Most game players in the 80s and 90s remember how unforgiving games were. When you died, well, that was it. If you got three lives, that was even better. However, for the most part you were on rough ground from the start. Shadowgate is now on Steam and brings back these classic RPG days with great flare. The game takes you through a great adventure to the living castle of Shadowgate which has been overwhelmed by a dark force, you have been chosen by an old sage to right the wrongs and bring the castle to its former glory. Nothing is easy in this game.
The original Shadowgate was an old school eight-bit RPG. A classic which made players make some serious choices to get through the game. Its influence can be felt in so many modern era games. RPGs, Hidden Object Games, MYST, and also heavy narrative games like The Walking Dead series and even Dark Souls. All of these stemmed from this style of gameplay. Karl Roelofs and Dave Marsh are both heavily involved in the relaunch. They were the team responsible for bringing Shadowgate to life back in 1987. With this new version, the team has kept the old school gameplay in tact with some great new effects and a solid interface for players to quickly learn.
I began the game and followed the storyline which was accompanied by some great artwork. It immediately took you into a stylized fantasy world. Then I spent some time on the tutorial to learn how to use the buttons and objects on the screen. After playing years of MMOs and action RPGs, I got a little frustrated with the style of the game at the beginning. After taking a few minutes to really think about Shadowgate I realized it is not about fighting and killing endless mods or blitzing through quests to get epic loot. It is a game that you need to take time with. You will have to study it, understand it, and if you make quick errors you will pay for them in death. Once I settled back into the determined teenager I was in 1987 to stay up all night and finish quests, I immediately discovered the true charm of this game.
It is all about seeing what is in the next room. What does the dungeon hold in store for you? Are there items that will be useful? How can I find new spells? These decisions may come quickly in an action game, but in the slow, careful living castle every choice has purpose. I died horribly trying to investigate a skeleton on a rock as a giant beast came out of the water to end my life. I had to know what that skeleton held. So it was a risk.
The interface is solid. You get tabs like Speak, Go, Use, and Hit for various abilities. You can navigate your bag quickly enough to use any items given the puzzle or situation. Trying out different actions is how you really navigate through the game. Yorick your trusty talking skull does offer some tips on how to get through different encounters, however, he can be difficult at times. The only time I found things frustrating is when I had to first open a scroll and then click again to read the scroll. The scrolls give both spells and lore about the game. Knowledge is power in this castle where every move can be your last. Yes, I did encounter a dragon and stayed far too long for my own good.
Shadowgate is a reimagined classic game which many players should try. Lately, I find myself mindlessly clicking through many RPGs and this one really makes you think. It is not a game to play quickly, you have to make the best choices through every room and solve the puzzles to survive. Shifting to Retro mode is also great fun to really take you back. This game definitely hits the old school RPG fan in all of us. It would also work very well on mobile and maybe we will see it there soon. For now, if you want a real challenge to your gameplay and you are not in a rush to blitz content, Shadowgate will be great fun to play.
Learn more about Shadowgate here.