Enlightenment is a twin-stick shooter that draws inspiration from roguelites made by LizardKing, a Shanghai-based studio.
The game takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where Earth was hit by an asteroid, and you play as a survivor whose task is to go inside the Ark in order to find valuable resources. However, as soon as you step inside this multi-layer bunker that was designed to shelter the survivors of the impact, you find out that something has gone terribly wrong and that its dwellers are now hungry zombies.
While the setting of the game is certainly rather intriguing, especially as you piece together some notes that you find scattered throughout the game, the exposition is pretty much non-existent. For starters, right when you play the game for the first time, you are just thrown right into the tutorial without any explanation as to what is going on, who you are, or what you are trying to accomplish. This is only aggravated by the fact that the English translation, while understandable, leaves a lot to be desired, and sometimes I have just been greeted with some text in Mandarin, which I have no idea what it means.
The game puts you through levels that are randomly generated from a series of hand-crafted rooms that connect to each other, with some traps here and there. Each level of the Ark has its own theme, and different enemy types to go along with, but while each level does provide a significantly different challenge when compared to the previous one, I still think that there isn’t anything that really sets them apart as a whole, they’re not that special nor do they have any charm to it. Also, while I wouldn’t say that the game looks bad, it also doesn’t win any awards as far as graphics go. Things like animations, lighting, and texture work, look decent enough that the game is somewhat pleasing to the eye, while still being easy to distinguish things in the background. Simply put, there isn’t really any annoying visual noise. With that said, it is worth noting that I have not experienced any performance problems so far, and I haven’t encountered any bugs or crashes.
As for Enlightenment’s gameplay, it’s kind of a mixed bag really. At its core, it is a twin-stick shooter, but there a few things that hinder how the game looks and feels. The most egregious thing about the game, that anyone that plays it for the first time will most likely tell you, is surely the camera angle. The game is played from a fixed isometric perspective, which makes some rooms, especially corners, hard to navigate, and it makes spotting chests or other things that you can interact with even more difficult. Having the option to simply rotate the camera would completely fix this issue, but unfortunately, that is not present in the game at the moment.
Like pretty much every other twin-stick shooter that is out there in the market, you control your character either with the WASD keys or the left thumbstick, and aiming is done with the mouse or right thumbstick. Things like dodge rolling, using items, switching weapons, and a few others, are tied to other keys that feel decent enough. However, even though the game supposedly allows you to rebind your keys, I have not managed to get this to work.
The main issue that I have with Enlightenment is not that it’s a bad game or it does something wrong, it’s just that it doesn’t seem to do anything more than just what is enough for something to function. The shooting and movement system, while not bad, are just not that great. Sure there are quite a few different weapons with different stats, like ice guns, a harpoon gun, a grenade launcher, a repeating crossbow, and your standard collection of pistols, revolvers, assault rifles, etc., but even then weapons just feel like they have no impact and are really not that satisfying to use. That might also be because the enemies themselves are also pretty uninspired, just a bunch of zombies and slight variances that you have most likely seen in other games.
The game also features a stamina system, which is only used whenever you use your melee attack, or when you dodge roll, which gives you a few invincibility frames. Now, while I have found the dodge roll to be quite useful, I can’t really say the same for melee attacks. Sure, they can kill the most basic enemies in one hit, and you can potentially even cheese some stronger enemies and kill them that way, but why would you? Ammunition is plentiful, and I can’t really find any reason that wouldn’t make me go in guns blazing.
Now, one thing that I do like about Enlightenment is the fact that it features a permanent progression system in the form of incremental unlocks. Basically, while playing the game you will find these little objects called “illumilets”, which act as a currency that you can use to buy upgrades everytime you start over. These upgrades range from being able to carry more items and more syringes (healing items), to giving you a wider choice of starting weapons, to even researching new weapons once you have found their blueprints. There’s also this shop where you can use illumilets to buy these scratch cards that can yield some cool rewards. It’s pretty much a loot box, except you are not paying real money for it, but you can still end up with nothing if you end up revealing two zombies on the card right away. On top of all that, as you play the game, you will also increase your character’s prestige level, and the higher your level, the more upgrades will be available for you to purchase.
The mood of a game is often set by the sounds and the music that kicks in during certain segments, those being either emotional ones, or those that pack a lot of action, but unfortunately, that is not the case here. I honestly didn’t notice any particularly revealing track during my time with the game, and the sound effects are okay at best. The lack of any real ambient sounds as you are strolling around the Ark hallways also really disappointed me.
When taking everything into consideration, Enlightenment is an average game at best. The premise is interesting, but its content and gameplay don’t really provide any solid ground for a compelling experience. Sure the upgrade system does provide a reason to come back to play the game, but, on the other hand, I still feel like everything else is kind of letdown. From the bad translation to the lack of content, to the borderline competent shooting, not to mention the English translation. While Enlightenment can feel quite enjoyable at times, it also feels like it could use a bit more time in the oven. Personally, I think there are better games out there for the same price, but if you want to take the risk with this one, feel free to do so.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.