Ling: A Road Alone (PlayStation 4) Review

By Thom Compton 23.12.2019

Review for Ling: A Road Alone on PlayStation 4

Imagine, if you will, that you are standing in a white room. From floor to ceiling, nothing is visible but endless sheets of white. Suddenly, a wall flickers, and turns into a portrait of a beautiful sky. Solitude is broken by clouds, the sun peaking over them, almost like a nervous child wanting to say hello. Tranquility rushes through your body, and a peaceful feeling sets in. Suddenly, someone, without saying a word, walks into the room, and stolidly hits you in the face with a hammer. They hit you over and over again, until you lay on the floor bloodied and unable to move. Welcome to Ling: A Road Alone.

Ling: A Road Alone is a top down hack 'n' slash title that has you journeying out to fight monsters and very little else. There's almost a boss rush feel to it, as moments of serenity are broken up by increasingly difficult foes. The player is gifted only a few moves, in the form of a light attack, a heavy attack and a dash. From the onset of the first enemy, it's clear this demands precision. The light attack doubles as a block and parry, and it's absolutely critical to nail this; one, to avoid taking damage, and two, because it allows one to regain health. Enemies also regain health when they do damage, making every encounter a vicious tug of war for life.

Screenshot for Ling: A Road Alone on PlayStation 4

As previously implied, this is very pretty, but more importantly, it is very atmospheric. There's a dread that sets in, as the environment conveys the sense of loneliness remarkably well. Chautauqua Software did a brilliant job making every set piece both beautiful and desolate. This really lends a hand to making it feel like the only way forward is to succeed in these encounters, because no one is coming to save you. Top down, hack 'n' slashers are usually pretty difficult anyways, but Ling: A Road Alone is going for what seems to be a much colder, unfeeling difficulty. Because of this, the gameplay seems much more interested in being hard than fun. Combat scenarios are maddeningly difficult, to the point where they don't feel like hurdles one would feel excited to surpass. They feel like chores.

The heavy focus on parrying is perfectly fine as an idea, but the implementation is severely lacking. For one thing, enemy wind ups to teach you when to parry are often difficult to see due to smaller enemy sizes. Enemies like the bizarre dog-like creatures at the beginning, tend to be harder to read then some of the bigger enemies. Then there's the parry detection. Take, for example, an enemy that appears to be a masked executioner with glowing red eyes. His move is to wind up and then swing. By this writer's estimation, the optimal time to parry is when he throws his elbow up to swing, yet parrying at this moment works sometimes, and not others. Since this enemy can often be found in groups with other foes, it makes actually determining when to parry an exercise in futility more often than not.

Screenshot for Ling: A Road Alone on PlayStation 4

The heavy attack is the most crucial when you've completed a successful parry. The heavy attack also takes entirely too long to wind up, and when dealing with large crowds of enemies, is rendered all but useless. This leaves the dash, which is largely pointless, again, in crowds. Sometimes enemies will surround the player, making it impossible to break through with the dash. Many enemies can also clear the map as quickly as you can, meaning as soon as you exit a tense situation, the tense situation has already made it back over to resume its onslaught.

Screenshot for Ling: A Road Alone on PlayStation 4

An early projectile based enemy further proves the inherent flaws of the game's combat, and furthermore, its health system. It's beyond frustrating beating an enemy down to their last shreds of health, only to have them land a couple cheap shots (and boy howdy, can they be cheap), and be back at 100% health again. One might be under the impression that lowering the difficulty to Beginner would negate all of the issues previously mentioned, but it only helps so long.

This is a shame because, again, this is very pleasant to look at. One minor complaint, though, is the way the environment slowly becomes harder to see as one approaches death. It makes it difficult to really get a gauge on where you are in relation to the enemies, and that results in the game almost teaching the player that the life bar isn't accurate, and that you're pretty much defeated when you reach 25% of your total health.

Screenshot for Ling: A Road Alone on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

There is clearly an audience for Ling: A Road Alone. It's the kind of gamer who does Final Fantasy runs with level one characters, or who plays Dark Souls with a Dance Dance Revolution gamepad. That is to say, Ling: A Road Alone is absurdly difficult for the sake of being absurdly difficult. If that's your kind of thing, the kind that is often unfair or sadistic in its difficulty, then Ling: A Road Alone is a must play. Otherwise, there's not much here that can be recommended.

Developer

Chautauqua Software

Publisher

Winking Skywalker Entertainment

Genre

Action Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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