Human beings love to look back. They long for past days, past events…times when they were younger. But other times, they look back on the past with regret, wishing they could change things…
A little over three years ago I started writing this blog, posting every Wednesday. And I’m proud to say that I’ve never missed a week. But there are other things I am not so proud of, things that I wish I could have done better. The biggest regret I have were the “story analysis” pieces I did. I think I did around four of them total before I gave up on it entirely. They were just proving too difficult to write and took more time than I thought they were worth.
And nowhere did I feel this more than the story analysis for a little video game called “Dark Fall: Lights Out”.
It just wasn’t a good post. It was boring, and it was long (it totaled at almost five thousand words). I have trouble reading through the entire thing and I was the one who wrote it! So in the spirit of looking back I decided “what the heck…I’ll give it another shot!” Here’s to second chances!
And without further ado, I present to you the story of “Dark Fall: Lights Out” once again…
A man tosses back and forth in his sleep. Ghostly visions of a lighthouse and disembodied voices swirl around in his dreams. He wakes, brought out of his slumber by a brief knocking at his door. But when he opens the door, no one is there…
Don’t you hate it when ghosts knock on your door? Stupid ghosts…some of us are trying to sleep!
Our main character for this journey is Benjamin Parker, a cartographer commissioned to map the coast around the small town of Trewarthan. In his journal, Parker makes it clear that he doesn’t enjoy the job and considers it a waste of his time. But it doesn’t take long before he becomes intrigued by a light offshore. He believes it belongs to a lighthouse, which is strange because the maps show no such lighthouse nearby.
He also talks about a repeating dream he’s been having for a long time, one of a metallic object falling from the sky…
Parker was called to Trewarthan by a man named Robert Demarion. According to Parker’s journal, while the two are having breakfast one morning, Parker asks Demarion about the lighthouse. Demarion responds as if he’s ill and exits the cottage, leaving Parker alone. Parker begins rummaging around, finding a log by Demarion. The log mentions how Demarion found a cavern underneath the lighthouse out on Fetch Rock island, but when he went to explore it he felt a terrifying presence that forced him to run away.
The book also holds a curious black object he found that can bend but not break, yet can be easily scratched or cut…
My oh my, what could this mysterious object be?
(Side note: the name “Hadden” refers to a company that was in the first “Dark Fall” game).
Back in the present, Parker ventures outside. It doesn’t take long before a voice beckons Parker to enter a doorway. Inside, Parker finds Demarion, who explains that he didn’t tell him about the lighthouse because he didn’t want Parker to be caught up in the town’s superstition. Demarion also tells him that a passing ship reported that the lighthouse lamp isn’t lit, something the keepers would never allow. There are three men manning the lighthouse: Oliver Drake, Robert Shaw, and James Woolf, who is the youngest. Demarion implores Parker to go out to the island and investigate. Parker agrees and takes a small boat moored on the pier.
(Side note: during the transition to Fetch Rock, we are treated to a partial reading of the poem “Flannan Isle”, based on real life disappearances at a lighthouse. This event and poem likely inspired the game’s story).
Trewarthan at night.
Upon arriving at Fetch Rock, Parker finds that it is indeed dark inside the lighthouse. Once he gets the interior lights back on, he ventures further up the lighthouse to discover what happened. Mysterious shadows dart through the corridors, and Parker has a run-in with a ghostly voice that identifies itself as Robert Shaw. The ghost laments being unable to protect the younger keeper, James, and tells Parker that Drake has gone mad, as if possessed by a demon.
The ghost vanishes and Parker continues exploring. He finds no signs of anyone, but does discover a unsent letter from Woolf to his beloved. In it, Woolf describes how Drake had gone mad, moaning to himself in the bowels below the lighthouse. He tells about how Drake came after them and seemed to transform into a colorful glow. As he was transfixed by the impossible vision, Woolf heard a name in his mind: Malakai.
