It’s been four years since the very first episode of The Uncertain was released, portraying a world long lost to the robots. After changes in the development, the studio is now called New Game Order, and this new episode is published by META Publishing (who also released the popular game Biped).
The Uncertain: Light At The End is the long awaited second episode where this time around Emily and a group of survivors try to survive the best they can. We finally have an overview of how the remaining humans survive, by scavenging for the remaining food cans and leftover electronics.
Although it’s well established that you can play any of the games regardless of order, I must emphasize how that’s not entirely true. Both games are directly connected in a time frame, you’ll miss a large chunk of events by missing the first game, which is really good and recommended.
As the story goes, it portrays all the necessary sequences for a classic contemporary post-apocalyptic scenario: The recently born child who needs medical care, the old couple who still remembers the old days, and the poor and sick elderly who share their wisdom, the strong “Action-Man'' of the group delivering a strong and independent image, and lastly, our protagonist, a young woman trying to survive with hopes for a change.
It takes time, but you can actually feel the group coming together, and they’ll grow on you, one way or another. Character placement is very predictable, but still enjoyable. The story is still heavily scripted as you’d expect, but there are some changes based on your decisions. The biggest change is perhaps the positive fact that you can now explore all text dialogue options, which didn’t happen in the first episode.
Another improvement is the gameplay, where controlling Emily feels much better, and the controls are fluid and very smooth. It’s a complete contrast to the previous episode. Players can still check objects, collect them and interact with characters to progress in the main story, as well as complete simple side-quests.
Either traversing the empty yet under surveillance roads, or escaping, there’s a new mechanic included, which works as stealth sections to avoid being caught. I personally like when games, add little extensions to their normal gameplay without making it overly complex. It works and suits well the game’s overall behavior.
As expected, puzzles are back with some being easier and others almost getting into that medium-difficulty level. I personally feel there was a huge climb in difficulty from the first game to the second, which doesn’t mean it’s an issue or a negative annotation, just something I consider worth mentioning. The puzzles still have parts that are very original and they remained feeling fresh throughout the game.
Unfortunately we cannot avoid talking about the bugs that are still present within the game. I feel that when it comes to The Uncertain: Light At The End, gameplay and optimization are connected. The game feels and plays out really well, but please take in consideration that it’s an indie game. Despite its fluidity, the gameplay can still feel like it could be polished a little. However, I’m not going to be picky about it, when the developers clearly worked very hard to deliver what they had in mind.
What we cannot let slide are some of the other unfinished parts that I personally believe will be patched throughout the year. This goes to voice sync, animations, and overall performance. The latest patch already fixed many of these issues, but some animations could be improved as well.
The visual presentation follows the same line as the previous episode, as far as quality goes. There’s better lighting and effects that we can call “new” and they sure add value to the overall quality. The characters are well designed but lacking in proper animation, which is clearly the weakest link in the game. Coming from a robot design that looks simply amazing, humans don’t really look as good. They are much harder to create after all, and attaching emotions to them, is even harder.
Overall the presentation is decent, and remember, not every indie developer studio has the ability to create such an experience with a low budget. Many of the said issues are connected with the Unity engine. The performance is on par as expected, with my RX 580 4GB model I manage to reach 60fps on high settings, but with some dips to the 50’s in some areas. Medium settings stables at the 60’s meter easily, with practically the same quality.
The soundtrack is once again a high point of development, with a strong post-apocalyptic theme, which if you played the first episode, should be quickly familiar with. The audio dialogues are also quite good, unfortunately I noticed an uncommon bug that makes some dialogue lines fast-forward.
All in all, The Uncertain: Light At The End is the culmination of a strong development team who is passionate about this series, with the inevitable issues of a rushed product which could take a couple of extra months of development. I personally enjoy this episode, and I firmly believe it’s a fantastic step in the right direction. I have no doubt more updates are on their way, and when they do, it’s going to be a Mostly Positive game on Steam.
All the requirements are already present: A good narrative, a solid gameplay, and a brilliant atmospheric presence. Time will be a good healer for this second episode, of that I am sure. If anything, this game reflects what Indie games need, a push towards the horizon, where aiming for more is not a problem.
Thank you New Game Order, for keeping developing an amazing franchise!