Fall In Love With Death In Shadowgate
By David Lins
Last week, I was given a chance to explore Zojoi’s reimagined Shadowgate for the first time. If you look at my preview, you can see that I was quite impressed with how the game was shaping up. But now we need to take one last look at the game and ask ourselves that very important, burning question: does Shadowgate live up to its name?
As I stated in my preview, Zojoi has done a masterful job remaking Shadowgate for the modern audience. It manages to update the visuals and music while keeping hold of that stubborn difficulty the series is notorious for. Carelessly grabbing objects and entering rooms will get you killed, and oftentimes your deaths will be ridiculous and humorous. Not often enough for my tastes, but c’est la vie.
Let’s talk about the controls. True to the classic, the player must use various “actions” on various objects (or “Thyself”) to make progress. You do this by clicking on those actions in the HUD (Look, Take, Open, Go, etc.) and then on the desired object. This is rather cumbersome at first; you’ll often find yourself bumbling around your inventory trying to examine items or combine them. Luckily, items and actions can be bound to hotkeys, and you can double-click on doors to open and travel through them, but you’ll still find yourself cursing whenever you, say, click on an object before choosing which item to use on it, causing an obligatory “that doesn’t work!” message to pop up.
The puzzles themselves are tricky and obtuse—which is how it should be. The overarching time limit (you have limited torches, you see) adds a level of tension to the game, and the puzzles are difficult enough that you’ll likely need to restart several times to get it right. If you’re persistent, though, you can figure it out; every riddle leaves a clue, though sometimes they are well-hidden. You’ll need to pay extra attention to details in order to conquer the game, especially on its hardest difficulty.
Things fall apart a little bit in the final act, however. After spending hours dredging through sewers and corridors, you’ll end up in a series of labyrinthine caverns. Here, it’s a race to find your way out before the whole place crumbles on you. It’s nice that the developers changed things up, but this choice confuses me a little. The endgame in the original title felt way more fleshed out than this, with several new areas to explore and solve. Here, we’re left bumbling through caves picking up crystals and lore books, with one measly puzzle to solve before approaching the final door.
That final segment almost spoiled the game for me. It was rather jarring to see such a well-designed adventure game devolve into “go through random caves until you hit the right one!” like that. Perhaps the idea sounded better on paper—or perhaps the developers ran out of money and time and had to throw something together. Whatever the reason, it drags the game down quite a bit.
Thankfully, the rest of Shadowgate is strong enough to remain standing, and it won’t get away from this review without a hearty recommendation. With three difficulties to choose from, Shadowgate should be a fun experience for anyone looking to solve some riddles and perhaps save a world along the way. It has some hiccups, but who knows—maybe once the developers look Beyond Shadowgate, we’ll see a more polished title.
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[author image=”http://cliqist.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/david.jpg”]David Lins is a freelance writer from Pennsylvania that has loved video games since he was old enough to hold a controller. He enjoys all sorts of games, but prefers difficult or terrifying ones. Currently, he plays too many roguelikes. When not writing about his favorite hobby, he loves to drink beer, write fiction, play tabletop RPGs or board games, and hang out with his friends and family. He also has a passion for technology and loves tinkering with his phone, computer, and other devices. Follow David on Twitter for “hilarious” or “insightful” tweets about nothing in particular. [/author]