Shadows: Awakening Preview
For those who don't know the drama surrounding Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms, which led to the development of Shadows: Awakening, here is a brief recap. Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms was a game developed by Games Farm and published by BitComposer, who were in need of money and wanted to release the game early. Because of that the game was split in Book I and Book II. However after Book I was released in 2014, BitComposer was declared bankrupt before Book II could be released, even though it was almost finished. The rights to the game were with BitComposer and were part of the bankruptcy procedure. For two years Games Farm tried to get the rights to the game back, in which they finally succeeded in 2016. Given the successful cooperation they had with Kalypso on Vikings: Wolves of Midgard, they came to an agreement with Kalypso to also publish Shadows: Awakening. This game is not just the missing Book II, but it is Book I and Book II in one game, put in a new engine (Unity), with added improvements and made available for PC, PS4 and Xbox One.
As all the voices for the entire game were already recorded at the time, including the voice of Tom Baker who is not doing voice overs anymore, they did not add anything that required additional voice overs. As a result they had to look for other ways to enhance the game. As a result, the game (Book I and II combined) is basically the same from the point of quests and dialogs as it was in 2014. Even though they could not add new dialogs and quests, they did add additional levels with puzzles.
Fortunately for the buyers of Shadows: Heretic Kingdom, who were thinking they would get Book II shortly after the release of Book I, Shadows: Awakening is free.
Shadows Awakening takes place in two realms. The earthly realm (or real world) and the shadows realm. You can switch constantly at any time from one to the other, the character you have in the real world and your shadow demon in the shadows realm. Combat in Shadows Awakening is real-time. Enemies that are in the real world exist also in the shadows realm. However you cannot harm them in the shadows realm, but you can cast spells on them. These spells will not harm them, but the effect will persist in the real world. So if you would cast a spell that stuns an enemy in the shadows realm and switch back that enemy would be stunned in the real world as well and you can easily attack it there. It works also the other way around. If you are caught in a web in the real world, you can switch to the shadows realm and move to a different location there, after which you can switch back to the real world and find yourself moved to that same location in the real world. Similarly, when a path is blocked in the real world, you might find a passage in the shadows realm.
The game is a party based RPG, but somewhat different from other party based games. In the Shadows realm there is your demon. A demon, the devourer, who is linked to your character. Your character is one of 3 heroes. Each with their own story line, quests and dialogues. You can play with only one of these heroes. If you want to play with all three, you will need to play the game three times, once for every character. Each playthrough has a playing time of roughly 15 hours for the main story and about the same for the side quests, but only a part of that will be different when playing the game again and only if you have selected a different hero to play with.
While playing the game you can have the demon consume the souls of other characters, up to a total of 14, but it is not possible to consume all of them in one run as some characters are mutually exclusive. You would need to play the game more than once, in order to be able to consume the souls of the characters you were unable to consume in a prior run. You can access your party configuration screen at any time, so you can select the characters that fits an encounter best. For that you can see in the shadows realm the location of your enemies and what type of enemies they are, before you encounter them in the real world. This allows you to tailor your party accordingly. You can only have one character in the Shadows realm, the Devourer, and up to 3 characters from the characters available to you, in the real world. You can switch at any time, including during combat, between these characters, as you will be playing with only one character at any given time.
The game has a branched quest and dialog system that allows for choice and consequences. Your choices will impact the story and behavior of NPCs, leading to one of three possible endings.
The game makes use of karma points, which in the UI are made visible by 4 karma slots, two positive and two negative. Depending on how you complete a quest you get either positive or negative karma. Quests you receive can be based on the status of your karma. In the shadows you could be approached by demons who basically only give you quests that will earn you negative karma, however to compensate, they made the rewards so good that it would become challenging not to do these quests, just because of the negative karma. If however you mostly only gather positive karma, your demon will slowly turn into an angelic creature with wings and it will become more devilish than it already looks if you do the opposite.
In the first Shadows game there were 6 skills for the main characters and 4 skills for each of the other characters, but now every character in the game gets 8 skills. At the moment there are 14 playable characters, but 2 more are intended to be added this autumn. As all skills are unique, this means there are over 100 different skills, with each skill having 3 levels.
From the 8 available skills, there are 3 that can be used in combat, which are also linked to short-cut keys. These have to be selected up front, but you can go to your skills screen to change that selection at any time. The skills from the different characters can also work in synergy together to create even more powerful effects. You will have to find out yourself what extras are provided by what combination of characters and skills.
When you level up, you get attribute and skill points that you can spent. What is new compared to the previous game, is that you now also have the option to add talents to your character. Talents have prerequisites that you need to meet in order to be able to add a talent. By means of talents you can improve and enchant your equipment. But talents can also increase your capacity to carry things or increase your health generation and other passive improvements like that. The talent tree is basically the same for all classes.
The game supports four difficulty levels ranging from easy to extreme. On easy, you should be able to finish the game without thinking too much about the configuration of your party, skills, talents and synergy of spell combinations. And in the extreme difficulty you will not be able to finish the game without balancing your party and skills in the right way to make them as powerful as possible, which is actually similar to how it was in the previous game.
Healing has also been changed. The game now uses soul stones, which is an item in your inventory, dropped randomly by creatures you defeat. These soul stones can be used for healing or replenishing your mana. The soul stones deplete on usage, but will recharge when you kill enough enemies.
There is a targeting option in the game that allows you to select a target and every combat action after that will be on that character, this can however be disabled if you don't like that.
There are 30 boss fights in the game, each requiring different tactics to defeat them. The loot drop from the bosses will always be relevant to the character you have. This in contrast to the drops of other creatures, which are randomized.
There is a main story for the game and each of the 3 main characters has a story line as well, including a set of unique quests per character. The game is supposed to have more than 100 quests. In the improved quest log the main quests are separated from the side quests and are colored to see what you have completed and what not. The quest log also indicates the level you should have in order to tackle them, but the game will not limit you in any way if you are too low level and like to do them anyway. Next to that you can also select a single quest which will be tracked on the overlay map. However the game also has an old-school mode, where you can turn things like this and other things that assist the player, off.
The game supports fast travel by means of teleporter devices. From the world map you can travel to the different teleporter locations, once you have discovered them.
In order to craft items you need to find essence. In each level there is a location in the shadows realm, which drops essence. There is only one such a spot per level. Essence can also be bought, received from quests or could be dropped when you kill creatures. With the essence it is possible to enhance any equipment you have by giving them a magic bonus. Depending on the type of equipment, the effect that is received can be different.
There a numerous merchants in the game and they stock their shops based on your level. So, you will find higher level stuff in the shops when you have leveled up enough.
Shadows: Awakening is playable with mouse and keyboard or a controller and provides the same user interface and is scheduled for release on the 31st of August 2018, for PC (on Steam and GOG), PS4 and Xbox One.
You can check out parts of the game in this featurette, so you can get a feeling for the various aspects of the game: