Review – Shadows: Awakening
It takes a lot to bring something new to the table, but Shadows: Awakening – available now on PC, PS4, and Xbox One – does just that with its unique spin on the classic roleplaying game (RPG) party mechanic.
Like most games, players take on the role of a central figure, in this case a demon called the Devourer, and then put together a group of warriors, rogues, and mages to provide support along the way. The twist here is that there’s no party, there’s only the Devourer and his puppets in the mortal realm.
At the outset players control the Devourer as he explores an area from his vantage point in the shadow realm, then they must choose their first character to bond with, a choice of one from the classic trinity of the RPG genre – a warrior, a rogue, or a mage. From that point on, the Devourer can flip from the shadow realm over to the mortal realm and inhabit their body, a shared existence that the mortals aren’t overly happy about but must live with if they…well, if they want to live.
To bond with a mortal, they must be dead – the bond offering them a second chance at life and an opportunity to seek to right wrongs or to reap vengeance on those who wronged them. The barbarian, for example, would like to track down the son that betrayed him. Each character has a well thought out origin and the overall story is strengthened by these individual strings running through an otherwise generic plot. There are a lot of strings, with 14 playable characters in all, so completionists can expect to put in a few playthroughs to see everything the game has to offer.
Given the ‘one character at a time’ twist, I didn’t expect the combat to be quite as engaging as it proved to be. In a smart move, characters can share buffs between the others. It leads to a chain of firing off skills and attacks, then switching characters, to take full advantage of them. Pop a skill as the barbarian to improve critical hit chance and damage, for example, and use his strongest attack, then switch to the demon and use his stat-buffing skill and his most powerful attack, then switch over to the archer and rain heavy damage down on everything within reach – it’s incredibly effective and offers more tactical depth than a single-character combat scenario should have had.
With access to both the shadow and mortal realms, there’s also an element of tactical positioning. If an enemy is firing a powerful attack in the mortal realm, shift to the Devourer in the shadow realm, move out of the way, then switch back over to renew the onslaught. With unique enemies in both realms, however, players will need to take care when switching back and forth.