Impressions: Ley Lines – Egyptian Parkour Shoot ‘Em Up

I remember when parkour was considered, as my friends and I used to say, “cool.”  What was once a little known French obstacle-passing sport soon flooded YouTube and other social media sites with videos and how-to articles. Even the hit TV sitcom The Office did an episode about the sport.

And of course, there were multiple video games that incorporated parkour as a gaming mechanic, most notably the original Mirror’s Edge, Assassin’s Creed, Prince of Persia, Brink, and Dying Light.

Ley Lines is a first-person shooter that incorporates these parkour mechanics, but introduces an interesting twist: you get a gun which allows you to control the elements. More specifically, fire and ice. You use this gun to shoot up enemies and solve puzzles encountered in an Egyptian-themed dungeon filled with chainsaw-headed robots and weaponized drones.

The Good

Smooth Movement – I really enjoyed jumping, wall running and shooting in this game. Everything was fluid and felt natural, like I was the one who was actually doing those actions. The frame rate maintained itself, so there were no jittery interruptions that ruined that immersion.

Level Design – I was never confused about where to go in the game, nor did I have difficulty figuring out how to do something or how to move to the next platform. This isn’t to say that navigating the game is a cakewalk – there are some challenges in moving from area to area, especially when encountering enemies. And the game didn’t force me to go in any particular direction either; there are areas in the game that allow you to explore. Overall, the level design offered a nice balance of both freedom and guidance.

The Bad

The Setting – Egypt is an awesome setting for a game. The land has a rich and fascinating cultural history, and there are many elements to borrow from. However, while the graphics of this game are great, I don’t really get the point of having the setting be in Egypt. It comes across as random, and it seems like such a waste to choose Egypt, and not have a strong reason for doing it. And this brings me to my next point…

Lack of a Plot – So, you have this interesting weapon, and you’re trapped inside an Egyptian pyramid filled with deadly robots, with nothing to defend yourself but an elemental gun. But the thing that pressed at the back of my mind, other than, “Man, is this cool,” was, “Who am I and why am I here?” The setting of the game led me to believe that underneath everything, there was going to be an interesting, mysterious story. But what I thought would be something like National Treasure ended up falling flat completely, as nothing was explained. This disappointed me greatly. I feel that when you choose a title as ambitiously worded as “ley lines,” a term that refers to the supposed spiritual alignment of landmarks and religious sites, you’re telling the player that there will be a strong plot interconnecting all of the game’s elements. To not follow through with that is a huge missed opportunity.

No Boss Battles – Don’t get me wrong, the robot foes are formidable, especially the ones that can shoot and also project force fields. But towards the end, when I was solving the last puzzle, I expected something to happen, and nothing did. The game was missing one final threat that required me to call upon everything that I had learned up until that point. Instead, I solved a relatively easy puzzle, and then that was it. It just ended.

Preliminary Thoughts

Maybe I’m being too hard on Ley Lines. Although short, it is a fun experience and it’s a great option if you want to test your speedrunning skills. But at the same time, I expected more from it. I skimmed the game’s page to see if the developer plans on expanding upon this idea, but alas, no. Under the comment for one posted video, he writes, “This version of Ley Lines won’t be expanded upon further, maybe a few more polish patches, as for another FPS in the same spirit, who knows!”

While I’m happy to hear that he’s interested in making another game, to me, Ley Lines doesn’t feel like a finished project and could be expanded upon more. It’s more of an experiment, albeit an interesting one. You can get Ley Lines for free now.

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