Soundtrack lacking in variety
A review code was kindly provided by Mirari & Co for the purpose of our Dark Light review. You can check out more of our roguelike reviews here and if you haven’t already, be sure to join the Qualbert Discord to find out about the latest game and review updates!