Video games with branching narratives have become more and more popular over the years. With Telltale games popularizing the system of giving the player choices that can alter the story, other developers have followed suit in hopes of creating a more immersive and personal story. Light Apprentice however diverges from this formula a little by combining the choice mechanic with a visual comic book style. Its turn-based mechanics also flip normal conventions a bit.
Light Apprentice is a “Comic Gamebook” that puts you in the role of Nate, the ‘Light Apprentice’ who must restore the balance of a world ravaged by War and strife. After awakening from a long sleep, Nate discovers that the world he knew is now different. It’s both war-torn and on a path of destruction. Through choices you as the player make, you decide what sort of character Nate and his fellow apprentices become, ultimately changing the story. Light Apprentice is currently in early access, and this is currently only parts 1-3 of the story; however there is plenty of gameplay to sink your teeth into.
The element of choice weighs heavily in Light Apprentice, as you can build your characters around destroying the enemies you come across–or you can be a pacifist and figure out a non-violent solution to your encounters. I am reminded of Undertale in the sort of “pacifism vs aggression” sort of thought process woven into Light Apprentice. Do you fight a war with more violence? Or do you show people that there is a peaceful solution instead?
In battle, you have either the option to attack, use skills, or defend. All of the options involve a different sort of mini-game or Quick Time Event to pull off. If you successfully defend enough times, you are given the ability to forgive an enemy (which is the pacifist way of ending the encounter.) Ending a battle with violence gives Nate points in the warrior path, while forgiveness gives Nate points in the pacifist path. Other characters in the party provide support options such as healing and support (for pacifist runs) or doing damage (if you are on the warrior path) but characters can also use potions to give you an edge in battle without taking up a turn.
In order to forgive an enemy, you have to deplete its endurance by successfully defending multiple times. The problem with this is that you still take damage on defense, just not as much as you might have previously, so you will have to be careful about watching your total health so your characters do not die in the process if you follow a pacifist route. Outside of battle, Light Apprentice plays out in two other ways, both of which are important.
Story content plays out in a visual novel or graphic novel style format that resembles a hand-drawn comic book. Most of your choices that affect the narrative play out during this story-driven period. When you aren’t experiencing the story, there is also Adventure Mode, which plays out like a point and click game. You can find enemy encounters, solve puzzles, and progress through the environment in an interesting mishmash of 3D and hand drawn elements.
My one complaint about the pacifism vs aggression mechanic in Light Apprentice is that the enemies don’t really have personalities. They aren’t characters per se. Undertale worked so well because you were able to get to know the characters, which put an emphasis on them being PEOPLE instead of just obstacles. With Light Apprentice, you fight/forgive similar enemies and enemy types in each area, making it hard to really become attached to anything other than your main characters. With that being said, I love the character design. The way the enemies and environments are drawn and animated and everything in between. Light Apprentice is truly interesting in terms of artwork and atmosphere, so what it loses in impact based on the morality system…it makes up for in overall beauty.
Light Apprentice is an enjoyable experience. Even though it is in Early Access, and the entirety of it isn’t available yet, I can honestly say I am happy with what they have accomplished here. Sure, the combat isn’t as strategic or in depth as I like my turn-based RPG combat to be, but what it lacks in sophistication it makes up for in spades with its execution of what it set out to do. The morality system and approach that Undertale took in regards to how we look at our antagonists, is something that I feel that a lot of developers overlook. I am glad to see a developer taking what we’ve learned from Undertale and using it to provide a new experience. I have high hopes and expectations for Light Apprentice Episodes 4 and 5, considering Episodes 1-3 are all that are currently available.
There are a few bugs here and there, but I feel as though most of them were operator error (AKA not being used to how the game looks and plays) rather than any major programming issue. An example is that I would heal the wrong character, due to either a misclick or an accidental joystick movement at the last second. For a game designed originally for mobile devices, Light Apprentice plays beautifully on PC.
Amazu Media is onto something with Light Apprentice. The story is interesting, the gameplay is fun, and overall it is enjoyable. I’m not really a fan of visual novels, but there was enough gameplay involved both in turn-based combat and point and click exploration that I really wasn’t bothered too much. If you like visual novels, point and click games, turn-based combat or anything in between, give Light Apprentice a try–you won’t be disappointed.
An Early Access Steam Review Key for Light Apprentice was provided by Amazu Media for the Purpose of this Review.