Developed by GamesFarm Published by Kalypso Media Digital Ltd. Reviewed on PlayStation 4 (also available on Steam and Xbox One)
Shadows Awakening was a bit of a sleeper hit for me. I wasn’t really drawn in by the original trailer when I first saw it. However after about an hour or so of playing I knew I was in for a long, enjoyable ride. You are invited to the world of the Heretic Kingdoms, a dark world with interesting lore and dungeon crawling. Playing the role of a summoned demon known as the Devourer, you have been summoned to help defeat the his mutual enemy. You awaken in an ancient crypt in the Shadow Realm that’s filled with angry spirits of those forgotten and other nasty creatures. However, unable to interact with the physical world, The Devourer requires a human host to allow him to fight in the material plane. You are then given a choice to make between three starting heroes. Once you resurrect an avatar you head out to seek information on the looming threat and explore a detailed, well thought out world.
You start out with three classes: barbarian, archer, and sorceress. You are given four character slots, one always taken by the Devourer. The Devourer is the core of all his minions so if he dies the entire party goes with him. The inverse exists as well: if your physical party dies it’s game over. Switching between the two realms to fight is very satisfying as you can use the Devourer to unleash powerful magic as long as the outline of your physical enemy is on screen during combat. Thankfully, the unique character does give you a fighting chance and having a diverse party and careful strategy can lead to success. As you progress you will recruit newer party members and your existing characters will grow. Experience is gained by all party members so you don’t have to mix up the party to grind. The first few levels up to level 10 are slow. As you slay monsters and complete quests you will gain experience, money, and gear.
All items and experience are given equally, regardless of whether your characters are in the immediate party. The drop rate for equipment and experience is quite low. Character movement speed is also aggravatingly slow. Despite a slow start, the premise is intriguing and driven by the well executed voice acting. Not every NPC hits this mark but your summoner has a cool deep voice. The barbarian Kalig has a somewhat harsh Scottish accent actually becomes endearing. If only the the music was a bit more impressive as it does hurt the immersion that the world otherwise handles quite well. Sticking with the game you’ll found a fun dungeon crawler with a diversified cast, an interesting tale, and a fascinating world waiting to be explored.
While isometric RPGs can be a negative to some, GamesFarm absolutely nails it in the artistic department for environments, enemies, and overall immersion. The shadow realm always feels eerie. There were time I was hesitant to switch to it because of the horrors I thought I may uncover. The stunning desert city, forests, and temples visited are truly well crafted in both layout and detail. I spent a good 15 to 20 minutes just roaming around each hub just soaking in the details and appreciating the multiple layers each locale offers. The dungeons are given equally lavish care despite the fact that a couple of them are truly dreary. There is a small shortcoming as the soundtrack at point tends to not have much impact. That’s not a huge slight though because the powerful sense of atmosphere is otherwise captivating. The puzzles are woven directly into the environments and generally requires you to use both the shadow and physical realms to solve them. Some are optional and give you bonus equipment, and the ones that are not are integral to your advancement through the dungeon. The puzzles are not especially difficult but they are enjoyable nevertheless.
Shadows Awakening has some faults as its early portions are covered in rust with the slow movement and lacking score, so it takes time to shake it loose. Once you really get going, the game gives you a lush world, great characters to play, and a dark tale worth seeing through to the end.