He later came to with Shaw in a barricaded room, but Drake came for them again soon after. James’ last words are that he can see the light under the door…
Continuing upward, Parker makes his way into Drake’s room where he finds the man’s journal. Drake mentions a dream eerily similar to the one Parker had, right down to the flaming comet of metal. But in Drake’s, he sees the object falling into a bed of reeds, which reminds him of an etching somewhere in the lighthouse. Drake complains of a headache one day shortly before the journal descends into maddened gibberish. Drake starts rambling about a “master” and dotes on Parker as being instrumental to his plans. He conspires against the other keepers, saying that his master needs them to “feed”.
The journal ends with a creepy “I see you, Parker” scrawled across the page.
In Drake’s desk, Parker finds a drawing showing a path leading to a cavern. He makes his way down to the ground floor and across the rickety wooden planks. He enters the cavern, led on by ghostly whispers of “this way” and “over here”. Upon reaching a caved-in tunnel, lines of color suddenly crawl across the rocks. When Parker leaves the cave, he notices things are different.
And not just anything…everything.
The entire island has changed. Parker enters a small building just a little ways away from the cavern and finds a machine projecting images on to a sheet, a radio, and a mystical, wondrous device full of such magical power that-
Okay, it’s just a laptop. But come on! Imagine how crazy that would be to someone from the beginning of the 20th century.
Anyways, it doesn’t take long before Parker discovers he’s in the year 2004. Somehow, he was thrown through time almost a hundred years into the future. The lighthouse is now a tourist attraction, but it appears to have closed down for the day. And a storm looms on the horizon…
Making his way into the gift shop, Parker finds a plethora of books and music. One book in particular catches his eye: Horror at Fetch Rock.
In the book, Parker discovers that after he disappeared off the face of the world along with the three lighthouse keepers, the resulting investigation concluded that Parker must have murdered the keepers. Demarion covered everything up, denied any involvement with the proceedings, and placed the blame squarely on Parker (although it seems that, over the years, Demarion was suspected of being involved in some way).
Parker also finds letters and a journal written by a woman named Polly White. It turns out Polly is a ghost hunter who believes the lighthouse is haunted. She also believes that she is the reincarnation of James Woolf, the youngest lighthouse keeper.
(Side note: Polly White is actually a character from the first “Dark Fall” game. Fortunately knowledge of the first game’s story is not essential here.)
In the journal, Polly describes how she was led to the lighthouse because of her dreams. It didn’t take long for her to experience some unexplained activity, such as a chair throwing itself across the room. Along with her journal is a creepy recording of a hypnotic regression session she went through, which is what led her to believe she is the reincarnation of Woolf.
Continuing through the lighthouse, Parker discovers that history has not been kind to him. He is portrayed as a troubled soul who likely murdered the keepers in a fit of madness. There are numerous signs with details about the duties of lighthouse keepers, how a lighthouse operates, and some bronze age relics. As he makes his way up the stairs, Parker finds that the rooms have been dressed up for the guests, with the crewroom featuring a voice re-enactment of the keepers’ final night.
Suddenly, Parker hears someone dart out of sight farther up the stairs. A dropped journal entry reveals that Polly saw Parker enter the gift shop and is trying to hide. Continuing up the stairs, Parker finds that she has locked herself in what used to be Drake’s room, but is now a storage room of some sort. She slides a piece of paper under the door for him, which leads him back to the little building outside with the laptop.
There he finds the “Radvision” goggles, which let him see ghostly phenomena. But they also serve another purpose: by using them on certain objects, Parker can travel back to 1912.
I see a bad moon a-rising
After some sleuthing, Parker finds a section of wall behind the boiler in 1912 that transports him to another time period. In this time, the lighthouse is no longer standing. A foundation remains, but most of the structure is now gone. Parker follows a hole in the wall and climbs down an elevator shaft, finding a futuristic tablet belonging to a man named Gerard Magnus who works for the D.E.O.S. organization. Continuing through a metallic tunnel, Parker finds another tablet from someone named Maria Ortega, who complains because Magnus has begun acting weird ever since he started working in the elevator shaft.
As Parker makes his way deeper into the facility, things start to fall into place, and a narrative eerily familiar emerges…
D.E.O.S. stands for Deep Exploration of Space, and is a scientific organization that launches probes to study, you guessed it, cosmic bodies and phenomena. But things haven’t been well since the disappearance of their most recent probe. According to the log of one Mitsuyo Taku, someone has been skulking around her room. She suspects Magnus because, like Ortega, she has noticed him acting weird.
