The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Ten Minutes In The Swamp- Metro: Last Light

After reaching the surface, Artyom finds himself overlooking a foggy swamp below. Instructed to stay near the flags and make his way across to a church controlled by the Rangers, this level was featured in a short demo back during March 2013, prior to the game’s release in May 2013. Shortly after I picked up a copy of the game during early May, I was quite interested as to what Metro: Last Light entailed, and the aforementioned demo video was one of the first that I encountered. I was immediately impressed with the attention that was paid to detail; whether it was subtle things like monsters scuttling around the map, or flies landing on Artyom’s visor, small things lent themselves to enhancing the scene’s immersion. At the time, I was still making my way through Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Crysis and Half-Life 2, so I did not actually begin Metro: Last Light until late June. This was the month where the infamous flood occurred: it had been quite rainy for a week leading up to the flood, and during mid-June, I was making my way between the main campus and medical campus frequently, as the project I was working on last year was gearing up. At around this time, I also had the opportunity to watch The Garden of Words: the frequent rainfall in the anime and in the city continued to subtly remind me of water droplets accumulating on Artyom’s visor in the Metro: Last Light demo.

  • For this playthrough, I’ve decided to stick to a similar loadout used in the original GameSpot demo: the weapons equipped include the Kalash with a reflex sight, the Lolife (IRV scope and laser sight) and the Duplex (no attachments). The first thing seen in the demo was the sun breaking through the clouds: the graphics here look slightly differently compared to those in the demo version.

  • For conventional play-throughs, I am unlikely to stick to the Duplex for too long because of its limited capacity: the Shambler is available from a vendor a few missions back. While it does a smaller amount of damage at point blank range, the shots it fires are tighter, and it has a larger ammunition capacity.

  • I’m not running Metro: Last Light on full settings, but even then, things look amazing. The significance of graphical fidelity in video games is the subject of no small scholarly debate, with some individuals arguing that gameplay and/or story is more significant than graphics, while others find that high graphics quality pushes the industry forwards as developers and hardware manufacturers are forced to continue innovating in order to keep up and continue to make sales.

  • Here is the aforementioned Lolife pistol: unlike the Duplex, it is quite useful and can be customised with a very diverse range of attachments. Returning to the previous discussion, for me, I find that graphics add immersion to the game if done properly, but that depends on the game itself having a solid story and setting. Metro: Last Light is one such instance, since the world-building is extensive and really gives players the sense that they are in a post-apocalyptic world.

  • In the GameSpot demo, the gas station is the first place checked for fuel canisters. There’s a container here with some filters, but to get to those filters, the player must disrupt the spiders crawling all over a body. It might be a video game, but it doesn’t make the spiders any less unsettling to watch as the scuttle around. There are a lot of critters in this level that don’t harm the player, such as the crows, small shrimps and spiders, but larger shrimps will attack.

  • Since the fuel cans from the gas station are empty, it’s onwards to the downed airplane. If players check the plane first, the fuel will be in the gas station. There was a Shambler in the demo version, but it seems that has been removed in the final build. I wasn’t able to find a Shambler, and typically, I prefer purchasing one earlier on so I have access to increased options for combat. Artyom will encounter the bog shrimp here for the first time, and although it’s a scripted sequence, the first time it strikes, one is taken by surprise because there’s no music or any cues to indicate that something is about to happen.

  • If memory serves, Metro: Last Light is one of the earliest first person shooters I’ve played where there is an emphasis on collecting supplies. It adds a bit of immersion to the game, giving a slight RPG-like feel to things, since it is no longer sufficient to shoot things and collect more ammunition or new guns. Instead, the supplies help the player out (whether it be restoring health or providing additional filters). The next game I played to have such a system was BioShock Infinite, and now, as I make my way through Deus Ex; Human Revolution, I find that having an inventory and supplies to track make a game more engaging, as opposed to just shooting one’s way through things.

  • Earlier, I went exploring and found a Kalash 2012 in the level, in an abandoned building guarded by a tripwire. The Kalash 2012 found lacks any attachments, but it does save one the trouble of having to purchase one later. The church is just visible in the distance, although it won’t be reached for another mission. After watching this demo, I made my way to the medical campus for a lab meeting, and the rain began falling. I recall marveling at just how solid the weather effects in modern-era games are.

  • Seven minutes have elapsed, but the sun begins setting quite quickly. Take too long on this level in trying to find all of the hidden caches of supplies, and nightfall will occur. I’ve now beaten Metro: Last Light twice, and will be setting both it and Battlefield 3 aside to play Deus Ex: Human Revolution, which I purchased during last year’s Steam Sale. I also picked up a handful of titles this year. I’ll be doing a short talk on that after the Summer 2014 sale ends. Besides the Steam 2014 Summer sale, talks coming over over the next week or so will be for the first episodes to the Summer 2014 anime season, followed by a talk on Is the Order a Rabbit? and Knights of Sidonia.

  • “What happens when you get a really slow moving thing…time to stack up the defenses. It always happens.” As noted in the previous post, whenever one is waiting for a ride to arrive, there will always be an onslaught of bad guys or monsters to fight. There were claymores all over the map earlier, and a few extra by the motorised winch, as well. Shrimpsare easily felled by the claymores, and even after the bog shrimp appears, the claymores will quickly damage it enough to trigger the next sequence, where it fights a demon. It’s time to high-tail it out of here and end the mission.

I would eventually beat all of the aforementioned games and finally kick off Metro: Last Light late in June, experiencing this mission for the first time for myself. The mission is one of my favourites for the level’s layout. While the main goal is to find fuel for a winch-ferry to traverse the swamp’s deeper sections, there are supplies hidden away on different corners in the swamp that merit further exploration. Said supplies range from additional military-grade rounds and a Kalash 2012, to extra filters and explosives. Artyom is occasionally attacked by swamp monsters (mainly the shrimps, lianas and sometimes, demons) at unexpected intervals while exploring the far reaches of the swamp, and contributing to the sense of unease is the fact that there’s no music throughout much of the mission. Instead, the ambient sounds encourage players to pay careful heed to their environment, and a bit of skill will allow one to find the fuel cans and move onwards. There is one further touch to this mission: as time elapses, the skies gradually darken as the day makes way for nightfall. While other players may cite this mission as “unbeatable”, all it takes is a bit of patience and coordination; as with the demo, it is quite possible to complete the swamp within a ten-minute span, although the environments are more conducive to a bit more exploration.

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