Exploring an Abandoned Hospital in The Town of Light - PreviewChinh Tran , posted on 04 February 2016 / 4,896 Views
Over the past few years, video games have taken great strides towards becoming mature, narrative-driven experiences that overturn conventions gamers have become accustomed to. Previously unexplored themes in the medium, such as mental illness and depression, are becoming more prevalent. One such game that explores these themes is LKA’s premier title, The Town of Light.
The Town of Light won’t be releasing until February 26th, but I was given the opportunity to play a preview version of the psychological adventure title and to share my early impressions of it.
The story revolves around Renee, a fictional character created by LKA as a vessel for the player to explore the very real ruins of Ospedale Psichiatrico di Volterra, a psychiatric hospital in Tuscany, Italy, that was shut down in 1978 when Italy passed Law 180, or “Basaglia Law”. Law 180 changed the way mentally ill patients were to be treated and cared for and psychiatric hospitals like Ospedale Psichiatrico di Volterra, which was well-known for its inhumane practices, were left abandoned.
Renee was just 16 when she was forced into the psychiatric hospital at Volterra on March 12, 1938. As Renee, the player returns to the now rundown and overgrown hospital decades later and relives memories of the torment she endured while she was a patient there. The story is primarily told through flashbacks; when Renee reaches certain checkpoints, her repressed memories flood back and remind her of the brutal atrocities that were inflicted upon her and other patients by the hospital’s staff.
I don’t want to detail the story too much here because it might dull the impact that a narrative-driven game relies on. However, I am sure that players looking to explore mature themes and willing to face the realities of how we used to treat the mentally ill will enjoy the story The Town of Light tells.
It is clear that LKA has conducted meticulous research in order to ensure that The Town of Light gives players an authentic experience. Volterra Hospital’s halls and rooms are accurately realized with a horror that echoes the hopelessness and fear the patients were subject to. You will notice fine details like graffiti and cracks on the walls, along with overgrown vegetation that has reclaimed the hospital and given it a powerful sense of abandonment. I noticed some minor graphical issues like pop-in, but I am hopeful that LKA will iron out these issues before launch.
The sound design has also been superb so far. Eerily beautiful music will play from time to time that compliments the setting well. There are also sounds of pain and fear that Renee remembers as she explores the ruinous remains of the hospital. I am concerned with the English voice acting of Renee, though, as it sounded a bit too wooden at times. Fortunately, I was able to enable the native Italian voice acting while using English subtitles.
The Town of Light is not the sort of horror game that we have become accustomed to. There are no supernatural elements or jump scares. Instead, LKA has created a consistent undertone of fear throughout the early part of the game that I hope continues throughout the game. Players will be forced to face not some fictional fear, but rather the very real horrors that humans have inflicted on others in the past.
The time I spent in The Town of Light has me intrigued and itching to continue playing. I want to explore the Ospedale Psichiatrico di Volterra fully to see everything that LKA has so accurately recreated. Finally, I want to finish Renee’s tragic and revealing story of the horrors she and others endured.