RPG quests. I’ve done so many that I think I need a holiday… at least from the darkest dungeons. You know how it goes. “Can you go and kill the evil bloke in the desert who is magically making sand from his evil minions?” Yeah, no problem. “Can you find the orb of Ballbag on the Mountain of Mandy and then bring it all the way back here in the next two hours?” Okay… sure. “Can you also locate Dave the Destroyer, all by yourself?” It all gets a bit too much sometimes and I seem to be the only one ever grafting.
In Shadows Awakening I had to carry the ashes of some bloke’s wife to the burial grounds. Why? It’s all about experience points, levelling up and cash – the crack of gaming. But does Shadows: Awakening hit all the right boxes in the epic RPG checklist? Or does it fail at the first quest?
Shadows Awakening is the newest instalment in the PC saga, Heretic Kingdoms, but I don’t think it matters that much if you haven’t played the previous games in the sequence. The story involves you starting out as a demon who has been summoned by a shady hooded mage character (voiced by the excellent Tom Baker) to help in a quest. It’s a deep involving story that is actually very well put together and fascinating at times. You can tell that this world created by the developers has a lot of creative time invested in it and this comes through neatly through the text and characters. Your demon character has a choice to make though, as he needs to possess one of three dead warriors in order for function in both the living and the ethereal plane. The choices are those staple RPG elements; mage, ranger, and warrior. But whoever you choose, there is a clever twist to Shadows: Awakening.
See, you can switch between two different worlds and characters at the touch of a button. Both have different enemies, treasures and traps. Can’t get across a bridge? Well, switch to the ethereal plane and you can now trot across. Can’t work out the complicated puzzle? Switch plane and the clues are there in ghostly form. It’s a great trick and the developers use it well with a seamless transition between the worlds. I have to say, I pretty much love this mechanic and over time you get access to controlling a number of “puppets’, switching between them with ease. The characters you can control all have different skills and work well in a variety of situations across both battle and exploration.
Awakening is set up like a normal isometric dungeon crawler – much in the line of Diablo or any other multitude of games like this over the years. You have a mixture of exploration, dialogue discussions, puzzles and of course combat. With the exploration and quest hunting side of things, this is one seriously massive adventure that will last you well over 50 hours; at least if you do all the main quests and side quests. The quests are a good varied bunch, but basically, do come down to a very similar gameplay style that is commonplace in the RPG genre. The puzzles are great and although they can at times be quite mind-bending, it is always possible to find the solution too. As I said before, the way the puzzles work between the two different realms to find a solution works brilliantly.
Away from that and the combat system is a relatively simple affair with a normal attack coming in the form of a slash, a magic spell or long range arrow. Then you have three slots open for a number of special attacks which you can swap between, building up with experience points. As is the case with most normal RPGs, you can build up all your stats with your experience and levelling up. Sometimes it’s a hard task though, and because you have to do this for all your supporting ‘puppets’ it can take a bit of time to make sure everyone is upgraded to a decent level. On the whole though, the combat, the levelling system and everything attached is enjoyable and interesting without ever being truly remarkable.
Shadows: Awakening looks fine too. It doesn’t break the bank in trying something unusual or groundbreaking in the visual department and is exactly how you expect a game of this type to look. But what it does do it does very well, and the seamless switch between worlds comes with a nice visual flourish. The characters and UI system look great and it all works well on the eyes. In terms of the audio and whilst the soundtrack is epic and grand, it isn’t anything I haven’t heard before. The effects and noises are decent too, well designed and working well within the context of the gameplay. The game is fully voiced by actors, led by the great Tom Baker, and it’s a brilliant mixture of voices and textures.
Overall and Shadow’s Awakening is very solid indeed. Fans of the genre will have a lot of fun here and should well enjoy the depth of gameplay that is on offer. The switching between worlds in a great trick and the developers use it superbly well, whilst the fully voiced cast offer an extra dimension. The visuals and gameplay elements don’t offer us anything new – at least not anything that we haven’t seen a hundred times before – but what it does do, it does well. If you’re looking for a solid RPG, want to play with multiple characters and spend a long time questing, then Shadow’s Awakening might be the game for you.