February 18, 2014 4:00 AM | Lena LeRay
Light Apprentice came into the world as a web comic inspired by classic turn-based RPGs. Created by Igor Noronha and later collected into volumes to be downloaded for all the major ebook platforms, it featured a main character whose first introduction is a picture, a name, and some stats such as level, hit points, magic points, and current experience points. Now, several years later, Noronha has teamed up with Amazu Media to reboot the story as a game embedded in an interactive digital comic book.
The story's main character is Nate, who has been asleep for about 300 years, during which time war has ravished the land. Darkness encroaches, and as a Light Apprentice, it's Nate's job to save the world. How exactly he does that, though, is up to the player. The player will have some explicit decisions to make, but things such as battle will also make a difference. Fight or flight becomes a choice with the potential to change the flow of the story. In that sense, Light Apprentice is interactive fiction. It's not just a series of choose-your-own-adventure style choices, but the gaming elements have definitely been implemented in a way intended to support the narrative.
Visually, the comic book roots of the game are always apparent. All of the storytelling that is typically communicated via cutscene in an RPG is delivered in a series of graphical panels in Light Apprentice. New panels scroll up from the bottom of the screen, though even that scrolling is taken advantage of. A long distance might be communicated by a long panel scrolling and scrolling and scrolling. If an explosion happens, the new panel shakes with the impact, a shaking that calms gradually over the course of the next couple of panels.
Shortly into the game, however, a different sort of panel scrolls up. This panel isn't a 2D illustration. Instead, it's a 3D room with Nate and his companion on one side and an enemy slime on the other side. Tutorial time! The first battle has begun, with the 3D environment making it clear that the player can do more than just read. The battle is in a 3D "panel" that is replaced with a 2D panel depending on the outcome of the battle. More story scrolls up; more fights happen in 3D "panels"; and when the introductory cutscenes and battles are over, the comic panels exit to the left, leaving the player with a 3D environment to freely explore.
It doesn't look like Light Apprentice will be a hardcore RPG, but it has enough RPG elements to be more than just interactive fiction. The comic book look ties everything together neatly and is supported by background music that varies in intensity with panel changes and story developments.
The game is going to be released in three volumes with four to five chapters each. The first part is slated for release on iOS and Android devices in March at the price of $2.99. The game's official site doesn't say anything about a PC release, but the IndieDB entry and the Amazu Media web site indicate that a desktop verson for Windows and Mac is also in the works. In the meantime, the first chapter is available as a browser-based demo.