There has been a recent influx of indie RPGs yet few have captured what makes the genre special. Does Masquerada: Songs and Shadows have what it takes to stand out from the crowd?
Masquerada: Songs and Shadows stars a detective named Cicero Gavar who has previously committed a treasonous act in the eyes of the state. Now that the city of Ombre needs him to help solve the kidnapping of a diplomat, he has returned to the place that once banished him. The story that follows is full of strife and deception within the divided city where mask-wearing magic casters known as Mascherines and the common folk (Contadani) are constantly at odds. It's definitely an intriguing tale that'll keep you playing just to witness the drama unfold. Thankfully, the cast of characters is diverse and each one has a distinct voice, personality, and set of motives that will have you guessing just what they'll do next. As you move around the game world, you'll uncover plenty of tidbits about the lore of this fantastical world and it all adds up to a captivating and in-depth narrative.
Thankfully, the world of Masquerada: Songs and Shadows is beautifully rendered with stylish 2D environments and well-animated 3D character models. You'll traverse a vast assortment of locations both outside as well as within large buildings and it all comes together to form a unique experience. To complement this world, an orchestral and often operatic soundtrack plays throughout which creates an atmosphere of mystery and class. Also, the voice cast does an excellent job of fleshing out the characters. Overall, Masquerada: Songs and Shadows looks and sounds absolutely gorgeous but enough about all that; how does it play?
To put it bluntly, even though the story and presentation of Masquerada: Songs and Shadows are excellent; the gameplay is unfortunately very monotonous. For starters, the campaign primarily consists of moving from point A to point B. There's very little reason to explore as all you'll possibly find are some notes to add to your lore book and the odd collectible. While you traverse the world, you'll constantly be interrupted with either a story sequence or a battle then you'll just continue to your next waypoint.
Probably the biggest disappointing factor of Masquerada: Songs and Shadows is that there is almost no character growth. You don't really level up or have an equipment system. Instead, you intermittently earn points that you can spend to purchase and upgrade abilities. The only other components involve equipping new masks and a couple of boosts via a menu in your home base area. Anyway, these abilities can be assigned to each of the face buttons to use in combat. Speaking of which, the battle system boasts that it's tactical. This means that you can pause the action, swap your controlled character, and assign some rudimentary AI features to the rest of your party. However, I found that merely holding the attack button and unleashing the odd ability was more than enough to overcome the majority of opponents. Some boss fights were a bit trickier but I wouldn't consider any of them requiring very much strategy.
If you're looking for a captivating story set in an immersive world then Masquerada: Songs and Shadows is sure to satisfy. However, as an RPG, it simply doesn't provide enough rewarding gameplay to delight genre fans.
- + Fantastic variety of characters, interesting plot, and in-depth lore
- + Lovely game world filled with beautiful environments and great music
- - Tedious campaign merely consists of moving from point A to point B
- - Shallow character growth / party setup
- - Unsatisfying and monotonous combat