Shardlight is the latest adventure title in Wadjet Eye Games’ impressive lineup. Hot on the heels of last year’s hit Technobabylon and other gems like the Blackwell series and Gemini Rue, comes another gripping story set in a bleak, post-apocalyptic society.
In the world of Shardlight, the middle class doesn’t exist and citizens are led by a corrupt authoritarian government. With a terrible disease ravaging a war-torn city, one woman aims to change the course of history – or die trying.
“It’s been 20 years since the bombs fell…”
And with that dramatic intro, protagonist Amy Wellard’s journey to find a cure for Green Lung begins.
Wait…Green Lung? What’s that? It doesn’t sound good…
Since the war ended, much of the population has succumbed to a fatal respiratory disease called Green Lung that shows no signs of slowing. A vaccine exists, but only the rich and powerful can acquire it. The less fortunate folks, meanwhile, can choose to work dangerous government jobs in exchange for lottery tickets in hopes they will “win” a vaccine dose. It’s a harsh, frightening world – but it’s the perfect setting for an adventure game!
It’s during one of her own lottery jobs that Amy’s story is set into motion. She has started to show signs of Green Lung, but so far has been able to keep it under wraps. She believes the government is hiding a cure and is willing to risk her life to find the truth and expose it. Time is running out though, and desperate times call for desperate measures.
Since Amy is mechanically inclined, she accepts a job repairing an underground reactor. If successful, she won’t earn a paycheck but merely a ticket for the upcoming vaccine lottery. Yikes – talk about overworked and underpaid! I’ll never complain about my job again.
While exploring the reactor zone, Amy meets another worker who was also trying to fix it but is now pinned under fallen debris. Amy is faced with a tough decision at this point, along with the game’s first major puzzle. I found the puzzles in Shardlight to be challenging without being frustrating. At no point did I have to refer to a walkthrough but my brain still got a good workout.
As the plot thickens, players learn more about a possible cure for Green Lung through some of Amy’s best friends and worst enemies. It’s always a guessing game as to who can be trusted, though, and that keeps the tension high. A creepy, mysterious character dubbed “The Reaper” becomes a major force behind events in the game. He’s so prominent, in fact, that an entire group of Green Lung sufferers devote what little time they have left on earth to him. But what’s his true purpose? No one really knows – not even Amy – until the end of the story.
Be prepared for some laugh-out-loud moments during the game too, along with some emotional scenes that will really tug at the heartstrings. Through traditional point-and-click puzzle solving, the story will uncover a tangled web of government corruption that is one of Wadjet Eye’s best stories to date. If you’ve played any of their past titles, you’ll be right at home with Shardlight. And if for some reason you haven’t experienced some of the best point-and-click games on PC, Shardlight is a great introduction to the the Wadjet Eye catalog.
Like other Wadjet Eye titles, Shardlight features old-school, pixel art style visuals. Don’t let that sway you though, the backgrounds are beautifully drawn and capture the everyday struggles of a dying city in surprisingly rich detail. Be sure to keep an eye out for artist Ben Chandler’s nod to Fallout 3!
Somber but gorgeous background music (mostly guitar) helps to really portray the desperation that Amy and all the other characters are feeling. Voice acting is top-notch throughout and it all works together to make a real treat for the ears. Huge props to Nathaniel Chambers for his work here.
Intuitive, traditional point-and-click style controls. Sit back and relax, because the entire game can be played without a keyboard!
Each time Wadjet Eye releases a new adventure game, I think they can’t do any better – and each time I’m proven wrong. Shardlight is a masterpiece in storytelling and continues to raise the bar for adventure games. Likeable characters, an engaging story, and beautiful graphics and sound create a game that absolutely should not be missed. If there’s anything negative I can say, it’s that I was left wanting more. I was able to complete the game in less than eight hours and while it was a fantastic ride, I just didn’t want it to end.
There’s no doubt that Shardlight will be a top contender for my 2016 Game of the Year.