Enlightenment is a post-apocalypse top-down rogue-like shooter. As with all rogue-likes, you need to come up with ad hoc solutions in face of ad hoc difficulties and get rewarded for your improvisation. Different from other top-down shooters, actions like charging, rolling and melee combat makes Enlightenment closer to high octane action game. What you see in game is only a peek into the world of Enlightenment; all kinds of clues are carefully hidden over the course of the game, waiting to lead you to greater discoveries.
- Explore a procedurally generated facility
- Fight through hardcore battles
- Loot useful & useless stuffs
- Survive the mighty bosses
- Unveil the stories beneath
OS: Windows 7, 8, 8.1, 10 (64 bit only)
Processor: Intel Core i3 or AMD FX-8120
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Graphics: GeForce GTX 450 1GB or AMD HD 6850 1GB
DirectX: Version 11
Storage: 3 GB available space
August 4th 2017
Publisher: Coconut Island Games
I’ve admittedly not dabbled in the roguelike genre much, as I play a lot of indie titles but somehow managed to completely miss these games that are now so prevalent. This meant that when Sandbox Strategies generously provided Enlightenment for Geeks under Grace to review I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. However upon playing I think I can safely say that this is a deeply flawed game brimming with potential. LizardKing should be commended for their efforts, what they’ve built with such a small team is very impressive, but there is still plenty of room for the improvement that Enlightenment desperately needs.
Violence: Enlightenment is a violent game, though not quite on the same, graphic levels as something like DOOM. The player spends the game shooting guns at humans with some blood splatters on hit. The bigger weapons will cause enemies to explode into giblets under certain conditions. The levels also have blood stains along the floor and the concept art shown on loading screens can be somewhat gruesome.
Language: I only found one usage of swearing; one of the logs drops an s-bomb but nothing beyond that.
Sexual Content: One of the items the player can find is labelled as an erotic magazine. Reading it lets the player constantly recharge their item meter.
Spiritual Themes: The society presented in this game is built around a “Church of Enlightenment and Awakening Science.” What this church actually does or did isn’t clear but from the few context clues it seems like an Orwellian cult more than an actual church.
The setup for Enlightenment is that the world has been hit with a meteor and civilisation has reset to this strange, post-apocalyptic wasteland built around a building called the Ark. The player’s aim is to dive into the depths of this facility in order to…well, the game never actually explains what your motivation to explore is. The player wakes up on an operating table, a disembodied voice (sans voice-acting) tells them to get moving—and that’s it. What information the game does provide is sparse and not very informative, further hindered by the writing of the game and the poor English, an unfortunate hindrance of the Chinese-based team’s low budget. A strong example of this is the voice at the beginning of the game I originally read as Russian. His dialogue misses words in a way that the thick stereotypical accent tends to do and there is no voice acting to correct this impression. Then I see a “y’all” written into the dialogue and suddenly this character is going back and forth between soviet and cowboy. As unintentionally hilarious as that mix is, either the team is dropping words or the character is just written inconsistently.
The story and the various side characters aren’t very important; they essentially just bleed into the background so narrative being poorly handled isn’t a huge mark against the game but it’s worth noting that if story is the reason you play a game you’ll be disappointed here. The game still has plenty of creative ideas in its level themes and enemies, but it is not interested in explaining them. The biggest source of backstory may actually come from the loading screens, where a sentence of explanation is given with some of the concept art. As grim as the artwork is, it was very satisfying to arrive in some of the later levels and recognise them from the images.
Enlightenment‘scombat is definitely one of its strong points. Despite pretensions of an isometric survival horror, this is an action shooter through and through, demanding the player be active or be put under. The player has to gun down large groups of enemies going from room to room and since the enemy AI is dialled to “so aggressive they’ll line up behind doors to take a stab at the player as soon as they open them”, the action never really lets up. Thankfully, attacks are telegraphed well enough that it gives the player time to avoid them, but sometimes the camera angle and dark lighting make it difficult or actually impossible to avoid, even with the infinitely useful dodge roll. I do wonder what the point of adding a stamina meter was, since it doesn’t deplete fast enough to make any difference to combat, it just stops the player from sprinting everywhere, which can be annoying when backtracking through a floor.
There is a tremendous amount of enemy variety and while the narrative reasoning for these types is thin, it does force the player to strategize on the fly and gives battles a very hectic pace. The Items the player can pick up and use throughout the game also have great diversity, and while there are definitely some complete duds, there are still a few that are incredibly useful. I was very happy to see the words “ceiling fan” appear in my inventory and was even more excited to learn it was one of the best items in the game. This does raise the question of how well made the game is, however, since items can be placed in rooms the player hasn’t even opened the door to yet. It’s an effective strategy when it comes to rooms with more threatening enemies in it, but doesn’t seem intentional.
The weaponry Enlightenment provides is plentiful and varied, ranging from replications of real-life firearms to comically oversized blasters one might expect from a Ratchet & Clank game. The contrast is appreciated, but also somewhat jarring. The player can be blowing away enemies with an actual real-life assault rifle and then immediately switch over to an ice cannon that causes them to explode. The creativity and range is great, however the weapons themselves feel rather weak and there are only one or two guns that feel like they have any impact. Sound design is fairly lacking, a lot of the firearms are too quiet for what they represent and don’t have the punch of most other shooters. Similarly, I could only find one enemy type that actually reacted to being shot and on normal difficulty the opponents are buffed so hard that a high calibre revolver still takes four shots to down even the most basic foes. The damage boost you get from playing on easy does help to make a lot of the weapons more viable, so being given two revolvers at the start like the game stuck me with once isn’t an entire run wasted, but it doesn’t fix the other problems the weapons have.
The biggest problem I have with Enlightenment definitely comes from the absurdly high difficulty. What starts as a novel, spooky descent into an abandoned asylum quickly devolves into an exercise in frustration. When labelling a difficulty as “normal” it implies that this was the challenge the developer intended the player to face. However the developers must allow room within the game’s systems for the player to improve and overcome. In the case of Enlightenment, it feels like LizardKing was more concerned with making a game that killed the player because they wanted those easy Dark Souls parallels. The difference with not just From Software’s works but even games dating back to OG Castlevania is that as much as they are sold on the image that they’re tough as nails, they are still fair. The player has ample chance to learn the level design and enemies, improving on navigation, and outplaying them. Since this game is a roguelike, the player has very little chance to learn anything as it all changes once the player bites the dust. Similarly, the levels are so large that it becomes ridiculously difficult to even progress far enough to see the second floor. I will say, as much as it hurt my ego to do so, once I dropped the game to easy my experience became a lot more enjoyable so I would recommend any and all other players to do the same. The game doesn’t automatically drop to a “babies only” mode and still puts up a fight but becomes much more rewarding as a result.
In terms of presentation Enlightenment isn’t anything special. Its environments are well modelled, and detailed from level to level, however, they’re built procedurally and can become a little repetitive. A fair few rooms get reused on their respective levels and once a player has died four or five times, they’ll have seen everything a tileset has to offer. The enemies, on the other hand, didn’t get the same love. Each type is visually distinct, despite begging the question how one man managed to find so many look-alikes, all with unlimited supplies of dynamite. Where everything really falls apart for them is in terms of animation. Some actions – most of the attacks for example – are done well, with plenty of telegraphing and a lot of impact on hits. Contrarily, there’s the enemy type that charges forward, legs running one way despite facing the other. In terms of the camera, because of the isometric view of the game, if the player ends up in a corner the walls will block them from seeing anything other than outlines of their character. This means item boxes, collectables and even entire enemies can end up hidden from view. Making these walls at least translucent when the player is near them would have helped make sure the player doesn’t miss these things, but without that it just adds to the frustration.
The final nail in the coffin is that Enlightenment just doesn’t work very well. Controller support is bugged; the game wouldn’t let me rebind buttons at all and the button dedicated to restoring health doesn’t do its job, meaning using a keyboard is really the only way to play. I mentioned before that the dialogue isn’t effectively translated but there were points the game seemed to forget to make the switch from Chinese to English. There were also times where the game started stuttering with seemingly no reason behind it. It was subtle, but enough to be seriously distracting and, on one particular level, seemed to randomly stop only when I just about managed to kill the sub-boss. Enemy A.I. is horrendously stupid; they’re always aware of where the player is at any moment and their only tactic is too beeline straight for them, regularly piling up outside doors waiting for the player to open them or getting themselves killed on the various traps that litter the halls. As funny as it is to watch collectables I didn’t earn fly to me from their corpses in other rooms, or to see them light themselves on fire with no spacial awareness telling them to move out of the way, it does take the player out of the atmosphere.
Review code generously provided by Sandbox Strategies.
+ Good atmosphere
+ Fun, fast paced combat
+ Creativity in both level theming and weapon design
- Translation issues
- Normal difficulty is too unfair to be fun
- Story is given almost no details and explains nothing
- Technical issues with performance and controller support