Developed by Witch Hunt Studios Published by Witch Hunt Studios Reviewed on PlayStation 4 (also available on Xbox One and Steam)
Witch Hunt Studios’s Masquerada: Songs and Shadows started off as a Kickstarter project and quickly acquired enough funding to greelight the project. A few months later the game was released on Steam in 2016 and found some success. Now close to a year later, Masquerada: Songs and Shadows is coming to consoles.
Masquerada: Songs and Shadows is a 2.5D isometric RPG set in the Venetian-inspired fantasy city of Ombre that’s haunted by the shadows of civil war. Combat is in real time, but you are able to pause the combat to plan out a more strategic approach. The story follows the adventure of man name Cicero Garvar who has been exiled from the city but is brought back to solve a missing person case in exchange for money to help his parents out. Masquerade tells its story through comic book style panels. As civil war breaking out, politics plays a big part in the story. The Masqueradas are the top class that has access to magical mask called Mascherines that have elemental power such as fire, earth, water, and wind. The prologue acts as a tutorial that teaches the combat system and gives a little background on why the rebellion started. You then jump into the role of Cicero’s brother Cyrus. In the prologue you learn that Cyrus is fighting for a rebellion, stealing Mascherines to give to the lower class. Towards the end of the prologue Cyrus meets his end and the story cuts to five years later where the main story begins.
Once into the main story of Cicero, from start to finish, the story moves at a great pace, always holding the player’s interest. Every text following the main storyline is voiced by very talented voice actors that instantly helps keep you engaged in what’s going on, despite all the politics talk of the different factions in the city of Ombre. Just to name a few voice actors, Matt Mercer, who famous for the voice of Leon S Kennedy from the Resident Evil series, is Cicero. Other well known names include Felicia Day, from the web series The Guild, and Ashley Burch known for her recent role as Aloy from Horizon Zero Dawn. Not only is the voice acting great, but Masquerada has a great soundtrack that has a great renaissance sound to it.
Masquerada classifies itself as a RPG but falls very short on being a great all around RPG experience. Most of the RPG elements are lacking in many aspect. Although the city of Ombre looks gorgeous, bright, and colorful, the game doesn’t really incorporate exploration very well. Most of the time you’ll find yourself simply going from point A to point B to keep the story going. You can find highlighted spots within the area you’re currently in. By clicking the action button within those highlighted spots, you collect lore within the world that you can read. They provide history from that part of the world if you choose to read. You will naturally run into those highlight spots just by going to where you need to be. There is barely any loot to gather in the game. Most of your findings will come in the form of picking up Mascherine to add boosted stats to your characters. You can’t upgrade or use different weapons or gear, but the game does allow you to change masks for different character stats. I really couldn’t notice the stats differences when changing masks, so most of the game I stuck with the beginning masks. I wasn’t able to find any side quests. NPCs just chat with other NPCs, so you can’t interact with them other than seeing text above their heads. I wound up walking past most of them.
If you looking for a true all around great RPG, Masquerada may not be for you. If you’re looking for an engaging story that will keep you entertained for 10 hours, this is where Masquerada shines the best. Being categorized as a RPG, it’s hard to overlook things such as lackluster combat, the absence of a character leveling system, a lack of loot to collect, and no sidequests. Most of these are key fundamentals when making an RPG and Witch Hunt Studios misses the target. The city of Ombre breathes tons of life with big, vibrant world with tons of lore within the world, which is awesome. The problem is you can barely interact with any of it. I would love to see a sequel to Masquerada that takes fan and critic feedback because Masquerada has the potential to be something special.