Four years after the release of Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms, the Devourer is back for another entry in the Heretic Kingdoms saga – for the first time on PlayStation! Will the isometric action RPG have what it takes to distinguish itself from that other action RPG? Read our Shadows: Awakening review to find out!
The story kicks off with a hooded man who awakens the Devourer, a soul-eating demon, with the offer of a partnership, saying they both share common enemies. The Devourer agrees without many other details and sets off to devour his first soul, one of the three Champions you’ll be able to control as your main character throughout the game. From there, your quest will follow a path guided by that hooded man to get to the enemies which you are still not aware of.
If you’ve played isometric action-RPGs in the past, like Diablo 3 , you’ll feel right at home with this game. Your main attack is with the X button, and the three other face buttons are for skills that you can unlock as you level up. There’s no dodge move available though, so you have to strategize a bit more when fighting more difficult enemies because they’ll destroy you if you stay right in front of them (especially if you chose the archer or mage champion).
What comes as a big change when compared to other games of the genre is the ability to swap between the Shadow Realm and the Mortal Realm. As the Devourer, you are confined to the Shadow Realm. You’ll obviously fight monsters in there, but you’ll also be able to go where the mortals can’t, as this realm is a big echo of the past. Bridges, secret passages and open walls will all become available to you in this realm and will help you reach places that your puppets couldn’t reach.
Puppets, you ask? That’s the word used for the souls you devoured that inhabit within you. Those souls allow you to take their body’s form in the Mortal Realm. The first one you get is the Champion a couple of minutes after the beginning of the game, but you’ll eventually get more as you progress in the game. Mortals can’t cross broken bridges, but they do a great job at being able to open doors, something the Devourer can’t do in his realm. This makes for a different gameplay experience since you can switch between your Devourer form and three puppets at any time. It allows for combinations of skills and attacks from all those entities that you can use at your advantage to take down some more impressive foes.
As in other games of the genre, there are side-quests that you can find pretty much everywhere, a lot of loot to find in dungeons, and tons of things to customize on your characters. You’ve got weapons and armors that can be found or purchased. When you gain a level, you can upgrade or unlock new skills, which are different attacks you can use in battle with some cooldown between each use. After hitting certain levels, you’ll also be able to add Talents to your characters, which are passive skills that can apply to that character or to each and every puppet. And then there are points that you can spend on things like strength or agility. Again, this adds a lot of variety to the game, as you’re not just building a single character that you’ll upgrade in a unique way to fit its play style; you’re playing multiple characters, experiencing with them all at once.
It’s been a while since I played an isometric action-RPG, the last one being Diablo 3 on PS4 (which I’ve played for over a hundred hours), so I was pretty happy to tackle this one. After getting the hang of the controls, which are really easy to pick up, I was quickly taking on side quests and dungeon-crawling all I could, swapping between worlds and finding all the loot there is to find. If you’re a fan of the genre, you can’t be disappointed playing this game. It’s not as polished as a Blizzard game, and the story is not the most solid one you could find but, for me, that didn’t really matter because I’m in for the looting and questing when I play that type of game.
The strongest point in this game is definitely the character swapping ability. It takes a genre that can quickly become redundant (even if you love it), since you’re mostly spamming the same 3-4 attacks all over again, and gives it a different spin by allowing you to change your play style from a barbarian to an archer in just a flick of a button. And if “just changing” wasn’t enough, you can go ahead and try to combine those attacks to help you out. The fact that the dungeons were also created in a way that you have to swap to get to certain places, or to get some additional loot, makes the realm swap an integral part of the gameplay.
As for the trophies, it doesn’t seem impossible, but it will surely be a time-consuming Platinum. There are a lot of trophies in the game that are based on decisions and actions you do, so obviously lots of missable stuff. Add to that the fact that you’ll have to play at least three times to see the story for the three champions. Want an additional challenge? Then how about completing the game on Hard with no puppet deaths? But wait, there’s more! You’ll also have to complete the game on Extreme difficulty!
Kalypso Media have created a really good game that’s worth playing if you’re a fan of the genre. It’s got a lot of replay value and has found a way to differentiate itself from other games in the genre.
This The Gardens Between review is based on a PlayStation 4 copy provided by Kalypso Media.