Back at PAX East, I sat down with Italian developers, LKA, to play The Town of Light. Originally released on PC, this story driven title is set to be released on PS4 and Xbox One later this year. After sitting down and discussing the game with 3D Artist, Lorenzo Conticelli, I hesitate to call this “survival horror.” Calling this horror, in my opinion, disrespects what LKA is setting out to do with the title.
The Town of Light’s story is told entirely from the first-person perspective of Renee, who at a young age, was institutionalized Volterra Psychiatric Asylum in Tuscany, Italy. Based on true events, this asylum had been closed in 1978 as their methods were deemed too cruel. The game takes place years after Volterra closed down and Renee sets out to explore the forgotten facility to discover secrets of her past.
Immediately jumping into the demo, I could see that the tone is set wonderfully. I felt a sense of dread and isolation while controlling Renee. The environments outside and inside the facility are rusted, torn down, and extremely eerie. Since the story is told from Renee’s perspective, everything I saw was through her eyes. Now The Town of Light is not some Outlast type game where there are supernatural entities stalking you. In fact, there was nothing supernatural about it, which is the beauty of it. While Renee may see things that are not of this world, everything is in her head, which is where true horror can exist. LKA wanted to stay true to the events that transpired in this dreadful place. They had set out to show a true, but sensitive look at mental illness and the atrocities Renee and all these other patients had to endure. It’s the fact that these horrific events actually transpired is what makes it scarier than most experiences. Real history can sometimes be much more terrifying than fiction.
Renee’s provides context and exposition while exploring, which is needed as progressing through the demo required me to listen to everything she said. The game does not hold your hand, as it wants to tell a story, but wants to make sure you are paying attention. In my demo, I had to find Renee’s doll, which is of significant value to her. From what I played, it seems players would spend a lot of time searching for mementos of Renee’s past and piecing them together to discover more secrets. Renee had immediately stated that the doll was cold once she found it.
From then, I had to lead the doll on a wheelchair to the sunlight beaming in the building. The game did not tell this to me directly, rather it was Renee’s statement and the subtle environmental cues. As I said before, this game does not hold your hand. I found this approach interesting, as it helps one understand the narrative and Renee’s character more thoroughly. I didn’t notice anything too supernaturally disturbing in the demo I had played, as I was told that they weren’t allowed to show anything too bad for a public demo. While this makes sense, I had wished to see something much more sinister in the demo to get the true tone that has been set by the developers.
One question I had asked myself while playing The Town of Light was: What is the audience for this game? I ended up giving myself an unfortunate answer, as I realized this isn’t a title for everyone. This has nothing to do with the quality of the title by no means necessary, as true art doesn’t resonate with everyone, and that’s what I believe The Town of Light is; a piece of art. For anyone expecting a balls to the wall scarefest, they will be severely disappointed, as that is not the goal of the title.
What I respected LKA for the most was how they did not fall into the norm that this genre contains. While I’m sure there may be the occasional jump scare throughout the title, The Town of Light is meant to disturb, but also, move the player. Telling a controversial a story like this is no easy feat, but I thank LKA for taking the risk anyways. From the way this unconventional story is told to the beautifully creepy environments, this tale seems like one worth some attention. It already has received positive reception on Steam, so let’s see how console players react to it. The Town of Light will be released on PS4 and Xbox One later in 2017, but the game has no official release date as of yet.