Let’s face it – there are times when you just want to retreat into a game for hours at a time. Battle through worlds, learn the lore of the land, and get wrapped up in the events that you have found yourself a part of. Kalypso Media has released a new game – Shadows : Awakening – that will transport you to the Heretic Kingdoms and thrust you into the adventures that lie there.
A secret counsel, known as the Penta Nera, has been hard at work ridding the land of corruption that lays within the church. They are bound to remove all religion from the Heretic Kingdoms and try to restore peace to the land. But something has happened. The leaders of the Penta Nera have been killed and their souls taken by demons. These soul eaters are known as Devourers, and once they consume a soul, they are given the memories and personalities of their pray. They are then able to traverse between the world of the spirits and mortal world, assuming the guise of their prey. There is one member of the counsel that is left, and he must make a deal with a Devourer to help him destroy the Counsel before the world is forever thrown into chaos.
You play as the Devourer, trying to save not only the mortal world, but the world of the undead. You are given a choice of 3 souls that you can take, a warrior, an archer, or a mage. Once the choice is made you are off on your quest. You must navigate your character through both realms in order to complete your missions. You will have to deal with the unfinished business of the soul you have consumed – referred to as a puppet – as well as the overall task of saving 2 worlds.
Shadows : Awakening is an RPG game that offers a very unique party system. When you start out you will have 2 members in your party, the demon and whoever you picked to consume. But you can only control one of them at a time. The demon inhabits the spirit world and your main character exists only in the mortal realm. You will have to switch between them depending on what you are trying to do. There are enemies in both worlds for you to defeat, as well as treasures to collect and lore to learn. If your puppet comes to a broken bridge, you may have to transfer to your Devourer to find a new path. If your puppet dies, you are able to revive them at Sanctuaries in the undead realm, but if your demon doesn’t make it, your game will end and you must restart from your last save point.
Gameplay is very similar to Diablo. You view the game in a top down ¾ isometric view. The game is divided into chapters and books, each with certain areas of the world that are key to the plot. Not only will you have to complete the main quest in each chapter, but you will also find a bevy of side quests to keep you busy for hours. Throughout the story you will encounter more souls that you can add to your puppet collection. This means that you will soon command archers, warriors and mages, no matter who you picked in the beginning. The one catch is that you can only have 4 members in your party at a time – and one of the slots is taken by your Devourer. You will have to choose who you think will help you the most during certain quests because you can only change your party at Sanctuaries. The other interesting thing about puppets is that there are a few that only appear if you perform a certain task. If you preform one task, it may lock out another one – meaning that puppet tied to the 2nd task will be unavailable to you for the rest of that play through.
Experience is shared between all your characters, even if they are not an active member of the quest party. This is nice because then you don’t have to keep swapping members to make sure that they level equally. Also, when you acquire a new soul it is at the same level as the rest of your party. You will have to equip them with armor, weapons and skills to make sure they are battle ready. This can take a little getting used to at first. Especially if you level multiple times and then you move a previously inactive soul into your party. Until you assign their points, they may be unprepared for the dangers that lay ahead. Also, each character has special moves that only they can do or spells they can cast. This allows you the ability to highly customize your party to your specific play style.
Graphics are very detailed. Each puppet has a very unique design and set of moves. One of the most interesting differences you will see is between the mortal and undead realms. The mortal realm is fairly plain as far as graphics go. There is nice detail in the scenery and the NPCs that you meet, but it pales to the undead realm. When you enter the realm of the undead, the world becomes darker, more ominous. There is an effect that makes it look like you are seeing the world through rippling water. This makes you feel like you are peering through the veil into another world that exists with ours, but not in harmony. One of the draw backs of the title is every time you transition between areas on the map, you hit a loading screen which draws you out of the action. For some areas this isn’t a big issue, but in areas when you must investigate houses it can be monotonous.
With a story as deep as the one in this game, you have to talk about voice acting and music. Much of the story unfolds using a narrator or with speaking to NPCs. The narration is spot on. It adds to the sense that you are embarking on an quest of epic proportions. The voices of each character are varied in not only tone, but accent as well. You can even tell a bit about the history and station of each character by the vocabulary they use. You will be treated to inner monologues for each puppet as you progress through the adventure. When switching to a new puppet they may be excited to enter a battle or feel put upon because they do most of the work. The soundtrack is filled with sweeping background music worthy of a summer blockbuster. You will also notice subtle sound cues that will alert you to items that are lurking in the realm opposite the one you are currently in.
Shadows : Awakening is now available on XB1, PS4 and Steam. Depending on which platform you are playing on, the title will cost you between $40 – $50. While this may seem a bit high, there is a lot of game to play. You can expect at least 20+ hours of gameplay for the campaign. On top of that, each starting character has their own series of missions so 3 playthroughs are required to get the full experience. Luckily there is enough content on these missions to make separate playthroughs feel fresh. If you are a fan of RPGs, and games like Diablo – this is one title that you don’t want to miss.