There’s two things I haven’t had a good serving of since 2012 and that’s dungeon crawling and a good ol’ fashioned fantasy tale. There’s just something simple about a magical land with all sorts of creatures and you being able to explore its many nooks and crannies. Luckily, Kalypso Media is heralding the charge of Shadows Awakening, the next chapter in the Heretic Kingdom saga. Being totally honest I did not play the first title, but that definitely won’t stop me from enjoying a Diablo-meets-Marvel Ultimate Alliance experience. Hopefully, that comparison between two amazing franchises perked up your ears because Shadows Awakening deserves your attention.
Shadows Awakening starts off with a spirit, only known as a Devourer demon, being mysteriously summoned and given form. The man to perform this ritual is your classic mysterious and vague mage who raises more questions than he answers for a time. Upon gaining corporeal form the Devourer is given a choice of three dead souls to absorb. The choices are as classic as they are expected between the warrior, archer, and magician. The chosen vessel will then be brought back to life in service to the Devourer and the one who summoned it. Their skills will be required for the epic adventure that awaits and how the they interact with the world. Choosing any one of the three deceased souls will block off the others and how they would go on to change the story and paths of lore.
After being given a barebones explanation for the Devourers summoning, you later find out, through walls of text and rushed exposition, that an important organization from the first game has lost its way and has become an evil force upon the world. Borderline taboo magics and procedures have irreversibly changed the scope of the land and leave many in fear. The mysterious mage’s quest is to put a stop to the unholy dealings and the Devourer and all its consumed souls are a last-ditch attempt to solve this worldly problem. Yes, key enemies you defeat throughout the campaign will be able to join your brood and you’ll utilize their abilities/techniques for your own devices.
Gameplay is dungeon crawling at its finest, except maybe the movement speed being a tad bit too slow. The isometric view, mostly linear corridors and paths, but with a lot of area to explore, mystical goings-on, and loot drops are all here. Each character will have different abilities and in-depth equippables scattered across a handful of classes. With the armor, weapons, and accessories being random loot drops from enemies or from stores scattered across the world. These characters will also have around nine, unique skills that can be tailored to any playstyle. That’s because you can only have three equipped at any given time. However, Shadows Awakening doesn’t feel restricted because of this and the amount of combinations this creates actually caters to wider range of gamers. Lastly, all of those can be upgraded with skill points, XP, and the in-game currency, Essence/Silver.
The real-time combat may be a bit simplistic for some, as I was able to solve most battles by just relentlessly bashing what needed to die in the face, but the variety of enemies and ways to take them out kept me entertained. You can even combine your different souls’ attack into fun, little combos since you can only have one on the field at a time. A quick tap of the L1 or R1 button will instantly displace one character for another. If you do this with your Devourer demon and any mortal being, the area around you will change. Being in the “Shadow” will reveal passageways only your spirit can traverse and even completely new enemies your other characters can’t even see let alone battle with. Some fights will require a combination of demon and mortal to take your opponents down. While this might seem like a gimmick it works phenomenally well. Puzzles require thought but not expertise and many areas will have twice the foes to pound. I actually enjoyed switching between “realms” in order to clear an area completely.
As I mentioned the world of Shadows Awakening may be mostly linear, but there’s a lot of dungeons and places to explore. Better yet the game doesn’t feel too small where you’re not having fun and it doesn’t feel too big where you may just stumble upon something important. Through it all though the level design is gorgeous. Mired jungles, forests, cliff edges, valleys, canyons, cities, and everywhere else inbetween was oh so pretty. Other than scavenging for sweet, sweet loot, exploring can also lead to lore which can be read at the discretion of the player. Naturally, this expands on the social, economical, and status of the planet around you. Nothing you haven’t seen before and something I admittedly rarely delved in to.
The user interface is well laid out on the gameplay front and it’s very easy to keep track of health, magic, replenishment stones, character abilities, etc. However, in the menus is slightly different. For the first few hours I had difficulty navigating through inventory, skills, talents, character, journal, and books screen. Some were easier to get a grasp on than others, but with no tutorial the process of growing my characters took a backseat for a tiny bit. There’s a lot of options to choose from/info to read and even equipping and de-quipping items may be difficult at first. A similar problem arises within text boxes and your chosen line of dialogue. Some conversations will fill up the screen and you’ll find yourself going down the list of options. Only to find out that the very last selection wasn’t the line to end a chat. I missed out on some opportunities because of this.
Additionally, and to be expected for a dungeon crawling RPG, Shadows Awakening suffers from a few technical problems. Enemies can hit and be hit through walls to a certain degree and others have glitched out on me. A smaller boss even froze in place and made the rest of the fight simple. While this can break the immersion for some, I found it more than acceptable considering the role-playing mechanics at play here. There are a healthy amount of main and side missions to complete, optional characters to find, a ton of dialogue (which was well voice acted I must add), and a lot of loot with different ratings and powers. I’m sure a few simple patches will solve these issues in no time.
Shadows Awakening PS4 Review
- Overall - Fantastic - 8.9/108.9/10
If well made Diablo clones (although I do hate to simplify the game like that) with engrossing stories, fun combat, and plenty of dungeon crawling, RPG goodness strikes your fancy then Shadows Awakening is a must buy. For both casual and hardcore gamers alike. The reasons this title doesn’t quite reach that accolade here can be directly pinpointed to technical flaws and a goddamn learning curve for the menu systems. Still with many hours under my belt, I think I’m going to remember Shadows Awakening for a long time.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a digital copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using a PS4 Pro.