The Town of Light is an emotional gut punch. Very few games have had the capacity to effect me on an emotional level. I can get invested in characters and care for them, but rarely does a game shake me to the core like this one did. It deals with some very disturbing and sensitive subject matter; suicide, sexual assault, and depression to name a few. What starts out as a journey of a woman’s self discovery, slowly delves into madness and frightens on a physical and psychological level. This one’s not for the faint of heart.
The Town of Light fits into the same vein as Dear Esther & Gone Home with a mix of Silent Hill. It takes place in present day, with you revisiting the actual, real life psychiatric hospital of Volterra, in Tuscany, Italy. It’s faithfully recreated, now old and dilapidated. The player controls Renée, a girl who was admitted here on March 12th, 1938. As you explore the decrepit grounds, you start uncovering more things about her past, slowly starting to put together why she was there and what ultimately happened to her. The gameplay is simple. You target things you want to look at and press X to pick them up, to push buttons, or turn valves. Any major moments that happen throughout are placed in a journal accessible from the main menu for you to go over. These journal entries help you understand a bit more about Renée and the hospital. At various critical scenes, you can choose different dialogue options. These change bits of the story, but as far as I could tell, have no impact on the ending.
The best way I can describe The Town of Light, is that it’s an experience. You’re not here for the gameplay, you’re here for the story. A story which had me charging towards its conclusion just to find out what Renée’s fate was. I completed it in one sitting, that’s how invested I was. My start wasn’t very smooth though. I spent a good 20 minutes walking around aimlessly, trying to figure out where to put her precious Charlotte doll I was carrying. Once I got past this hiccup, the pieces started falling together and the game picks up pace. This isn’t a happy tale. There’s always a sense of dread. There are moments of levity, but these are immediately followed by something awful. Renée becomes involved with one of her female inmates, finding love in all this hopelessness, only to be discovered by the staff. After spending days tied to a bed, she’s heavily medicated and wheeled into a room with doctors and nurses surrounding her. Through the eyes of Renée, you go through the process of shock therapy. I can’t even begin to describe the emotion I was feeling throughout. It all feels very real, which only adds to the experience. It’s authentic and honest. It doesn’t shy away from the horrors of the world, and I respect that. Just when you think things can’t get any worse, the journey culminates in a devastating revelation that hit me pretty hard.
The Town of Light is one of those games I’m glad I played, but will probably never play again. It’s very heavy and emotionally exhausting. If you have the stomach for it, I do urge you to play through it at least once. It is one of a kind. If you can play through it multiple times, you’ve got nerves of steel my friend. The Town Of Light is heartbreaking and unforgettable. It’s an experience I’m not going to forget anytime soon. – NVJ
The Town of Light is now available on PS4, Xbox One & PC.