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After a reviewing a couple of heavier wargames, I decided to spend some time with something a bit, ahem, lighter weight. Light Appren...

Light Apprentice Light Apprentice

Light Apprentice

Light Apprentice

After a reviewing a couple of heavier wargames, I decided to spend some time with something a bit, ahem, lighter weight. Light Apprentice is a "comic book RPG" that has been available for tablets for a while and recently got a PC release. I thought this game was worth doing a quick review on because it tries out several neat ideas, though the final product left room for improvement.

"Comic Book RPG" perfectly describes the format of the game. The story is told through comic book style panels and dialogue bubbles that appear one after another. The game then seamlessly transitions into gameplay using the same comic book panels. Moving around and interacting with environments is done in the style of point-and-click adventure games. Click on a door and your characters will run through into the neighboring comic panel, which works really well. There are puzzles to solve, but they are mostly of the simple "find the missing gear and put it in this slot" variety. There are also a few secrets scattered around if you take the time to really inspect each scene. 

As with any comic book, the art style is important here. Light Apprentice succeeds in having a style all of its own, which can be beautiful at times. As someone who does enjoy reading comic books and graphic novels from time to time, I enjoyed this aspect of the game probably more than anything else.

As you explore the game world, you will often run into enemies that must be fought to progress through the area. These encounters are pretty basic turn-based combat endeavors. The key twist being that every action involves a simple quick time event that will determine how powerful your attack, healing spell, etc. is. These are very simple, as the game was originally designed for tablets. Each one is distinct and can feel somewhat rewarding when done perfectly. However, I wouldn't blame you for getting tired of them after a while.  Your characters begin with only a couple of options in combat, but over time gain quite a few different abilities. At the normal difficulty you will need to make use of your abilities efficiently or else you will have trouble with most encounters. You can't just spam basic attacks over and over and expect to have much success. In the campaign there is no opportunity to grind levels, which means some encounters were extremely frustrating until I discovered that it is possible to access a series of "quests" (basically just additional combat encounters) from the main menu. These let you fight various enemies and get more experience and loot. You will probably want to do these to make the main story line much easier to progress through. 

The story and dialogue is where the game lost me really. This feels and looks like a game for kids, which is fine, and something that I can take into consideration as I play. However, the way the game tries to convey it's message feels like I'm reading a political blog post written by a teenager. The game tackles the issue of environmentalism, which is something I praise it for since that is an important issue to me and uncommon in the gaming world. That said, the game is more than a little heavy handed in how it goes about this. After your character wakes up in a world of magic and monsters, you will be called upon to stop a greedy corporation from fracking for shale oil and polluting the local water supply. There's no metaphor here, that is literally the situation. For me, it's way too direct and breaks any sense of immersion in the world. Give me some kind of allegory that fits the setting, instead of shoehorning real world headlines into a fantasy universe.

Overall, Light Apprentice does a lot of interesting things. It has point-and-click adventure elements, a comic book style that is wonderfully adapted for gaming purposes, and a fresh theme. However, all of these elements are executed in a fashion which feels just a little too childish and simple for me personally. It's not a bad game by any means, but there probably is not nearly enough meat here for experienced RPG players. I hope to see the developer continue with this series and grow both as an artist and story teller. This game series is planned to have two more volumes, and I would be interested to see how those turn out.

Light Apprentice is available on Steam, and also on iOS and Android tablets.

- Joe Beard