The concept of an action RPG where you can shift between worlds is definitely promising. With that said, does Shadows: Awakening offer a worthwhile soul-stealing adventure?
Shadows: Awakening has you play as a demonic entity known simply as the Devourer. Along your journey, you'll possess the souls of deceased heroes in order to carry out your dastardly deeds. Gameplay-wise, this means that you can alternate between characters as you play. Whenever you control the Devourer, you play within a sinister realm that's laid out almost identically to the real world. However, it features different enemies and slight changes that may allow you to progress or discover secrets. For example, if you're playing as one of the Devourer's puppets in the real world, you may come across a dead end. Whenever this happens, simply switching to the Devourer may reveal a false wall or a bridge that you can then traverse in order to advance. It's a very cool mechanic and I ended up enjoying it much more than I thought I would.
Aside from the world-shifting element, the core gameplay is similar to most overhead action RPGs. There may not be an online component but conquering the Heretic Kingdoms solo is a rather rewarding feat. The basic controls will have you running around and attacking as well as unleashing 3 skills that you can map to different face buttons. It's simple stuff and there aren't even buttons for dodging or defending. Instead, you can switch to the Devourer then back when you're in less danger. One cool aspect is that you can use your equipped Soulstone to restore health and mana although I found that to make the difficulty a bit too easy, especially later on in the campaign when you can use your Soulstone a dozen or so times in a row without any repercussions. Overall, the gameplay is simple yet the combat can get quite intense and rewarding, especially after taking down an enormous boss.
As you progress through Shadows: Awakening's campaign, you'll acquire additional party members and you can switch between three of them at any given time. When you add the Devourer; that's four simultaneous characters total. Party growth is rather satisfying as your team levels up in tandem and you can decide how to spend points on each individual separately to improve their stats and skills as well as assign talents that provide extra boosts. You'll also gather a wealth of equipment so you'll constantly find yourself swapping out weapons and armour. Additionally, you can add essences to certain equipment which uses consumable items and cash. This can make your equipment loadout much more powerful and is the main thing that I spent money on throughout my playthrough.
Making your party strong is quite an involving and enjoyable endeavour. However, what's even more satisfying is uncovering the multitude of secrets that are scattered around Shadows: Awakening's world. Regularly switching back and forth between the Devourer and his puppets will unveil plenty of awesome goodies. When you combine that with the large array of side quests that you can complete within each area, you're looking at a decent amount of replay value if you're the kind of gamer who enjoys completing everything fully.
Although Shadows: Awakening sounds like a fantastic game so far, it does have some fairly substantial downsides. The most difficult issue to overlook is that the gameplay is very one-note and doesn't change much throughout. You'll travel between point A and point B while battling hordes of monsters and the occasional boss and nothing ever happens to break that tedium. There are puzzles but they're so easy to figure out that they don't end up adding much variety to the otherwise monotonous campaign. Heck, many puzzles simply require you to switch to the Devourer to reveal the solution. That's not challenging or rewarding in any way.
Finally, the visuals of Shadows: Awakening are detailed and serviceable but the environments are incredibly bland. Whether you're inside a building or exploring a desert, it all comes across as generic and ultimately unmemorable. Also, the text is very small. This is a console game and a lot of gamers likely won't be playing on massive TV sets so being able to read stuff can be very problematic. The graphical performance frequently suffers as well. The screen will stutter and sometimes even pause for a second in the heat of battle which could result in you taking damage. The loading times are long enough so the fact that this happens is inexcusable.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Shadows: Awakening and hope that the developers eventually work on a sequel that irons out all of its issues. Until then, this is a mostly solid action RPG that's worth checking out.
- + Solid action RPG gameplay with a nifty world-shifting mechanic
- + Rewarding character growth
- + Lots of secrets to be found
- - Gameplay is mostly one-note and doesn't even have interesting puzzles
- - Environments are pretty bland
- - Some annoying performance issues