Vikings: Wolves of Midgard was the most recent isometric singleplayer rpg game that I had played recently. Much like Diablo III, I put in A LOT of hours completing quest after quest, working towards the end game with a mighty warrior who could topple wave after wave-of-enemies and fierce bosses. I wouldn’t be surprised if I put near 100 hours into it with a hard playthrough and then after with a new game plus playthrough. And for all the times I died and cursed at the game I just couldn’t put it down. It had that Diablo-esque gameplay and addiction that I simply couldn’t ignore.
So when a review copy for Shadows: Awakening came up from publisher Kalypso Media who also published Vikings: Wolves of Midgard, I just had to get on it.
Shadows: Awakening is another title set in the Heretic Kingdoms saga, and after the members of a secret council known as the ‘Penta Nera’ are assassinated, their souls are consumed by the Devourers. These guys are evil demons which possess the ability to absorb the memories and personalities of the souls they acquire and materialize them as their puppets. Re-emerged into the mortal realm, these demonic Penta Nera continue their quest for power and immortality. In Shadows: Awakening the souls you are consuming are the souls of fallen heroes and combatants you come across on your travels.
You begin the game as the devourer, tasked to help a mage who has his own alterior motives no doubt and who is voiced by Tom Baker (I don’t do Doctor Who but the fans go crazy for him…) and having to choose one of three warriors. One a two weapon handed warlord, a cunning and skillful rogue archer or a battlemage more suited for the magics. For my initial playthrough I chose the archer for his ranged attacks which I always favour in these types of adventures.
These characters are essentially puppets, shells of their former selves again possessed by the devourer. However this gives you the added ability of not only playing with the style you have chosen, but also being able to still play in one of the other styles with your next acquired puppets abilities. Including the devourer you can travel as a party of four, and you can change your party at many of the sanctuary areas dotted around the maps. So really on my travels I still got to rock with the archer, a brawler and a mage should I decide too. Add to that, there’s certainly more than a handful of characters that you can unlock along the way and miss(!) depending on the choices made through your game.
So a few playthroughs with different outcomes will definitely be required to collect all them.
A unique and very interesting take for Shadows: Awakening separating it from all the other Diablo-esque clones out there, is the devourers ability to move around the netherealm when you select him, and it’s all down on the fly allowing you to switch back and forth as and when you like. This creates two environments really to explore on your travels, bringing an extra range of enemies in that dimension and which can only be fought there. Shift back to the real world and you may not find them or perhaps they may well be a different kind of enemy all together. This means that some enemies do require you to first be battled there to bring down a shield perhaps, to then be finished off in the real. Shifting back and forth also opens up otherwise closed off sections and footpaths that were previously inaccessible. It also helps when looking for a solution to a puzzle, where the solution may only appear in the nether having you to then go back and forth to solve the problem.
There’s a ton of items to be found in Shadows: Awakening, some more common than anything really good till you’ve maybe encountered a boss or solved a puzzle, which in turn rewards you with something a bit more legendary. And yes, there are epic and legendary weapons and armor sets to be found and the environments all have items scattered around that can be broken to find something more (I do love a good loot drop or find!). There’s plenty of vendors around during your travels, but as I always seemed to be full to the brim with stuff I maybe didn’t really need, I only ever bought one item from each if a legendary item was available.
- A Tale of Two Worlds – In a parallel universe inhabited by demons and monsters; seamlessly switch between the Shadow Realm and the mortal plane and witness a gripping storyline in a world full of myths, destinies and legendary creatures.
- Unique Party System – multiple characters in one demon, each retaining their own personalities with internal dialogues, rivalries and communication between the characters.
- Wide variety of Skills and Characters – Choose from 3 heroes, each with their own personal storylines, quests and dialogues. Consume the souls of 14 playable characters, each with their own unique skillsets, like Kalig the Bandit King and Evia, Daughter of Fire.
- Tactical Real-Time Combat – Combine the skills of your various characters to maximize the effects of your devastating skills and spells.
- Extensive Gameplay – 20+ hours for a single playthrough, but with substantial options for replayability which accumulate to 60+ hours for the full experience.
- Challenging Puzzles – Complex puzzles are scattered throughout the game, and will take you through a vibrant set of locations, from rustic towns to the deepest and darkest of dungeons.
- Crafting and Looting System – Expanded crafting and looting system will let you use rewards to configure the ultimate adventurer.
- Fully Voiced – All dialogues are fully narrated, including actors like Tom Baker.
Each character has their own inventory system, weapons and build set requirements. They all have different abilities that you can customise to an available slot and be levelled up to their max levels. They all require skill points to be contributed to Strength, Agility, Endurance etc. which are acquired when you’ve levelled up. Where most games which only give you access to one character at a time, Shadows: Awakening essentially gives you a handful to play with as you go which really just gives you more to play with. And you are going to need them all! Should they fall in battle, no problem! Just switch to another puppet and continue to the next sanctuary to resurrect the fallen.
The graphics are are not too bad if again you’re familiar with Vikings: Wolves of Midgard (and to be honest I wouldn’t be surprised if you thought they’d have used the same assets – there’s certainly a very familiar sound sample I’ve heard before…). The music too is well composed and not something you’ll necessarily be wanting to turn off after hours of running back and forth between quests funnily enough.
I really enjoy Shadows: Awakening and as it stands after many, many hours on it I’m still on Chapter V of which there are six of them. And after that I believe there’s a new game+ mode which I cannot wait to hit once I get there with whatever gear I’ll have once I’ve finished my initial playthrough. There’s a lot of game here, with plenty of side quests and a pretty long story filled with further books which you collect, filled with lore and tales. Which to be honest, other than what is summarised at the top of this review, I have no friggin’ idea what is going on but that’s ok because for me, I’m totally loving the rpg element, the customisation of the character builds and the chance of better loot! There is quite a bit of backtracking I won’t lie, and some of the puzzles really slow the game down that I would have preferred not to have them included because really I think the game doesn’t need them so much I don’t think.
If isometric singleplayer adventure rpgs are your thing (You diablo much brah?), and you have the time and the determination to get through this epic, courageous and lengthy quest, then you can do no wrong with Shadows: Awakening. I’m so much looking forward to continuing from where I last left off.
A review copy for Xbox One was provided for the purposes of this review (Thank You!).
You can view all of the achievements here.
And purchase the game for £39.99 on Xbox One here.
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- Good visuals
- Plenty of side quests and a lengthy story campaign
- Choice of multiple 'puppets' certainly adds more than just a single character to focus on
- Plenty of backtracking, best gather as much quests as you can before heading out
- Tricky puzzles slow the game down