Thoughts on: Technobabylon and Shardlight

Wadjet Eye Games has become somewhat of go to publisher/developer for story-driven point and click adventure games resurgence. With both their own developed games, and games they produce and publish they’ve shown how the seemingly outdated low res pixelated point and click adventuring can tell stories better than some of the high budget newest technology based titles. The quality of the games they publish is also mostly consistent and to this day I only missed a few projects due to rather mediocre reviews of those. Technobabylon was a game I heard good things about, while Shardlight reviews seemed a bit lower, yet still praised the game, so I was quite interested in checking both projects for a while now. Let’s see what Wadjet Eye Games helped build this time.

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Technobabylon is a pretty curious title. On one hand, it feels like a slight revisit of the classic Beneath a Steel Sky, albeit in a different version of the future. This future is much more bio-technological, with cloning, DNA experimentation and “wetware” nanomachines being an everyday norm. Which opens up the chance to talk about some very interesting topics, a lot of which game handles very well. Some… well, some feel forced, inconsistent or put in just for shock value.

Which is, really, the only big downside of the game. It’s story is solid, if predictable after the introductory chapters. The characters are interesting, if sometimes saying completely out of the blue lines. And puzzles are mostly well done and feel “natural” to the world they are in. But from time to time there’s this strange feeling of pulp, really tonally inconsistent moments and pretty banal twists. For a lot of good storytelling and charismatic world building there are always moments of really bad writing. Which doesn’t let the game down in the end, I do think it’s worth a check, but definitely sours the experience.

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With Shardlight things are more complicated. In this game we are exploring a post-nuclear world that decided to live by the rules and culture, reminiscent of the US 19th century post revolution times. This world, lit at night by many shards of glowing uranium glass (which we never see at night, by the way), is ruled by Aristocrats and ravaged by a disease known as “Green Lung”. Being affected by Green Lung the main character decides to take on a risky job to take part in a lottery to win a vaccine that can lessen, if not cure, the effects of the disease.

And if it sounds awesome, it is – first hours of the game are genuinely interesting. And even I was always very distant from these cultural themes (being not a US citizen and all), it’s a very curious world to explore. Sadly, after some introductions issues start to build up that only get worse when the game gets to the end. For example, world never feels actually alive. There are characters and groups of people who are placed in their own zones and places on the map, but it never feels like they’re every really part of the same world. And the farther it goes, the more like a stage play everything becomes. Giant quarantine zone you hear so much about has 4 characters in it, ending has an unexpectedly dumb written situation and a very ridiculous choice, things that should be huge and meaningful feel small and insignificant. And on top of these, areas are painful to scroll through and most puzzles are genuinely boring and sometimes don’t make a lot of sense.

So, I liked both Technobabylon and Shardlight. But the second one definitely disappointed me in the end, despite strong beginning, interesting world and actually good voice acting. Also, and this has to be said, the Adventure Game Studio is really showing it’s age by now and feels like it’s detrimental to the good games it houses. I understand the possible reasoning behind using it still, but wow, I wish Wadjet Eye Games could switch the projects to something that can support higher resolutions while maintaining the pixel art quality of the titles.