From a pretty young age, post-apocalyptic fiction has been a personal favorite of mine. Whether it's live theater, films, books, or video games, there's just something about the barren wastelands, abandoned buildings, and the dangerous people who are attempting to survive the destroyed worlds that appeal to the "what if" side of my brain.
Since I have had good luck with sci-fi point-and-click adventure games in the past I downloaded Shardlight in the hopes that the post-apocalyptic nature of the story would hold up its end of the bargain.
Story & Setting
At its very core, Shardlight's story is vintage post-apocalyptic. A catastrophic event — good old-fashioned nuclear war in this case — has drastically changed life forever and surviving in the world is downright difficult.
In Shardlight there are two classes of people, the Aristocrats who are in charge of the new world order, and common folk who are just trying to survive. You play as Amy Welland, a lowly mechanic, who stumbles upon an underground rebellion seeking to take down the Aristocrats. This turns out to be problematic for Amy, as she wants to enter a lottery to win a vaccine for the deadly disease known as "green lung." By performing dangerous jobs for the Aristocrats, common folk can earn a lottery ticket to try and win a vaccination, but now Amy has been tasked with spying on the rebellion!
While the plot may not seem ground-breaking, Shardlight is excellently written. The way the story unfolds is truly gripping, and even though the dialogue options don't seem to affect the outcome of the game, it does offer the player a little bit of a role-playing element that helps you feel more connected to Amy throughout your adventure. I often found myself saving my game right before important conversations took place so that I could reload the game and choose different dialogue options to see how the characters would react.
The best thing about a game having an excellent script is how rich and diverse the characters become. Shardlight seems to give every character you run into — even the minor ones — thought and care. Every person has a unique voice and adds a little to the world that Shardlight builds for you to explore. In fact, I would often find myself talking to every character I would come across just so I could learn some new information about the world, and there is a ton of it!
The gameplay is pretty standard fare for a point-and-click adventure game and if you've played one before, Shardlight will feel familiar. You tap around the screen to have Amy move from place to place. If you want to interact with an item, you simply need to touch that object and press the "hand" button.
As you pick up items throughout the game, you'll need to drag them down from the top of the screen and use them to accomplish certain tasks. This caused me to activate the Notification Center on many occasions, which was slightly annoying, but it was never too distracting.
One great mechanic, I did appreciate in Shardlight was the ability to tap and hold the screen to view a list of items and places that you can interact with. The screen can often feel cluttered with all that's going on in the background, and it's great to be able to call up a reminded of what you are trying to accomplish.
Speaking of accomplishments, it's very difficult to accomplish your current objective a lot of the time, but that doesn't mean it's not enjoyable. Certain tasks, mostly near the beginning of the game, are well explained to you, so you never feel lost, but as you progress through the story, accomplishing objectives becomes quite difficult. It's refreshing to see a point-and-click adventure game that makes it difficult to know what to do; it offers players a significant challenge.
Design & Sound
The pixel art in Shardlight looks great. The background scenery, in particular, is impressive, so much detail is put into making the post-apocalyptic world in the game looks dark and depressing. There are a few times where the artwork does make it difficult to read text on the screen, this is most prevalent on the main menu screen before you start playing the game and overall didn't sour my experience.
When you have conversations throughout the game, the characters will appear on screen giving you a better look at each person. I was pleasantly surprised that each character looked very different, and little details, such as scars and other facial markings, were included in the artwork.
The sound is what blew me away in Shardlight, and it wasn't the music that caught my attention, but rather the voice acting. Every character, no matter how small, has a voice and a distinct one at that. The reason the voice acting is so impressive to me is that it's absolutely unnecessary. I don't mean that in a negative way, quite the opposite, it was awesome to see the developers put time and effort where they didn't have to. I already mentioned the game was well written, and the text could have merely stayed just text, but the choice to include voice acting — pretty decent voice acting to boot — made the whole game feel that much more alive.
- Excellent story
- Superb voice acting
- A substantial challenge level
- Difficult to read text at times
Shardlight takes a post-apocalyptic premise you've seen a million times in countless works of fiction and sucks you into a well-developed world populated with genuine characters.
The plot has plenty of twists and turns that will keep you second guessing yourself throughout the game. The rebellion against the new world order seems just as shady and sinister as the Aristocrats themselves, and it's impossible to know who to trust. It's been a long time since I was this invested in a story.
The design is solid, and although the backgrounds occasionally feel cluttered, they do a great job of setting the tone of the game. Plus, the voice acting is an excellent addition to an already impressive script, making this game just as fun to listen to as it is to read.
With a story as deep and well-thought as Shardlight, I have no problem dishing out the $4.99 for the game. The 1.12 GB download file has assured me there is plenty more story for me to play through and I'm more than excited to uncover the mysteries in this well-crafted world.
What do you think of Shardlight?
Have you been playing Shardlight? Did my review convince you to play? I want to hear from you, leave a comment down below or hit me up on Twitter and let me know what you think!
Luke Filipowicz has been a writer at iMore, covering Apple for nearly a decade now. He writes a lot about Apple Watch and iPad but covers the iPhone and Mac as well. He often describes himself as an "Apple user on a budget" and firmly believes that great technology can be affordable if you know where to look. Luke also heads up the iMore Show — a weekly podcast focusing on Apple news, rumors, and products but likes to have some fun along the way.
Luke knows he spends more time on Twitter than he probably should, so feel free to follow him or give him a shout on social media @LukeFilipowicz.
By Tammy Rogers