When browsing through the list of games on display at the Indie Megabooth at this year’s PAX East, Witching Hour Studios’ Masquerada: Songs and Shadows immediately jumped out to me. The trailer for the 2.5D isometric RPG offered a glimpse at the game’s striking, French comic book inspired art style and “pause for tactics” combat system, which should be immediately familiar to anyone who has played BioWare CRPGs such as Baldur’s Gate or the various Dragon Age titles.
Thankfully, I had a chance to check the game out for myself at the show and while the demo was fairly barebones, focusing primarily on the game’s combat systems, I did get to learn a bit more about the more nuanced aspects of Masquerada.
In terms of story, Masquerada is set in the Venetian city of Ombre, where those who possess rare masks are able to tap into their power and wield powerful magic. The scarcity of these masks has created a society of haves and have-nots, and there is ongoing strife as a result. The protagonist is a character named Cicero Gavar and he’s returned to Ombre in order to solve a kidnapping, which is where the demo kicks off. I wasn’t able to glean a whole lot more about the story beyond that as the developers were tight lipped on revealing too much.
Combat can be played in active or tactical modes similar to the Dragon Age games. Both player characters and enemies have armor that must be destroyed before their health can be damaged. However, attacks from the flank or rear partially ignore or completely bypass armor. Your abilities function like a MOBA in the sense that many abilities are aimed skill shots with cooldowns. It’s also possible to combo abilities with other characters as you would in Dragon Age or MMOs like Guild Wars 2. Masks play an important role in combat, too. Your mask will charge up over time with magical power which can then be unleashed in a devastating attack upon your enemies.
Masquerada does feature progression for your main character and various allies, particularly in the form of skill evolutions. Individual abilities can be upgraded in various ways. For example, you can upgrade a teleport move to do AOE damage if you want to use it as an explosive way to enter combat. Alternatively, you can opt to upgrade the same move to freeze nearby enemies for a bit of crowd control or perhaps to set up a spell combo.
Only a couple of months into development at this point, Masquerada: Song of Shadows won’t be available until sometime in early 2016, but if you’re a fan of this sort of game, it’s definitely one to watch. The game is currently set for release on the PC platform, but Witching Hour Studios is also investigating releasing the title on consoles and even mobile.