Released For: PC (Windows, Mac, Linux) , PS4
Reviewing: PC (Windows)
DRM and DRM Free Versions Available
Released On: May 17, 2016
Review Copy Received By Developer
Shadwen is a stealth-action game where you have to guide a dumb, dumb child around in this epic escort mission adventure! In Shadwen, you play as an assassin named Shadwen who’s off to kill the king. Along the way, you’ll meet a young girl named Lilly who’ll follow you around, and that’s about it. You’ll stealth it around, kill guards (or not), time travel backwards to reverse yourself from doing really stupid things, (how? Who cares! It’s probably space magic.) all the while trying to make sure Lilly doesn’t find out you’re a brutal, killing monster. We’re not quite sure how Shadwen explains to Lilly where all the guards suddenly go to after a death scream, but it’s probably more space magic. That, or the guards are all get brutally butchered by the seven millionth crow which they seem to find is the cause for floating boxes, poison darts, and outright murder.
Yes, Frozenbyte is at it again with another attempt at a fully 3D game. For the sake of this review, that other game doesn’t actually exist. In fact, we don’t even know what we’re talking about.
So yes, Frozenbyte’s first fully 3D game is here, in all it’s really flawed beauty.
We actually really liked Shadwen, but we have some caveats with the term ‘like’. The game plays similarly to assassins creed in some (pretty much every) aspect. Go into hay or bushes to avoid being caught, you can jump on enemies or stab them in the back, you can find some random loot crates where you can use that said loot to craft traps, you can grab onto ledges, you have what could only be described as the hook from the more recent Batman games which you can use to grab boxes and reach certain platforms, and you have a few different ways to go through the game either stealthy or murder everything in sight. You also have the ability to travel back in time to avoid being spotted, avoid Lilly seeing a body, etc. Believe it or not, it’s the more stable of the features in the game, and works out quite well. However, it’s really out of place in the game and as a result, and makes the game feel rather silly. When you’re not moving or holding down a button, the world stops moving around you. Again, it’s really out-of-place and makes the game (and the animations) look really jerky and off. We’re not saying that the time stopping when you stop isn’t cool, but we wish there was a way to turn it off. The crafting is also too simple, and leaves a lot of choice to be desired. The grappling hook also glitches out at points, causing Shadwen to do a superman style pose. Along your way through the 14 chapter six(ish) hour game, you’ll come across a girl named Lilly. Lilly is where the ‘escort mission’ bit comes into play. Lilly will follow you, and you’ll have to find a way to distract (or kill) guards so she’ll come to you.
This would normally be the point where we go “this is the dumbest thing ever. One of the things gamers like the least, and it’s the main feature of the game!” However, there’s a point of note here: She can’t actually be spotted.
This was something that was really bizarre. No matter how close a guard is, Lilly can’t be spotted. The only actual ways to get an end-game are if you’re spotted, an alarm is raised, or if Lilly arbitrarily drowns. This doesn’t make the game easier, it just means it’s not really an escort mission game as much as it’s a game where a character follows you. This also makes Lilly as a character both unnecessary and useless as a result. The only real hindrances she has is that she’ll follow you as soon as you kill the guard preventing her from following and you have to move bodies in order to avoid Lilly finding out you’re a murdering, evil jerk if you want the good ending. It does make the latter sections of the game more difficult, but not impossible by any means. The only time we raged quit for a bit was when Lilly found a body in chapter 12 she shouldn’t have been able to see, and she only saw it as the game was fading out. So, we tried to rewind time but couldn’t. As such, we thought “Oh, okay, we’ll just replay the previous level!” Nope. Once she knows you’re a killer, she knows you’re a killer for the whole game, even in previous chapters where she didn’t know you were a killer. We think it’s just a bug, but that didn’t mean we were going to replay the game all over just to get the good ending. The game is actually quite alright in the other regards of difficulty. Enemies do somehow have pinpoint accuracy with ******* crossbows, but you really don’t have to worry about them until the other half of the game. An idea that we had mid-way through was to just stealth it through as Shadwen, then just play the missions backwards. So if you’re trying to get the good ending for the game, just do that, because it worked more or less every time except on the last chapter. We’re not sure if you’re supposed to do that, but we did.
It really didn’t help that the AI is about as dumb as a sack of potatoes. It’s not terrible, it’s just really dumb. They either have the eyesight and readiness of killer robots, or they run into boxes and walls. There’s really no in between, and it’s a shame because it makes the game terribly easy or frustratingly annoying.
We actually liked the guards small talk though. We won’t spoil everything, but let’s just say that the king is really afraid of Shadwen, and some of the guard dialogue references events that you’ll find out about later. She herself is fairly average as a character, but that extra touch with the dialogue was nice, and reminds us slightly of a side quest that might have been presented to Geralt in Witcher III.
Visually, the game is fairly average. The textures are over the place in terms of quality, but the lighting is nice. It’s not the best looking game out there, but it has a slightly interesting fantasy style that we liked.
Audio wise, it’s again, fairly average. Some of the audio effects are well done, but the music is far more like a layer of ambience than full on songs. It works for Shadwen, but only because of the atmosphere really.
As for settings and controls, you have an array of different options to choose from. The controls aren’t rebindable, but the game visually has enough options to make up for the lack of control customization. You also have the option of controller or keyboard, and both were acceptable.
So the question comes down to ‘Do we recommend this?’ and the answer is, yes. At least mostly. The game could certainly use another pass-through with the bug spray, and the AI could certainly use some refinement, but we had fun, we enjoyed the game, and we think it’s worth close to if not the retail price of $16.99. It does have some downsides, but we don’t think any one of them are enough to pass the game up because of them. Overall, Shadwen is a fun (if a bit simplistic), flawed stealth-action game and while it was fun for the first go around, we’re not sure if it’s ‘fun enough’ to play again.
- Simple, but fun stealth action combat
- Level design is fairly similar, but diverse enough to stop from getting stale
- Nice lighting and background dialogue with guards helps to build atmosphere
- Music and audio are okay
- The minor glitches and bugs present
- Lack of enemy variety
- crafting is too simple to provide adequate choice to players
- Dialogue sometimes repeats, but not too often.
- Really dumb AI
- The stealth element is sometimes a little too simplistic
- Karma system with Lilly is too simple, and feels weak