Every so often I’ll play a game that fits in the category of “so bad it’s good.” The kind of game that’s so hilariously bad that it’s almost worth playing just to experience its special brand of awfulness. The Uncertain: Light At The End almost fits into this category. It has a special blend of generic story, atrocious dialogue, and stiff controls. Add in the fact that it seems to really want to be Telltale’s The Walking Dead and you have a recipe for a gaming disaster that would be worth playing for a laugh if it wasn’t so dreadful to actually play.
The plot is pretty typical sci-fi material. Thanks to a malicious software update, service robots have conquered the Earth and humans are now an endangered species. You play as a young, bright-eyed girl named Emily who lives with a small group of fellow survivors. Their time is spent scavenging for medicine, food, and whatever else they can get their hands on. While out on one of their excursions, they receive a transmission from a robot named Fletcher who hasn’t received the update and is part of the human resistance. He offers Emily and her group a chance to escape from the robot-controlled city towards a hidden sanctuary for humans. So, now Emily must find a way to get her bickering makeshift family to Fletcher and hope that they don’t all argue themselves to death along the way.
The Uncertain feels like a Walking Dead knock-off, only it replaces zombies with robots and the likable cast of The Walking Dead with unlikable dolts. Everyone in this game is devoid of any personality trait that would make them endearing. In fact, everyone is pretty much devoid of any personality period. They’re all either total blank slates who can only offer up platitudes and sedate attempts at humor or angry, misogynistic douchebags. And speaking of blank slates, everyone looks dead-eyed, cross-eyed, or in the case of a character named Matt, both. It’s kind of hard to sympathize with these people when they look more like emotionless robots than the actual evil robots.
It doesn’t help that the voice-acting also lacks anything resembling human emotion. Every actor seems like they’re reading their dialogue word for word off the page without even a minute of rehearsal. And it’s not like these characters have anything worthwhile to say, as the conversations are filled with endless exposition, truly terrible jokes, and angry outbursts that come out of nowhere. To make matters worse, it’s all edited together so poorly. Characters will randomly cut each other off or the lines will come too quickly after one another for it to feel like a natural interaction between real people. Sometimes the dialogue doesn’t match the subtitles. Sometimes it starts halfway through the sentence. Sometimes it won’t even play at all. It’s like watching a badly acted community theater play without any of the charms.
The Uncertain’s visuals aren’t that bad. Sure, the humans all look like animatronic nightmares, but there are some decent textures, reflections, lighting effects, and environments. The robot designs aren’t all that creative, but they show a lot more life than the nearly catatonic human characters. So at least the world itself isn’t an eyesore.
Of course, it only looks alright when the game isn’t completely bugging out. This thing is so glitchy and broken at times that it nearly brought me to tears from laughter. Descending down a staircase will make Emily float in the air. Characters will randomly vanish during cutscenes while their dialogue continues. Items will pass through hands and walls. The most incredible, truly magical bug I experienced occurred in a cutscene where Emily was talking with Matt. Suddenly, another character entered into the scene and I was left with this:
Unless that’s supposed to be Matt’s unannounced twin brother, I got two Matts for the price of one. Trust me, that’s way too many Matts.
These bugs would be enough for me to recommend playing this game just to see them all, but that would require you to play The Uncertain, which isn’t something you should be forced to do. This game is slow, tedious, and boring to work through. It basically controls like a Telltale game with sections where you walk around and gather items, talk with characters and make decisions, and solve puzzles. There are also stealth portions where you have to walk forward without a robot seeing you and some minigames that aren’t particularly fun. Oh, and there are quick-time events, because who doesn’t love those?
The Telltale gameplay formula is fine when you have an engaging story to tell, but in a game like this, it can be a total drag. Walking around and finding items for these jerks feels like a chore. Especially since your walking speed isn’t very fast and you can’t skip dialogue. So all you’re doing is listening to someone ask for a wrench, finding a wrench, giving them a wrench, and then listening to them drone on about what they’re going to do with the wrench.
Some of your dialogue choices are also pretty lame. There was one time I had the options of, “avoid answering,” “keep silent,” and “stay silent.” What, in the blue hell, is the difference between any of those choices?
The only part of the gameplay that was engaging on any level was when Emily had to solve a puzzle. These puzzles aren’t revolutionary or even original, but they’re an adequate way to pass the time. They’re the kind of brain-teasers you’d find in a free-to-play mobile game. Matching symbols, basic math, lining up lights and colors, etc. I think there was one that was just a variation of Sudoku. These aren’t much, but doing them meant I didn’t have to listen to anyone talk and they featured some form of real gameplay, so I appreciated that. Oddly enough, there’s an option to skip the puzzles if you’re having trouble with them but there’s no option to skip dialogue. That seems like an oversight.
If video games had an equivalent of Mystery Science Theater 3000, The Uncertain: Light At The End would be a worthy candidate to appear on it. Everything from the story to the acting to the gameplay to the constant onslaught of bugs makes it a title deserving of mockery. Its only saving graces are its passable graphics and the puzzles that made me temporarily forget that I was playing a horrendous Telltale clone. I may be uncertain about a lot of things in life, but I’m 100% certain that you should stay away from this.
A PC copy of The Uncertain: Light At The End was provided to TheGamer for this review. The Uncertain: Light At The End is available on PC, Xbox One, PS4, and Nintendo Switch.
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Jamie Latour is a writer and actor based out of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. From his hyperactive childhood to his….Well, still hyperactive adulthood, he’s been writing and performing in some capacity for practically his entire life. His love for video games goes all the way back to the age of 4, playing Mega Man 3 for the first time on his NES. He’s an avid gamer and can be found nowadays either messing around in Red Dead 2, or being cheap as can be as Reaper in Overwatch. He’s still starting out when it comes to making online content, but aside from his writing he can found on his Twitch page under the handle SpontaneousJames. You can also find him on social media as @SpontaneousJam on Twitter (because Spontaneous James was too long apparently).
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