A deal with a demon usually comes with a heavy cost. Especially if it’s your soul on the line. But what if that soul is no longer part of the mortal realm? In the land of Thole, a pact with a demon will grant a chance at a second life, albeit temporarily. At that point, it wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world to resolve whatever lingering regrets you might have had while you were alive. What more can you lose? You are already the demon’s “puppet”, a little diversion might just humor your new master.
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Windows
Developer: Games Farm
Publisher: Kalypso Media
Release Date: August 31, 2018 | September 4, 2018 (Consoles)
This review is based on a copy provided by Kalypso Media.
Shadows: Awakening is an Action Role Playing Game in the world of the Heretic Kingdoms. A mysterious mage summons a demon to aid him on his quest to rid the world of a far greater evil. Both their fates are tied to one another, as the demon cannot hope to overcome nor escape this enemy without the mage. Only by working together, do they have a chance of making it through this ordeal.
Gameplay and Features:
At the start of the game, the player chooses which soul to possess in order for the demon to anchor himself to the mortal realm. They get choose between an archer, a warrior, and a mage. Each with their own mystery from the past that the player can choose to investigate during their journey. the story of the game switches focus to the hero of your choosing, giving this game added replay value. Once the player has chosen which soul to possess, they are then tasked to make it out of their current location.
The combat in this game is much like many other ARPG’s but with a twist. The player can switch between the demon and his puppets in real time, making use of different attacks and occasionally using use of the others to escape some sticky situations. The player can make a party of 4, the demon and 3 puppets. More souls are up for possession as the story progresses. With each character having a health bar of their own, the player can choose to swap out weaker party members with ones that have higher HP. Experience is given out equally between all party members. The player can swap out party members and regen health at sanctuaries located in the Shadow Realm.
Switching to the demon transports you to the shadow realm. The realm reveals all sorts of things, from hidden paths to crystals bearing useful items. It is greatly encouraged to explore both the mortal realm and the shadow realm. In fact, switching between both worlds is the only way to fully explore the map. There are places that can only be made accessible through the shadow realm. The shadow realm provides a host of lesser monsters for the player to grind a little bit. The shadow realm also allows access to cenotaphs, which basically function as teleportation hubs all around the map.
There are no items to aid the player per se, and health regenerates over time. A soulstone is used to regain health and mana, but it only offers limited charges. Killing enemies refills the meter. Once a meter is full, a charge is saved. The amount of charges the player can have in their disposal relies on the kind of soul stone equipped.
The Good and the Bad:
With regards to the other aspects of the game, it is best to reference games like Diablo. The game still relies on leveling to get skill points in order to obtain more skills. The progression is quite linear, with abilities becoming stronger at the cost of 1/2/3 points respectively. As with any isometric RPG, expect to be carrying a bag containing all sorts of junk that’s never going to see the light of day. Better equipment comes up pretty frequently so odds are you won’t be rocking the same look for long. The equipment also changes the look of the character which is always a huge plus in my book.
Shadows: Awakening walks a thin line between tried and tested RPG mechanics and mixing it up with their own style of combat. The results work in the game’s favor for the most part as combat is one of the most satisfying parts of the experience. Switching between the 3 puppets can open up some pretty fun strategies. At the very most, you are looking at a maximum of 12 abilities being used at once on a single target. All the fun stems from making combination plays between party members.
The land of Thole is a harsh and desolate place. But with a clever bit of voice acting and equal amounts of world building, the land comes to life. As part of the Heretic Kingdoms Saga, the game draws in a rich lore that many games of the same genre fail to do. The story is one of the game’s strong points. It’s worth investing in this world, if only to solve the mysteries surrounding your chosen hero’s death. The game’s writing and delivery is a cut above the rest, especially for an indie game. Hearing the banter between the demon and his puppets is always a delight.
An unremarkable leveling system hinders the games from truly standing out. It’s as bare bones as it gets, as more power skills only get an increase in damage numbers and not much else. I’d like to say that it was a missed opportunity, but there’s a part of me that says that it doesn’t really hurt the game as a whole as combat trumps almost all aspects of the game.
The games tries to mix up some aspects of the dungeon crawling formula. In my experience with the game, I find it hard to locate adequate sources of leveling. I was expecting to do a little bit of grinding, just for the sake of grinding. The usual run through the dungeon does refill the soulstone but it helps little in the way of leveling up. Key moments and boss battles are usually the times for leveling up. It’s OK, I guess. Maybe I was wrong to expect grinding in this game. On a final note, the AI becomes buggy at times. Move in a certain pattern and somehow the AI just stops dead in its tracks and does nothing but range attacks. It breaks from the immersion, a minor annoyance.
A refreshing take on a familiar formula, to say the least. Though I must admit that the game relies heavily still on older ideas, the results of which may favor a certain playstyle over others. Nevertheless, it is this change of pace is what I can take away best from the experience. The world that this game is based off of is very interesting as well, and is worth looking into, if you are into that kind of stuff. I certainly do look forward to my next adventure in the world of Thole. Be it in this game, or in some other form.
If you are looking for a gateway RPG that doesn’t rely heavily on the depth of its mechanics, I highly recommend this game. For the players out there looking for a Diablo-like experience, you can check this game out as well.