An independent, story-driven RPG from Canadian-based Dragoon Entertainment, Skylight tells the story of two law enforcement agents from the GTAL agency, based in Toronto in the not-so-distant 2023. By default, the two protagonists are Melissa and Tyler, though their names can be changed to anything the player so desires before starting the adventure. Our heroes go up against everything from petty criminals to deformed, once-human monsters under the experimental effects of the ‘Skylight Symbiote.’ The game doesn’t appear to have an official ESRB rating, but the company’s website warns that the game is not suitable for younger players, as it contains drugs and alcohol, sexual themes, and graphic violence.
After playing the game, the story proves to be rather flat and unambitious with no form or direction. The male protagonist is exposed early on as a bad employee, disliked by his colleagues and partner, with seemingly no redemption later on. The tough-as-nails female constable is just that, though slightly more likeable than her male counterpart, offers as much depth as a wading pool, which seems to be a common theme among all the characters we’re supposed to care about.
When I’m told that a game is story-driven, I admit my standards go up just a little bit in terms of expectations. Perhaps they went just a little too high, as Skylight lacks any semblance of a solid storyline, instead offering propped-up lines and unfortunately dull, one-dimensional characters.
Skylight takes on the Japanese roleplaying game (JRPG) format for the most part, from the linear, scripted storyline to turn-based combat, while preserving certain Western RPG (WRPG) features, including somewhat-free roaming throughout the city, performing smaller tasks alongside the main storyline, such as taking out drug dealers and patrolling the streets. I applaud creativity in that regard, and it is plain to see the creator of the game spent a good amount of time working on the combat system, but the long and short of it is with mixed elements of RPGs, one winds up roaming the streets aimlessly looking for any indication of what to do next, trying every building and door until finally finding something to do.
That said, it isn’t very often that I run into combat gameplay so bad that I become increasingly annoyed when running into enemies to fight. Such is the case with Skylight. Further into the story, the two heroes gain new abilities in the form of confusing ‘competency’ trees, much like talent and skill trees, making the battles slightly more interesting, but the majority of combat involves our two heroes standing in a giant combat rectangle against however many enemies, simply shooting at one another. When an enemy finally dies — there are no apparent health bars — they don’t actually appear to die, despite being riddled with bullets. Instead, they kneel down and wait to be arrested… because that’s what anyone would do after being shot eleven times over the course of two long, arduous minutes of gunfighting.
Throughout Skylight, the player controls two characters, as mentioned above. This notion is not uncommon in any form of RPG, however the fact that the following character literally moves with the controlled character winds up looking a little bit silly, in the end. You step forward with one character, the other steps forward, synchronized perfectly, as if on permanent auto-follow.
Audio & Visuals
The audio and visuals are likely one of the biggest downfalls of Skylight. With the recent flood of old school, pixel art games hitting the market, it’s clear the game is trying to emulate a classic look, but instead winds up looking like an amateur MS Paintjob. Had Dragoon taken on a professional approach with graphics, it might’ve wound up looking slightly more polished and made the game at least easy on the eyes, but instead, it makes the future look like it takes place in 1985. A very boring and empty 1985. A little shading and lighting goes a long way in the realm of pixel art.
Again taking the retro approach, the game comes with a soundtrack of 8-bit loops that didn’t bother me so much at first, but after about ten minutes of gameplay had me so annoyed that I had to find a way to turn it off, or at least lower the volume. After extensive searching, I couldn’t find any options whatsoever, and was forced to endure the rest of the game stuck in MIDI hell.
The menu systems proved to be nothing short of confusing, as there were only a handful of helpful hints throughout the tutorial that weren’t very helpful at all. The introduction of the competency trees seemed intriguing at first, but the complex layout and no real indication as to what should be done with them took a good while to figure out. These are the things that games need to walk players through carefully, especially in the beginning of a game, lest the player get overwhelmed and ignore the feature completely. And ignoring the game’s primary skill system will not prove to be helpful as the baddies get bigger and bigger, either. The lack of any HUD during combat was also rather disappointing.
At the end of the day, Skylight is a game that begs the question, “Why would I spend $8 on this game?” There are far more valuable games — some even cheaper than $8 — that I could spend my time playing. That said, it’s apparent that the creator of this game is talented with conceptualization and poured quite a bit of time and effort into the making of Skylight, and with a fairly intricate back-end structure, it’s almost tragic that the graphics, audio, gameplay and general polish simply do not deliver. With a little fixing up (okay… a lot of fixing up), the game could someday prove to be worthwhile, but for the moment, I wouldn’t recommend the game to anybody, as it is not even close to production value, even for an indie title.
I’ll be honest — I never finished Skylight. I didn’t finish the game mostly because the thought of going back into the game was so dreadful that I almost could not bear it, but I decided to tough it out and load it up again… only to find that my savegame (thoughtfully named ‘A’ because I couldn’t be bothered to type it out manually on the old-school arrow-type naming scheme) never actually saved. The notion of re-playing even the tutorial was enough for me to just stop right there and end it. So, I apologize to Dragoon Entertainment. Perhaps there was something at the end of the game that might’ve changed my mind on the game altogether. But unless the end of the game included a good story, better graphics, an option to turn off the music and possibly an explanation into the convoluted talent trees, I’ll put my money on just calling it quits and saving my time.