Disclosure: A review key was provided for the contents of this article.
Shardlight is a Point-and-click adventure game developed by Wadjet Eye Games, and it reminds me a bit of the amazing point-and-click PC games from the good ol’ Sierra days of video games. However, there are a few things that I was a bit disappointed with after reaching the end of the game.
Before I get into my thoughts about Shardlight and its gameplay elements, let’s first talk about the story. Shardlight takes place in a dystopian wasteland, roughly about 20 years in the future or so. The world has been devastated by nuclear war, caused by different groups fighting over natural resources and who should be in control of the supply. After the bombs went off, the world was left just barely standing, and those who survived began getting sick from a fatal virus called the Green Lung disease.
After the infected start showing signs of Green Lung, they will eventually die a few weeks later as they reach the terminally ill phase of the disease. The Government is now divided into different ministry factions that all work together to manage resources and offer work to those who needs it, or placing the sick into quarantine to keep the disease from spreading; they have began calling themselves The Aristocracy.
The Aristocracy has created a vaccine, but has told the public that they don’t have enough for everyone. As a result, they give out vaccine lottery tickets to help ease the symptoms of the disease. If your lottery ticket is chosen, you will be given a vial of the vaccine as a reward for your service. Citizens can only receive these lottery tickets by completing various missions and tasks given out by the government, and this is where the game starts with our young heroine, a mechanic named Amy Wellard, accepting one of these missions to restart and repair a faulty power reactor. Amy is given a letter of importance to deliver to a mysterious person named Danton, and your journey begins from there.
Shardlight is literally shards of crystal that is used as a light source throughout the city, you will come across them and will see them throughout the entire game. As for graphics, Shardlight has a retro-pixel art style, with detailed character portraits for almost every character you meet throughout the game. Combine that with fully voiced dialogue, and you have a recipe for immersion to help suck you into the story and world of Shardlight. The voice acting and the main story is great, and I love the world the developers built for the game.
The music isn’t anything special that will blow your mind, but it is nice and subtle enough to play in the background for the entire game without becoming annoying. Most of the songs are an oddly soothing and pleasant mix of acoustic guitar tunes, piano melodies and ambient background noise to make the world come to life.
Shardlight‘s main story is decently long to give you quite a bit of playtime, so if you try to become an achievement hunter it will stretch it out to at least 10 to 15 hours of gameplay. If you’re a master of puzzles or you have a walkthrough, it may take you about five hours if you rush through the story.
The gameplay is pretty basic in Shardlight, and here is where I have the biggest problem. There was only one puzzle that gave me trouble (it involves letters and a string, you’ll know it when you find it), and it took me a good long while to brainstorm it and figure it out because I didn’t understand it at first. After that, the rest of the game becomes a cakewalk, leaving the rest of the puzzles to become extremely easy. It is almost set up as a “One Item, One Puzzle” type of format.
Occasionally there were a few puzzles where you had to re-use older items, but for the most part all of the puzzles and events are pretty straightforward, so I never had a sense of achievement or accomplishment that I was actually doing something important, or where I had to really think out my actions and brainstorm a puzzle to make it to the next area.
Shardlight: A few Flaws
Because of the positive reviews already up, I did have high expectations but was slightly disappointed with the end result. Because Shardlight is a straightforward point-and-click game, I really think it could have benefited from a few more complex puzzles and riddles to add another element of gameplay to make the experience a bit more challenging, without them you pretty much just run through the game clicking the mouse from one area to the next just to progress through the story.
The second problem I had was that there was no sense of danger. Any time you are faced with a life threatening scenario, most of the events are either played out for you or are part of the story to progress you forward to the next event.
Sometimes I like experimenting and failing, just to see that my actions can have dire consequences, and with that sense of peril it helps fuel that feeling of a grand adventure; the fear that you can fail and your life or another character’s life is at risk. In this way, it does feel like Shardlight holds your hand a bit because it makes you feel safe, and as a result, I felt like I had no chance of ever messing up or making a wrong choice. This isn’t a bad thing, and I am sure there are several gamers out there that prefer this in a point-and-click game, but when you combine this with the lack of puzzles it makes the game feel like it has no challenge.
This now ties into the third flaw of the gameplay: It was really hard to have an emotional investment or attachment to any of the characters. I won’t give away any spoilers, but I practically went through the game being an evil murderer and killing everyone I had the choice to kill, and by the end of the game I felt a little bit underwhelmed with how the final events played out and how the characters didn’t seem to have a moral conscience about it all, as if all of my killing had no dire consequences for Amy or her close friends.
Just out of curiosity, I replayed the end of the game just to see all the different endings — it has a total of three different endings that you can see; and although all three endings give a resolution to all of the events leading up to that point, I felt like the main story ended a bit flat as if it needed something more to fill out the rest of the game to give a sense of accomplishment.
For example, Amy was repairing a car that she was working on with her father, and throughout the game she talked about how she wanted to finish the project, but it has no real impact on the main story or characters. It would have been cool to scavenge for car parts throughout the game to piece the car back together as an optional side-quest to fully restore the car, just to reward players that like to point-and-click every single little thing in the game and snoop around to see what they can find. I think this would have been great at the end of the game to see your hard work of investigating pay off to see the car fully restored.
Overall, for $14.99 USD I would say that if you are a fan of classic Sierra style point-and-click adventure games, you might really enjoy playing Shardlight for its storytelling elements, but it does feel a bit lacking by the end. If you aren’t the type that likes easy puzzles and a bit of hand holding, or perhaps you are on the fence if you should go ahead and buy Shardlight, I would suggest waiting for a Steam sale to purchase it.
I would rate it a decent 7 out of 10, because out of the 13 hours I have on record, I never once came across any bugs or glitches, so it is a pretty solid game in terms of play-ability and storytelling. If you are interested in learning more you can visit Shardlight ‘s Steam Store page, as well as the official Wadjet Eye Games website for additional details.