- Developer: White Elk Studios
- Publisher: White Elk Studios
- Release Date: 30/1/2020
- Price: $14.99 / £11.29
- Review code provided by White Elk Studios
A foreign landscape
Booting up Eclipse: Edge of Light, I immediately felt off-balance. I was greeted by a foreign planet, a crashed ship, and an impending apocalypse. I was instantly absorbed into an experience that prioritized theme and organic storytelling over mechanical gameplay. In these regards, I was enraptured by the game. As such, these circumstances weren’t the cause for my disorientation. Instead, I was disoriented by my avatar’s plodding walking speed and floating hands that hovered in space, detached from its body. This of course, alerted me to an intrinsic fact of Eclipse’s design—this is not natively a Nintendo Switch game. In fact, the game originally served a fundamentally different audience and market, existing first as a virtual reality title for Google’s Daydream VR headset. Both Eclipse’s successes and failures are a result of its origin and translation to Switch, and unfortunately, when viewed as a whole, removed from VR, Eclipse becomes a much tougher sell.
Exploring the unknown
As a proponent of lower end virtual reality, having experience with Google Cardboard, Nintendo Labo VR, and PlayStation VR, I understand both the sacrifices necessary in creating experiences for these platforms, as well as the triumphs that can be born out of these limitations. Bearing that in mind, as I played through Eclipse, I entirely understood why this is lauded as one of the best titles on Google Daydream. In the simplest terms, Eclipse is a first-person exploration title with mild puzzle-solving elements. Over the course of its scant runtime, you’ll control an unnamed protagonist equipped with a spherical artifact that can be thrown at various objects in the area to interact with them. The mechanics never become more complicated than that, only layering in a telekinesis ability later on, which allows the player to move designated objects around the environment, largely to assist with the aforementioned puzzles.
Speaking to those puzzles they are largely centered around environmental interaction, as you clear barriers and unlock doors to proceed deeper into the alien landscape. They never become overly complicated, largely relying on simple, tactile inputs and logical solutions that allow the player to interface with their surroundings on a basic level. Both points extend to the game’s sense of exploration and narrative as well, as both focus principally on environmental traversal and storytelling through simple means. To the former, Eclipse relies heavily on interesting geography to mask the fact that the game’s traversal is extremely linear. It’s a largely effective choice that distracted from the overt linearity while also providing engaging natural landscapes to observe.
A matter of input
That said, there is little opportunity to interact with the geography, save for the scripted puzzle sequences. Movement options are incredibly restricted too, relegating the player to a singular, methodical walking speed and a lackadaisical jetpack that can functionally transport the player from platform to platform, but does so with a floaty propulsion that removes a lot of the punch from the act. Aside from the occasional breakable item, environments prove to be little more than backdrops for the player to traipse through. However, the game’s emphasis on environmental storytelling allows for a little bit more interaction with the world though, as Eclipse’s world is fleshed out largely through scanning environmental curios and relics that dot the landscape, in a manner that’s reminiscent of Metroid Prime. This provided a tad more incentive to soak in the world of Eclipse, but scanning totems quickly became tiresome due to the manner in which you actually scan them.
Scanning requires physically looking the object over from top to bottom, which is a design choice that is far more engaging in virtual reality than it is on the TV. This speaks to just about every aspect of Eclipse’s gameplay. Not only is it augmented by the presence of VR, it’s arguably compelling only within that context. In virtual reality, the game’s slow movement speed is more so a functional necessity to diffuse the potential for motion sickness than it is a hinderance to the game flow, and the simple environmental interactions are far more compelling when the player is effectively immersed within the world, instead of on a couch with several degrees of separation between them and the game. Furthermore, even though the game’s geography remains interesting during the adventure, it’s simplistic geometry and lacking detail stands in stark contrast to what the Switch is capable of, leaving Eclipse feeling flat, lacking the added awe-factor that virtual reality and its intrinsic ability to create depth and scope bring to the experience. Compounded by the fact that Eclipse can be beaten in a mere three hours, positioning this title on Nintendo Switch is a far tougher sell than on VR storefronts. Much is lost in the conversion from virtual reality—it has all the trappings of a very successful title in its original state, but those merits don’t translate well onto Switch.
Sci-fi silver lining
That said, Eclipse is far from an irredeemable experience, as if you can become enraptured in the ambiance and themes of the game, there is a thought-provoking afternoon here. In fact, this is my largest takeaway from the project, especially after speaking to the game’s Creative Director, Jonathan Hawkins. The lore and worldbuilding in Eclipse is impressively intricate, and players who are willing to think and question the game on a deeper level will find a new appreciation for the game, even if it doesn’t particularly succeed on a gameplay level. At its intellectual core, Eclipse is a game that deals with themes of self-sacrifice and environmentalism with a subtle yet confident voice that truly left an impression upon me. One sequence in particular, where the player floats down a polluted river, resonated with me in a surprisingly strong manner, justifying my time with Eclipse. Should the player decide to engage with these concepts and themes, they’ll find a game with a poignant and compelling underlying message.
In this regard, Eclipse is a very successful endeavor. The game’s implicit storytelling and thematic elements truly create an interesting experience which prioritizes atmosphere and emotion over tactile gameplay. Speaking purely within this context, Eclipse easily justifies its runtime by prioritizing the feeling it impresses onto the player instead of the way the player directly engages with its systems. The trouble, of course, is that interaction is an intrinsic element of video games, and without the aid of virtual reality, that facet of Eclipse simply falls short.
With everything considered, Eclipse: Edge of Light is left in a confusing position on Nintendo Switch. On this platform, the game is one that challenges the player intellectually instead of mechanically, wrapping its messaging inside a world seeped in deep lore and wrapped in a moving soundtrack. But there are many titles which opt to focus on its narrative and themes while also feeling mechanically smooth and engaging. Without virtual reality, playing Eclipse is a rather flat experience. If you have access to VR, I would certainly recommend checking this title out in that context, as it has all the trappings of a game smartly designed for those platforms. On Nintendo Switch, though, I cannot offer as clear of a recommendation. If the strength of the game’s messaging can propel you through its three hour runtime, you’ll find a compelling afternoon of gaming here. If you are looking for something a hair more mechanically engaging, you’re better off looking someplace else.
- Excellent soundtrack
- Deep lore
- Engaging environmental storytelling
- Interesting themes
- Shallow gameplay
- Stiff movement
- Lacking without the aid of VR
Eclipse: Edge of Light is an intellectually curious game with excellent ambiance, but without the aid of virtual reality, the game’s mechanics and presentation fall woefully flat on Nintendo Switch.