Over the past year or two I've read a couple of books and watched a couple of films that personally I think would make epic video games.
Skylight Freerange Review
Skylight Freerange is the newest game released from the Canadian independent studio, Dragoon Entertainment. This is Dragoon Entertainments fourth video game, and third in their Skylight universe.
Skylight Freerange is a 3D open-world RPG game for the PC. The story follows the remnants of a team of secret agents as they try to do what they can to end a civil war in Canada in the year 2041. Players can customize their teams for a variety of setups, including but not limited to, melee fighting, long-range fighting, traps, stealth, defense and summoning. Players can explore an open world, while playing through a story where their actions will affect not just the main quests, final battles and endings, but side quests and social situations, as well.
To be extremely blunt, the graphics in Skylight Freerange are terrible. The game looks like a bad PS1 game, with blocky characters and non-existent backgrounds This is disappointing as there is actually a good deal of character customization available in the game. However, it ultimately doesn’t matter much because no matter how much time you spend, your character will look ugly and blocky either way.. Environments are dull and bland, and rooms are usually left bare and unfurnished, forcing you to look at the terrible textures and colours that are covering the walls and floor. It is hard to tell male and female characters apart, as the only indication is their hair length. While some games pull off the “retro” look extremely well, this game is not one of them. The game instead looks half finished, and the cities and locations are nothing more than an eyesore to look at. The lighting is bad, and some dark rooms will you have you squinting to make out the door escape. The day and night cycle doesn’t do the game any favours either as the screen turns very dark and makes you labour to pick out one blocky building from another.
The game starts off with character creation and then allows you to pick your class. There are a great deal of classes available to choose from, however there was little to no explanation as to what the difference between them were, leading to me picking the one that sounded the coolest. This problem also plagued me in next step, party member selection. Skylight Freerange allows you to choose from a selection of 8 different party members with various talents and abilities, allowing you to customize your play style and form the party that you like. However, as I previously stated the lack of distinction between classes made this more of a personal choice rather than a strategic one.
Basic movement is extremely awkward, as the characters walking animation reminded me of a toned down Octodad. I had difficulty with the simplest of things such as opening doors, and the camera is hard to control as well.
Horrible environments paired with the lack of a mini map made exploration a tough task. When everything looks the same, from walls to floors, and you have no sense of direction, it can lead to some frustrating times. The world seemed genuinely packed full of buildings to explore, people to talk too and items to buy, but navigating to them was such a chore that I ultimately didn’t engage in them.
Combat is an odd mixture of turn based and action. Due to lack of tutorials, when I encountered my first enemies in the game I couldn’t even figure out how to attack them. Luckily my AI team mates stepped in, and they awkwardly stood in front of the enemies and shot every few seconds like soldiers in the American revolution. There are an assortment of different weapons and abilities to use, but when basic combat comes down to clicking on a enemy, and waiting for the battle to be over, there’s not much incentive to experiment.
By far the best part of the game is it’s story elements. The characters are genuinely engaging and each one has a different personality. You are able to choose different conversation options when talking to people, which allows you to make things more personal when communicating with others. The game has a very interesting setting as well as it is set in the Canadian prairies, a relatively unvisited location in video games. Being a Canadian myself, I enjoyed the references that they included to various locales. The story is fairly standard, but is still fun and interesting.
Overall, while Skylight Freerange has some interesting ideas and features, they are severely hampered by the presentation and gameplay issues. The interesting story, engaging characters and decisions are in the centre of an egg of problems which is really tough to crack.