Three people, three stories, and one demon are mysteriously bound together by a strange hooded man. The events started 300 years ago when the God-slayer sword struck down the God-empress of the Garulian empire. Now mortal adversaries fight together for survival.
In the opening scenes of the you take on the role of an irate demon bound by a mysterious hooded mage. In the Shadow realm you fight your way to three statues each relaying a short biography and obituary of the memorialized person. The hooded man explains that you all are bound together by fate and magic and for you to choose one of these souls to consume as your puppet and companion.
The Game Play Loop
Shadows: Awakening is a classic isometric ARPG (action role-playing game) with real-time tactical combat. That’s a mouthful so let’s unpack what those things mean in this game. The camera angle is fixed at an isometric angle with no zoom or rotation. Sometimes that feels a little confining but the persistent perspective helps out in hectic battles. The tactical play in the real-time action combat comes from switching between puppets and executing their skills at key moments.
There is no positioning system like WH40K: Inquisitor Martyr. Instead tactics rely on crowd control, kiting, and skill timing. Each puppet can bring three skills to the table and you have up to four puppets to switch between including the demon.
The Characters and Combat
The demon is your base character and he collects the souls of particularly powerful beings. The first soul, your main, is the one you choose at the intro. The rest you collect through your adventures. It will take more than one playthrough to collect all the souls.
Each of the souls, referred to as puppets, you collect will belong to one of three main archetypes - melee, archer, or mage. The demon is unique in that there is just one of him. If your puppets die in battle they will return after. If your demon, or all your puppets, die, then you must reload a save. Fortunately you can save at any time and definitely should before each major battle.
Each main archetype has a base character that has a story woven into the events of the Garulian Empire, the town of Thole, and the Inquisition. The mage, dead 300 years, was a princess of the Empire. The warrior, recently betrayed, ran the Guild of Steel in Thole. The hunter, undead, has ties to other mysterious figures in town.
While the Demon is active you’ll be in the Shadow realm. Spirit creatures roam and attack but corporeal beings are shadows, stuck in time, until you return to the material world by making one of the puppets active. While the puppets are active you can’t see any spirit creatures.
and forth between the material and shadow planes. Each plane has advantages and disadvantages. Each has their own exclusive loot containers and interactive items. To be successful you’ll need to switch back and forth between the two to access pathways or items. This is especially important in boss fights.
The narrative is fairly linear. The main story and side quests are all packaged by chapter. I don’t mind that so much, but I did mind being so resource limited. Once you clear an area and complete the quests there isn’t much more to do and there isn’t any grind content to run to work on gear. I suppose that makes gear improvement part of the tactical choice you make in party building, but it felt more limiting than interesting.
The game also has some puzzles and light platforming obstacles. Sometimes the puzzles were fun, many of them are simple, but a few are quite challenging and one I couldn’t figure out at all. They are a mix of logic and dexterity puzzles. A couple of the dexterity puzzles I found rather annoying and frustrating.
Loot, Gear, and Upgrades
Loot and gear drops for each of the archetypes and they can be upgraded by added enhancements that also drop throughout the world. Each enchantment added improves the rarity tier of the item which also improves its other base stats. It’s hard to say from this short preview what shape gear upgrading will take.
I enjoyed what little I did get to experiment with. What I didn’t like is how limited resources like silver and upgrade enchantments are. You have to make tactical choices when upgrading as a result, but I didn’t enjoy the resource starved nature of it. It felt limiting. I hope by the end of the game there are ways to work on gear improvement.
Shadows: Awakening is an interesting mix of the familiar put together in a unique package. It’s a pretty game with its own charm and character. I won’t give it a thumbs up or down at this point. I’ve not seen enough yet. There were a few small bugs, but nothing a few prelaunch patches couldn’t correct. I have enjoyed myself so far and I want to see how these three characters are bound together, tied to events past.
The game will launch August 30th on Steam. You can pick it up for 15% off until then. Owners of Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms on Steam or GoG will find Shadows: Awakening added to their accounts at no extra charge.
Note: Our copy was previewed on Steam with a code provided by PR.