She has also noticed someone on the cameras…someone who seems to glow with an unearthly light…
Taku hatches a plan. She decides to use one of the crew’s birthday party as a ruse to gather fingerprints. Everything seems to be going fine, although spirits are down because of the lost probe. However, Taku writes about a brief confrontation between Magnus and Cobin Hart, the overseer of the probe project and the one blamed for the lost probe. Hart is lamenting the loss when Magnus starts acting weird, muttering things like “he is calling to me”. The party eventually breaks up, but soon after Taku returns to her quarters the lights go out and alarms start ringing. Evidently, soon afterward everyone vanished, just like in 1912.
But more telling is the name of the lost probe: Malakai…the very name James Woolf heard in his mind.
Malakai was apparently the fourth probe D.E.O.S launched and featured an advanced AI system as well as something called Matter Manipulation Software. This would, according to Hart, theoretically let Malakai generate power from anything it wanted. The probe was launched into deep space and encountered some type of unknown matter. When it tried to jump back, the probe vanished without a trace.
So now Parker knows: Malakai is behind all the mysterious events and disappearances. But where is the probe itself? The answer lies back in 1912 with Drake’s journal.
In the journal, Drake mentioned that his dream featured a bed of reeds, which reminded him of an etching. In Drake’s closet, there is a secret compartment Parker was unable to open before. But now, using clues he got in 2004, Parker solves the code and opens it. Inside is the etching of reeds, and when Parker looks at it with the googles, he is transported through time yet again.
Finding himself in an abandoned bronze age village, Parker finds the cavern once again. Only this time, he is able to continue down the tunnel. And there, after all this time, lies the object that he’s been seeing in his dreams…Malakai.
Apparently, when Malakai attempted to jump back to Earth, the resulting incident catapulted the probe back in time to the bronze age. It’s been lying there the entire time, desperately trying to find a way back home. But for that to happen, it needed someone to enter the activation code, a code known only to Hart and Malakai itself. Using clues he’s found throughout the times he’s visited, Parker manages to decipher the activation code and enter it.
Malakai then ascends into the sky before the scene shifts back to the lighthouse. The lamp is lit once again, the swift beam of light cutting through the gloomy night…
It’s funny. I still enjoy this game and its story. But looking back on it, there are some things that could have been fleshed out more.
For instance, the history of Fetch Rock itself. We know from Demarion at the beginning of the game that the island has a cursed reputation and that the building of the lighthouse was fraught with strange accidents. But since the Malakai probe would have been there since around prehistoric times, there must have been other weird things going on throughout the island’s history. Why not flesh it out some more, give it more of a history instead of just saying “hey this place is bad news…take our word for it.”
And for that matter, what about Polly White? Her only purpose in the game is to feed Parker the location of the Radvision goggles. And yet, she’s given a whole little bit about being a possible reincarnation of one of the lighthouse keepers. But it’s never touched on again once you get the goggles.
And what about Malakai itself? It’s vaguely hinted at that Malakai uses the Matter Manipulation Software to “feed” on people for energy, but why do Drake and Magnus suddenly start glowing? What is the purpose of that?
I could go on about stuff like this, but I think it comes down to the fact that it is a video game first and foremost. And to be honest, the atmosphere and exploration were why I was playing the game in the first place, not the story. But in the end, the story was intriguing. It just didn’t use its potential enough. I love the idea of ghostly happenings turning out to be advanced technology that people from earlier times can’t even begin to fathom. I like the idea of a ghost story with a science-fiction bent to it. It would make for a fascinating novel. That way the story could hammer home the technology theme by having Parker be the “man out of time” who encounters these strange devices.
I think the story’s biggest flaw is that it ends up being too complex for its own good. There’s a lot at play here and it doesn’t all connect in a neat fashion. Part of that is likely due to the game being very low-budget and indie. But a lot of it has to do with the fact that a point and click game generally tells its story in a non-linear fashion, whereas I think this game’s story could have benefited from being told in a more structured manner.
In the end, I still love the game. But I think I enjoyed the idea of the story more than the story itself.
Thanks for reading! Check back next Wednesday for my next short story.
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