Don’t Fear The Reaper, Fear The Devourer – Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms
The idea of multi-layer gameplay has been thrown around a lot in the past. Switching characters to change your skill sets for different situations or even to change the world around you and the formula usually works. Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms makes it shine.
The core concept in Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms is that you are a demon that has been summoned by a mysterious hooded man and given control over one of three heroes (One of which isn’t available in early access) and tasked with helping him to save the world. Once you have your hero, or puppet, you take to the world above to do the usual ARPG stuff. Help extort money, rescue wanted criminals and kill spiders. What makes it stand out though is that you can explore the normal world with your puppet and at the press of a button explore the spirit world as the Devourer. The mechanic flows well straight from the start and keeps working well as you become a one-person party.
In order to heal, the Devourer would expend the souls of enemies killed to heal themselves or the puppets (Holding spacebar). This makes playing smart and switching up team members vital to survival as the only way to revive puppets is to reach a Cenotaph (Quick travel point), which are few and far between. This can be frustrating at times but that’s what quick saving is for.
Combat is the usual Diablo, Torchlight affair which is functional but uninspiring. Click to move, click to attack, press 1-9 for powers. If you like that type of gameplay then you’ll find lots to enjoy in Shadows as the puppet switching system gives you a lot of ways to switch fights up. Using your long range attacks with your archer character before quickly switching to the spirit realm to run away unseen by the enemy is something we hope to see more of.
Combat isn’t the most important aspect of an RPG though; that would have to be story. (Argue in the comments if you disagree) Shadows has a deep world from what we’ve played, each of the characters you choose from the start has a different past and often you’ll find parts that relate to each character’s past. It’s a nice nod to the player’s decisions and made the story feel just a bit more personal.
One thing that struck out at us was the quality of the locations and characters. For an early access title, the world of Shadows looks very impressive and has a wide variety of locales to murder things in. Each location feels near enough complete if not well polished and at no point did we feel our immersion being shattered, which is a very good sign for an early access title. Even better is the quality of the voice acting for those who speak; the voice actors do a great job and dialogue is delivered well enough to be believable.
One of the reasons we tend to avoid ARPGs is the culture of loot flogging, the emphasis on item auctions, premium gear and DLC. This mostly comes from multi-player games but we’ve seen single player games try it as well. Thankfully Shadows doesn’t do this at all. It’s a nice lull in the selling culture to just be able to start a game and play without having to see the latest holiday gear on display.
Our only gripes with the game are; the combat being point and clicky, but that’s personal preference and the fact the mage girl isn’t available in early access. It may sound petty but it did sucker us for choice at the start of the game and sullied the experience a bit. Don’t offer what you don’t have!
Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms is a very fun ARPG with great ideas that give it tactical depth we’ve seen lacking from the genre. Mixed in with an unique world at the brink of destruction, great voice acting and beautiful visuals; Shadows is definitely worth buying if you like Diablo, Torchlight or any other ARPG.