In Rays of the Light
Publisher: Sometimes You
Developer: Noskov Sergey
Release date: 17th March 2021
Approximate size: 1.6 GB
Age Rating: PEGI 7
Reviewed on: Xbox Series X
Screenshots: Xbox Series X
In Rays of the Light comes to us from Sergey Noskov, the same developer behind the fantastic 7th Sector which has to go down as one of my favourite Indie titles of recent years, one of the few I’ve returned to long after release.
Rather than the side-scrolling platform fused puzzler of 7th Sector, In Rays of the Light is a first-person walking simulator, that sees you start off in an old desolate building.
Soon after starting you’ll find a torch taped to a wall, which quickly becomes your best friend, even though it’s daylight outside, the building is dark, with many windows boarded up and corridors with little to no light to guide you, wandering around you soon discover the building your in is an old school, and while you can step outside to take in a little fresh air, you’ll want to carefully examine every dark corner as you progress.
Exploring the building you will come across some good old fashioned hurdles, such as doors that are locked or blocked. You should pick up the iron bar fairly early which will help you explore more of the building, and while there’s no swinging of the bar, you’ll be given a “press A” prompt when you can use it to break open a blocked door.
Continuing through the old building, it quickly becomes apparent that you’re not getting much guidance, there are no waypoints, no bright highlights of required tasks, just a subtle glow when you look directly at something that can be interacted with, these leads to a lot of looking around, relying on your light and patience to make sure you haven’t missed that small essential clue.
One such item types are photographs that you’ll find taped to walls, these are mostly insignificant, but some are hiding a number that needs to be remembered for the first major puzzle, which allows access to a locked cabinet.
Progressing through the first chapter, you’ll pick up a few keys, and a couple of objects that require power, with some clues pointing to the basement.
After plenty more exploration and going back and forth to every single room to double and triple check you’ve not missed something, you’ll eventually restore power and be ushered on to the second chapter.
This is the first point I was able to say I had any idea what was going on, as the audio and some visual clues start to describe why everything is in its current state.
Merging how things are now, and how they came to be, doesn’t really pick up the pace of the game, but it does allow you to start understanding the direction of the game, many articles I’ve read about “In rays of the Light” explain about nature, and beauty still being evident in an almost post-apocalyptic setting, but for me, other than a bird on a table that I didn’t see until it’d flown out of the window, and old, ugly vines and moss, I couldn’t say there was much beautiful about the nature, however, the overall presentation, the architecture and the use of light were beautiful in a gaming sense.
Graphically, I was fairly impressed, textures might not be the best, and it certainly has the feel of an indie title, but even without any advanced raytracing or bloom lighting, the overall use of light and dark is very well done, even though you will come across sections inside where you wish you had more light.
Audio is on a much higher level and while there’s some repetition in ambience and effects (especially beyond the first chapter) it all combines to help explain the surroundings and highlight a little more about what’s going on, maybe in some games the audio wouldn’t receive quite such a glowing report, but when the graphics and presentation otherwise do so little to guide you, it helps the audio stand out.
It’s also worth noting that the overall pace of “In Rays of the Light” is incredibly slow, you can jog, (well, walk a little faster) by holding the left trigger, but you’re forced to check every little corner to make sure you’ve not walked past an essential item, this becomes increasingly annoying in the second chapter when your otherwise trusty torch is constantly flickering, I’m sure the intentions were to help set the mood for this dark and dismal area, but it just makes navigation and finding anything near impossible and I found myself literally walking in circles for well over an hour.
In Rays of the Light isn’t a bad game, but it feels like the developer has used some pretty bland tricks to stretch out a persons experience, force them to walk slowly, ensure they have to spend 80% of their time searching for a handful of products and reduce lighting to the bare minimum to make sure they don’t get through the area too quickly,
It combines to leave me wishing I’d found a guide to assist me, however, I fear such a guide would make getting through the game far too quick and unenjoyable.
The “Storytelling” is a little too subtle and times, when I would have loved a signifianct cut-scene to piece together all of those clues and make sense of what I’d just endured, was instead replaced by a gentle shove into the next chapter.
The other issue I found was uncertainty, while only a handful, I came across a few items that I still now don’t know if they had a use or a meaning if it was merely a distraction, why bother, and if I couldn’t make use of them until later in the game, why did it make me feel like I should have been returning to them much earlier.
It all combined to a pretty frustrating experience, now I’m certainly not biased against walking simulators and simular titles, I thoroughly enjoyed games like What Remains of Edith Finch, Firewatch, Everybody’s Gone to Rapture, Vanishing of Ethan Carter, and even intentionally slow-paced titles like Abzu held my attention for their entirety, but rather than the meditative quest I was promised, I found In Rays of the Light frustrating and it really struggled to hold my attention.
The £6.69 price-tag might be a saving grace for some, and I’m sure hardcore fans of the genre will find satisfaction, but for me In Rays of the Light just offered too little at too slow a pace for me to be able to recommend it above any of those aforementioned titles.