The Uncertain: Light at the End is the second instalment in New Games Order The Uncertain series. It is a self-described “story-driven adventure game”, but it’s more of a third-person point and click.
Picture this. You’re on a date. The person sitting opposite you is beautiful. The little you know about them sounds intriguing. The restaurant you’re in only just opened, but the reviews so far are promising. The table is set – the food looks delicious, you’re ready for the date of a lifetime.
Then they open their mouth.
Their voice sounds like a horrifying mash-up of Janice Hosenstein and Gilbert Gottfried. They speak incredibly slowly, and exclusively about the most boring topics imaginable. At some point, they go to take a drink of water and instead slam the glass against their own face and splatter the table behind them. A mutual friend set you up, so you grit your teeth and see the date through to the end.
Periodically they say something coherent and interesting, so you perk up – but that’s short-lived; they almost immediately return to talking about their tax returns or their cat’s asthma. You start taking way too many bathroom breaks just to get away from the monotony. They probably think you have a UTI. You don’t care. Eventually, after a painful amount of time, the date ends. The feeling of relief as you walk out of the restaurant is euphoric. There will not be a second date.
Now you have some idea of my unfortunate time with The Uncertain: Light at the End.
Let’s get some positives in here.
Visually, The Uncertain: Light at the End is gorgeous. The environmental design is fabulous. Considering most of the game is spent wandering around looking at things, that’s a massive plus. The world feels real. From futuristic pharmacies to dank semi-basements to flying car parking garages, the environmental artists did a phenomenal job. Everything has this futuristic feel to it while still being grounded. Prop design throughout is faultless. The attention to detail is sublime. The designers have obviously taken cues from Half Life’s City 17, but their own spin is enough to make it feel fresh and interesting to explore.
The premise is intriguing. Robot uprising? Check. Human survivors, just trying to make their way in this crazy world? Check. All in all, the worldbuilding gives the sense we’re playing after the end of “I, Robot”. It might be a little bit staid, but at least it’s not the zombie apocalypse again. The mystery the game presents – why did the robots suddenly rise up? – carries the story for most of the experience.
The biggest offender, however, has to be the game’s incredibly stilted, awkward dialogue. As far as I know, the game’s original dialogue is in Russian (?) but, being an English speaker, I played in that language. I can’t be certain if it’s a localisation issue or if the original script is to blame – I’m leaning towards the latter because the actual topics being discussed in-game simply aren’t interesting. Nobody talks like that. Moreover, the characters are just impossible to like. Take your pick – Alex the surly engineer, Claire the lobotomized housewife, Brian the condescending octogenarian, Matthew the absolute dickhead, Vera the ceaseless whiner, or Park the irrelevant dullard.
Following on from the script – the voice acting is horrendous. Every performance is incredibly flat. Particular stinkers are the self-proclaimed housewife Claire and, unfortunately, the protagonist Emily. For a game that relies on its story and characters so much, this makes for a truly dull experience. Oh, and did I mention? All of the dialogue and cutscenes are unskippable.
This next part wouldn’t be so terrible if the environmental design wasn’t so outstanding. Unfortunately, the character models are woeful. It took me a while to realise what they reminded me of – they looks like Sims. That’s a great thing if you’re playing The Sims. In a gritty character-driven adventure story? Not so much. This, combined with the weird and amateurish animations, makes the characters painful to watch. Or maybe it’s just part of the worldbuilding that everyone gets a fresh shot of Botox once a week. Who knows?
Lastly, the story – the driving force behind the whole game – is entirely forgettable. The pacing is all over the place, nothing interesting ever really happens, and the stakes are low throughout.
I don’t want to go too hard on the developers as they’ve acknowledged the technical shortcomings of The Uncertain: Light at the End. However, it has now been half a year since the game launched and it’s still full of bugs. It’s an absolute requirement to keep subtitles on because sometimes voice lines simply don’t play. More than once, characters glitched and duplicated themselves. What little immersion the weak script and voice acting managed to create was killed by the bugs.
The puzzles. Oh, the puzzles. Periodically, in order to progress, you must complete a minigame. These minigames, however, are so out of place, so pace-breaking, and so blatantly meta that I had to laugh when they came up. If you enjoy newspaper puzzles, like Sudoku or shape matching, you’ll enjoy these. It seems New Games Order acknowledges that the puzzles are terrible, however – they all come with a handy skip button.
Audio design is below basic. I had my volume all the way up but could barely hear the game’s soundtrack throughout. Sound effects, where present, were low quality. This, in combination with the voice acting, almost makes me think playing The Uncertain: Light at the End muted might be a better choice.
I wish The Uncertain: Light at the End was better. I really do. It showed promise leading up to launch, and we here at GamEir were watching with interest. New Games Order has the makings of something special here, but it needs an awful lot of work and polish to be up to snuff. As it stands, The Uncertain is one thing a video game should never be: boring, boring, boring.