Fancy a Bit of Shadow Play, Stranger?
Ever since my time at E3, I have been looking forward to the release of Shadows: Awakening by Kalypso Entertainment. Now it’s finally out, I’m able to see if it lives up to my expectations as a more story-driven take on the style of Action-RPG combat popularized by Blizzard Entertainment’s Diablo series. In all honesty, due to making the player characters into personalities that exist in the world instead of class-based avatars, I feel as though they succeeded at this endeavor. In addition, it doesn’t hurt that they also applied their own interesting spin to the combat. Read on, potential adventurer, and discover the fruits of this interesting “new” entrant to the genre.
In Shadows: Awakening, players take on the role of a being known as a “Devourer” – an otherworldly ghoul of sorts that has the ability to consume the souls of deceased humans and obtain great power by doing so. Summoned into the mortal world by a mysterious human sorcerer, the Devourer is forced into an unlikely and uneasy alliance. Their mutual opponent is an evil sorcerer’s guild known as the Penta Nera and their Devourer companions/manipulators. However, the player-controlled Devourer differs from his brethren in two very special ways.
Oh Hello There, Puppet!
First, while other Devourers can only manipulate one chosen puppet vessel, this Devourer has the ability to manipulate multiple puppets at once. This affords him more versatility in both combat and in identity. Secondly, when he consumes souls, the personalities, thoughts, and memories of the original soul bearer remain inside the Devourer’s vessel. This can result in some rather interesting scenarios where the souls of the Devourer’s various puppets will hold conversations from within the same form. When a former foe’s soul is consumed by his conqueror and is made to attack his own former soldiers, it can make for a rather conflicting turn of events. But this may also lead to the Devourer’s actions being influenced by those souls that still bear consciousness from within.
Getting To The Point of Combat
Gameplay takes places in two places: The Shadow Realm, where the Devourer resides, and the Mortal Realm where the Devourer will assume the form of any one of the human puppets that he has captured at the press of a button. Each of these puppets carries with them their own equipment, skills, and perks. Each of these puppets has a basic attack and up to three special attacks with which to do combat. The attacks vary in ability ranging from single target to buffs to area of effect attacks. This can make any individual character into a force to be reckoned with but the real fun in the combat system comes when you switch between each puppet in order to find a synergy between each of their attacks. For example, you could use one character’s golem summoning ability to draw the enemies together. Then, you could switch to a second character that can throw a bomb which damages foes and makes them more susceptible to fire damage. Lastly, you could switch to the third puppet and use an AOE fire attack to damage everyone at once. Each character can learn a total of eight different abilities so there plenty of room for experimentation.
It’s Electric! Spooky-Ooky Ooky!
Layered just beneath the Mortal Realm is the Shadow Realm where ghosts and spirits gather. It is in this world that players control the Devourer directly when not using a puppet. Every map in the game has a Shadow Realm lying beneath it which contains its own enemies to contend with. While the Mortal World will have marauders, spiders, and porcupines to deal with, the Shadow Realm will be populated with wraiths and demons. Like the puppets, the Devourer can also equip three attacks along with a basic attack in order to engage in combat. Some of his moves can even be used to influence the Mortal Realm such as mind control and paralysis abilities. In addition to adversaries, there are also treasures such as essence-bearing hexmarks and shadow crystals that can only be seen and acquired in the Shadow Realm thus requiring players to be ever vigilant with exploring each half in order to find all potential loot. Lastly, the item stash and Shadow Trader can be found here. Aside from selling equipment that the Devourer can equip, the Trader also commissions a service for the player to recharge their equipped Soulstone – an item used to refill HP and Mana during combat.
Often, the player will be faced with a predicament that is barring their progress in the Mortal Realm that can be resolved by solving some sort of puzzle in the Shadow Realm. A door may be locked by a mechanism which needs to be manipulated in the Mortal Realm but the puzzle hints exists in the Shadow one, for example. Other times, a battle may require the player to engage combat in BOTH realms in order to succeed. For example, in the event that the opponent is another Devourer possessed legion, then the player will be battling against the Devourer and its human vessels at the same time. A shadow shield could sometimes be surrounding the opponent requiring the Devourer to dismantle it before the puppets can attack the main body of the boss. I found myself really enjoying the battles where I had to make smart use of both battlefronts in order to succeed.
If a puppet is incapacitated in combat, they become unusable until the Devourer reaches a Sanctuary located in the Shadow Realm. Here, he may resurrect and use any fallen puppets. However, should the Devourer fall in combat, a game over is immediately triggered and players must resort to a previous save in order to try again. I never found myself in a position where I couldn’t avoid a full-on game over but that may not ring true for everyone. Personal skill level and the selected difficulty level will likely play a role in how challenging this game proves to be for players.
Enough About Carissa?! How Is The Game?
While I can’t say that I was captivated by the plot, I did find myself enjoying, and it gave me plenty of motivation to progress. Meeting new characters made me question whether or not I’d eventually be able to recruit that person later in the game, and I was excited at the prospect of adding them to my grouping. Combat remained poppy throughout, though it doesn’t begin to truly shine until you get a solid stable of puppets with which to switch between and experiment with. I would have been happier if there were more attacks which could double as an evasion maneuver as stick and move gameplay always works to liven up an action-RPG. However, I accept that type of attack-evasion maneuver isn’t quite the norm and I can live without it in this instance.
Something that has always been a major component in games such as these has been absurd amounts of loot. I was glad to hear that I wouldn’t drowning in it with this game thus being constantly stuck in menus comparing items, I can say that I do wish that there was a bit more variety here than what I did receive. The trade-off to this is that, instead of having to hunt equipment of various “rarities”, equipment class is tiered based on the number of enchantments the item has ranging from 1-4 (Enchanted -> Magical -> Artefact -> Legendary) which can be easily influenced by using essence items found during the game. Of course, finding unique items with these expensive enchants pre-packaged onto the gear is always a much better scenario.
All in all, I very much enjoyed my time with Shadows: Awakening. The synergy between playable characters and the chance to explore a vibrant world with unique mechanics, societies, races and characters make this game an easy recommendation for anyone out there who loves Diablo 3, but also find themselves interested in a change of pace and scenery from their old friend of six years.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: PC, XBoxOne, PS4 (Reviewed) ; Publisher: Kalypso Media Digital, Ltd.; Developer: Games Farm ; Players: 1 ; Released: September 4, 2018 ; ESRB: T – Teen ; MSRP: Steam: $39.99, XBox 1, PS4: $49.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a PS4 review copy of Shadows: Awakening provided to Hey Poor Player by the publisher.