Going through the items that have recently been released on Steam, GeekBeach’s Orelight was an absolute stand out. Appearing in the trailer like a cross between Diablo and Don’t Starve, the concept is absolutely solid. When it came to my attention that we snagged a code for coverage, I was ecstatic. Those of you familiar with my normal introduction paragraph structure know what’s coming up next. Yes, disappointment. And stabbed bats. Lots of stabbed bats.
While it can be played in single player mode, this game is meant to be played with other people. In fact, there are official servers set up where players can hop in and out, working together to gather materials to upgrade equipment and build a sprawling fort to call home. These servers were emptier than Ann Coulter’s sense of morality every time I played. I just want to get that out there before I delve into the meat of what is available here. Playing with folks could make all of the difference.
First off, the graphics are terrible. With the exception of some light source effects, the appearance of the environments were a muddled mess. I do not understand why the tall mushrooms yield wood for crafting. Is there some sort of mushroom tree? Why does my character look like Mossman from He-Man with his facial features sanded off? Everything just felt drab, gray, and sparse. I certainly never came across anything remotely resembling the snowy plains or green forests that can be seen in the screen shots. To be fair, the trailer gives a more accurate representation of the look. I realize that this is an Early Access game, but if experience bears out, this will be the look of the final product.
What can be fixed is the mapping and path finding system. During my time with this game, I spawned at what I assume was to be the “home base” of sorts. I slowly ventured out and returned, each time bringing back stone and wood. Occasionally I would find meat. With what I was able to find, I was soon able to create a campfire to cook meat and a furnace to create burned wood. (Okay, it was actually coal.) I was never able to find the iron ore needed to upgrade my weapons and armor. So I would venture further and further out. Eventually, I was ambushed by a swarm of skeletons and needed to tactically retreat. (Read: ran screaming away with little concern about direction.) When I was able to shake them, I realized that I was well and truly lost. Checking that map yielded no information, not even an arrow pointing to the direction of “home.” Since the environment all looked the same, I was not able to rely on any familiar landmarks or even wall structures to get me back to familiar ground. I was hopelessly turned around. A map legend, compass, or a way to leave waypoints on the map would have solved this issue easily. This is something that will hopefully be resolved as time goes on.
How to find iron and other resources could use a smidge of in-game explanation, too. Normally, one would assume that this could be found in the stone walls. Well, I was able to pick up and store all the stone in the world, but never did I find iron ore to use. Am I supposed to hack at the walls? If so, that wasn’t working. Maybe I need a pickax, but I should never figured out how to make one using a potent mixture of wood and burned wood. It’s possible that crafting game vets will pick this up with no issue, but I was at a loss. (Don’t Starve would be the only other game of this ilk that I have spent time with, and the survival and crafting elements made sense there without the need of explanation.)
During my period of being alone and lost, I stumbled across a stronghold that another player had built and foolishly did not dedicate that rest of his/her life ignoring sleep and guarding. Stashed within were chests filled to the brim with crafting material and the tools to use them. I raided these stores and quickly crafted and upgraded my weapons and armor. With this newly found arsenal, I wandered back into the depths to find adventure and riches. That is when I came to the final conclusion that the combat is currently no fun, either. It does a smart thing in that it lets the player lock onto one enemy, but the battles typically devolve into backing quickly away from the foe, clicking furiously. There is no strategy available nor is there a cathartic rush when the enemy goes down. I wanted Torchlight combat; I thought that was what was marked on the tin. Instead, I got “Walking Backwards Simulator 2016.”
I have struggled in the past with how to cover Early Access games. I don’t want to be unfair on a developer that is still hashing out the details but that needs to be balanced against the fact that they are charging money. Charging money wins. In its current state, Orelight simply isn’t worth the twenty dollar asking price. There is a germ of a good idea here, and I wish the developers all the luck in the world in seeing it through, but I have my doubts. Please prove me wrong.