Shadows: Awakening Review PS4

very good
key review info
  • Game: Shadows: Awakening
  • Platform: Playstation 4
  • Gamepad support: N/a
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Shadows: Awakening continues the Heretic Kingdoms saga that begun back in 2004 with the release of Kult and Shadows, ten years later. However, Awakening is the first game in the series that gets a console release besides the PC launch.

Having played both PC and PS4 versions, I can say that they both suffer from similar technical issues, which are less noticeable on the PC. Although I did not found any game-breaking bug, stuttering and long loading times on the PS4 are my main concerns.

Technical issues aside, Shadows: Awakening is a surprisingly decent action RPG. Even if it doesn't bring any innovations over the previous two titles in the series, Shadows Awakening refines the formula that made the Heretic Kingdoms saga famous among RPG fans.

Because of the unique gameplay mechanics, it's hard to compare Shadows: Awakening with any other aRPG's, but for comparison's sake let's say that it's a Diablo-like game with a twist.

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Story

Shadows: Awakening starts a bit slow since you're presented the basics of the gameplay mechanics and the main plot, but after an hour or so the story picks up the pace. You play as a Devourer, a demon able to posses souls of deceased heroes and retain their personality traits and attributes.

You've been summoned into the mortal realm by one of the members of the Penta Nera, an ancient secret society that was originally created to free the land from the cruel Theocracy. If you've played the previous title, you already know that Penta Nera was successful in its mission to get rid of the Theocrat, and started to fight among themselves for power.

Even though you're not told what's really happening in the shadows right from the start, it won't take long until you're revealed most of the plot. Almost all Penta Nera members have killed and their souls are now possessed by Devourers. Your job is quite simple: kill everyone.

However, since some of them are very powerful, you'll have to explore the world of Heretic Kingdoms in search for legendary artifacts and ways to counter some of Penta Nera's power. It's true that the plot is as generic as it can be, but it's the journey that brings you to your destination that counts more.

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Shadows: Awakening is split in multiple chapters, each with their own main and side quests. Some of the main quests can't be completed until you reach higher levels, which means that you'll be revisiting some regions.

If the plot isn't something to be proud of, the voice acting is exceptional. Most of the dialogues are fully narrated, just like in the previous game, thus enhancing the immersive experience.

Gameplay

If you've played any of the previous Heretic Kingdoms games, you'll fell right at home playing Shadows: Awakening. If not, it will take you a bit of time to get use with the gameplay mechanics. I should mention that Shadows: Awakening doesn't have a steep learning curve, even though the combat system is quite unique for the aRPG genre.

When you start your adventure, you'll have to pick a “main” character from three possible classes: fighter, archer, and mage. Each class is represented by a hero with his/her own original story, which you'll have to discover during your playthrough. As you progress into the story, you'll meet new heroes that you'll be able to add to your roster by killing them and devouring their souls.

However, you won't be able to have more than four heroes in your party. Also, you'll only control one member of the party at any time, but you can switch between them on the fly with a touch of a button (yes, even mid-fight).

The transition between characters doesn't feel smooth at first, but I got used to it after a couple of hours. It's an interesting twist on the aRPG genre, which adds an extra layer of strategy since each of your characters have their own powers and skills that are good in certain situations.

Another interesting gameplay feature is the … Shadowrealm. It's the only realm where your demon can manifest in its true form, so whenever you're switching to the Devourer, you'll basically travel in the Shadowrealm where some of the objects in the mortal word might not exist. It leaves room to various puzzles as there are areas in the games that are unreachable from the mortal world, so you'll have to switch between the Devourer and other members of you party.

Also, many bosses or critters can only be damaged in the Shadowrealm, while others have two forms that must be killed in both realms. Sometimes, you'll have to remove a “shadow shield” from a boss using the Devourer and then kill it with your other characters.

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There are no healing/mana potions throughout the game, but you'll be able to heal yourself using soulstones. These are items with limited healing/mana charges, which you can equip on your character. The only way to replenish these soulstones is from a shadow merchant for an amount of money, or by simply killing critters and absorbing their souls.

Overall, I noticed that the game favors ranged classes like archers and mages, but the melee heroes are devastating in close combat. Using melee heroes when you need to burst a boss and then switching to a ranged hero is the key to success in Shadows: Awakening.

One other thing worth mentioning is that the game has some sort of upgrade system which allows you to empower your gear with “essences.” Each time you apply an essence to a weapon or piece of armor, that item's rarity goes up a notch. However, the level of the item remains the same, it doesn't scale up with your character, which means you'll have to be careful what weapon and armor you want to upgrade.

Sound and graphics

Although a bit bland, Shadows: Awakening looks great, and from what the developers are saying, it does support 4K resolution on PC. Perhaps the Shadowrealm needs a bit more work, but the mortal plane looks and feels pretty rad.

As a matter of fact, I was pleasantly surprised to see how good this game looks on the PS4. With a bit more attention to details and much richer landscapes, Shadows: Awakening would have been a technological wonder, though I'm not sure this is what Games Farm wanted in the first place.

I've already mentioned that all dialogues are fully voice acted, but the orchestral tunes also contribute to the the immersive gameplay experience. The music perfectly fits some of the more dramatic scenes in the game, but other than that it doesn't really stand out.


The Good

  • Gorgeous visuals
  • Innovative combat mechanics
  • Solid voice acting
  • Variety of skills leaves room for tactical and strategic options
  • Synergy between characters really works

The Bad

  • Generic plot
  • Bland landscapes
  • Shadowrealm needs a bit more work
  • Technical issues

Conclusion

Shadows: Awakening is a must play title for Heretic Kingdoms fans. It refines the formula introduced 14 years ago and provides players with more than 20 hours of pure RPG action. Although I feel that the unique combat and rich fantasy universe don't really shine in Shadows: Awakening, I believe the Heretic Kingdoms saga has finally matured.

If not for some annoying technical issues and the generic plot, Shadows: Awakening would have probably been one of the best aRPGs launched this year. Still, there are a lot of good things that I've experienced during my playthrough, such as the innovative combat system that offers lots of tactical options, the smooth switching between characters, as well as the eye candy landscapes.

Heretic Kingdoms remains a franchise with great potential, so I'm very curious to see where developers are going to go from here. Obviously, there's room to improve the formula, but I'd like to see something new as well.

story 7
gameplay 8
concept 9
graphics 8
audio 8
multiplayer 0
final rating 8
Editor's review
very good
 

Shadows: Awakening screenshots (20 Images)

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