Prequels exist as a way to flesh out a story that has already concluded. Therefore the prequel territory is safe, as long as the creator doesn’t betray parts of the existing story. Crimson Light is a prequel, and so keeps its plot small and concentrated.
This free to play indie game fleshes out a character that exists in the original Crimson Mind. While I’ve never played that original game, I don’t think it will impact the experience already here. Still, the first episode is also free and I encourage you to try it out if you feel that will help!
Who Could Have Done This?
Crimson Light tells the story of Unelma, an orphan with hidden, angst-y powers. Most of the game takes place over one very haunting, slightly gore-filled night. You will, however, also delve into different journal entries and Unelma’s mind to give a more complete picture. That’s enough for an introduction; let’s move on!
After finding a young man – fallen and unconscious – Unelma brings him home. She fetches Leyn, her sister, and they take care of the man, until he recovers and leaves with mysterious and vague phrases. Unelma takes a nap and, after this, the game really begins.
Leyn is gone. Unelma begins to wander around and finds that everyone in her village has been killed. Shadowy figures wander the town’s pathways. Our protagonist resolves to find her sister, who left a note saying that she is by the lake; on the other side of town, of course. Crimson Light is mostly a narrative experience, with a bit of game play thrown in. It wears its heart on its sleeve, which both works for and against it.
The mystery of who killed these people slowly unravels itself. As you keep exploring, Unelma comments on the different bodies she runs across. One woodcutter was a good man, always nice to Unelma and her sister. Another was a man who always spread rumors.
These character comments, along with different memories of Unelma experiences, gives you the backdrop. The town actually greatly disliked Unelma and Leyn and the mayor had planned to kick out both sisters!
An Odd Kind Of Struggle
Technically speaking, RPG-maker is a curious choice for an engine. It makes sense while exploring the town and for the story’s cutscenes, some of which you control, but lacks in some key areas. Other than that these mini-movies, there’s no real combat – at least in the traditional sense.
The mysterious cloaked figures that wander the town are obviously your main enemies. At first, you can only avoid them with the game’s clunky JRPG controls, in what I can only describe as a frustrating match of hide n’ seek. At some point, however, you do gain a katana.
Among the few I tried, this mechanic is the most interesting. Your character also gains two charges, both of which will recharge with time. Equipped with the katana, you can destroy these figures at the cost of one of the charges.
Unfortunately, the recharge time is difficult to determine, so you’ll kill a shadowy figure or two, only see another and have to decide whether to avoid it or wait for your meter to recharge. The sword adds some nice choice to the gameplay, but I still wouldn’t rely on this weapon too much if I were you!
How About The Plot?
As previously mentioned, the game is story-based. You’ll learn about the town and the relationship between these two sisters. If you finish the game, the mystery of the slaughter of the town will also unravel. I won’t ruin it, but I can say that the whole thing becomes very obvious at a certain point. The story doesn’t feel very well constructed, to be honest.
This leads into the emotional core of the game, the relationship between these two sisters. As orphans, the game professes they had little choice upon aging out of the orphanage. Eventually, Leyn decides to work – with illicit means – for a rich merchant. This merchant in turn would pay for living expenses for both sisters.
The situation’s melodramatic, and tries to add some depth into these characters. It comes out a bit cheap instead of the intended tragic. To Crimson Light’s credit, the story does partly focus on its strength; the sibling bond these two have. while it can feel like a soap opera, the plot doubles down and makes this relationship seem like the most important thing in the world of the game.
In the end, some of the narrative choices are simply out of place. Unelma – for instance – takes a break at a bridge she had always liked. She feels safe and at peace, yet there are bones and dead bodies around her. The boy character from the beginning returns, speaking again in vague epithets.He is a classic “too cool” character, unaffected by the death of the town.
Sexual and violent events are added that create a more dramatic feel. Unfortunately, it can all feel poorly placed to really yield that shock factor the devs were going for!
Violence Isn’t The Answer
For fans of the series, the release of Crimson Light must be very gratifying. Its incredible to find even more content for a story you’ve already come to love. I know, however, that I won’t be personally diving back in anytime soon.
With its flaws and shortcomings, the stumpy narrative and the lackluster mechanics, Crimson Light simply failed to entertain me. Throughout the hour and a half I spent with it – that’s how long this indie game is – there were too many if and too many buts to make for an entertaining experience.
Still, the fact that this title’s free might be what redeems it. If you’re up to test your patience and are willing to give it a go, you can download Crimson Light from Steam or directly from its rpgmaker.net page!