Shadows: Awakening, from developer Kalypso, is a new single-player, isometric tactical RPG with some new gameplay mechanics of sifting between different realms. Some might say on the surfaces Shadows: Awakening is just a Diablo 3 clone which is not necessarily a bad thing, but fortunately there is a unique difference that sets it apart from other similar titles.
You play as a demon called the Devourer, someone who was summoned to help stop a powerful enemy. The demon is the protagonist and also the Shadows has this unique gameplay feature. Along the way, you will consume the souls of select warriors, hunters, and mages, and once their soul is consumed you can play as these characters. All of these characters have their own skills, personalities, strengths and weaknesses.
Swapping from the characters soul you have devoured back to the demon has you cross over into the Shadow Realm. It’s here you can see things from a different perspective. Not only can you use this to escape combat, but you can also see clues to help solve puzzles, open hidden doorways, and form bridges, letting you access new areas. Also, you can battle a variety of spirits, ghosts, and ghouls that can aid the demon by providing increased attack strength or defense.
Some enemies will be reinforced by a demon with shields or the ability to resurrect after you’ve killed them. Crossing over to play as the demon will allow you to slay the puppet master and this releases the thrall from its birth. Then with your real world character, you can defeat the enemy. Using the Shadow Realm is the main element that makes Shadows: Awakening an original type of action RPG.
The combat is of the hack-and-slash variety and there’s no turn-based battles or co-op. You’ll find plenty of common and epic gear including weapons and armor as you go about your adventure, but if you do find particular pieces you especially like, you can enchant them with essences and these can be found throughout the world. These essences will buff and increase your weapons and armor from just being common to a legendary status if enough of the essence is used.
Where the combat gets more interesting is when you get the option to swap between characters as you play in real-time. Each character will have three active skills which you can choose as you level up. Choosing skills to compliment the team will really help you on your quest and this will give you access to a total of 12 skills at any time between the four characters. For example, I found having character that can heal to save me from using my soul stone, which heals you but has limited uses, made facing enemies much less of a daunting experience.
Amongst these skills are talents and these act as perks that enhance certain attributes, such as defense against elements, boost damage or movement speed, and so on. On the topic of movement speed, this is something that I did not particularly care for as it can only be increased with the agility attribute and your characters can move painfully slow if not upgraded. There is also no dodge or roll feature, which I found very frustrating not being able to use since most games in this genre incorporate this basic action.
Instead of dodging, the developer has added the option to change between realms as the demon in order to avoid being hit in combat. Unfortunately, I do find this somewhat jarring swapping back-and-forth quickly in battle, but this could be just because I’ve never seen this gameplay mechanic inserted into another title. Some characters do have the skills to move faster for a short time or roll, but this can only be used a number of times due to the cooldown period and mana depletion.
Where Shadows: Awakening really shines is in its art direction and music/sound design. Shadows: Awakening looks great on the PS4 Pro and the environments are well detailed. There are many different areas to explore, and they all have their own look and feel. The music also fits the setting, and the sound effects and ambient sound are spot-on. Also, the voice-acting is conveyed well by the cast which successfully compliments the story and kept me engaged.
If at any point you need a break from devouring souls then you can find find plenty of books in the environments filled to the brim with lore. Some of these books will include backstory and also information on some of the characters you play as and meet. The main quest itself will take roughly 15 hours to complete depending, of course, if you explore every nook and cranny with plenty of side quests to also keep you busy.
Overall, Shadows: Awakening is another enjoyable hack-and-slash RPG if you need something else to play that is similar to Diablo 3. The pacing of the story and some technical hiccups hold it back from being on the upper tier of this genre, but it is worth playing if you enjoy these types of titles. While the execution may not always be on point, I hope to see what’s next in the Shadows: Awakening story arc and what the developer can build on to make it truly a stand out title.