I’m a sucker for a solid Action RPG. Recently I was on the hunt in the Steam Store looking to scratch that itch I get for a new ARPG and I stumbled upon Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms (SHK). While it is another ARPG, it’s also strong in combat and item variety, while introducing a neat multi-character component I haven’t seen before. There is a lot of content for your dollar – it retails at $39.99 and I picked it up for $11.99 on Steam during a random sale. Even still, you have to be a big fan of ARPGs to love this game. It’s good but it’s not a genre-changing title and there is more dialogue than action, it seems.
The mechanics are interesting. It’s difficult to improve ARPGs since they all tend to manage the core tenants of the genre well: combat, skill management, and character balancing. Games like Marvel Heroes 2015 have more than 30 characters all with a unique skill-set, so the emphasis is on character balancing. Diablo 3 is all about loot and skill management. In SHK, I feel the focus is on story, with a hint of combat. From the very beginning this is noticeable as you have the option to switch between the character you’ve selected to play – in my case a rogue – and the shadow demon that brought life back into his body. This mechanic allows you to cross obstacles on the map, such as destroyed bridges, but it also means you’re fighting different enemies as the demon is in a different dimension (I think). Switching to him (press “A”) reveals this new plane on the map. In SHK, combat follows story. Absolutely a good thing if you are a fan of both traditional ARPGs (Diablo) and classic RPGs (Divinity). The dual personas are fun to listen to. They’ll chat and throw a few jabs at each other now and again.
The maps themselves are not surprising. There is Tatooine, Hoth, and that exploding planet where Anakin fought Obi-Wan. Of course I’m referring to the typical desert, ice and fire maps in every ARPG. In SHK the detail is strong and variety does exist. I’d just, for once, love to play an ARPG that takes place in a Mass Effect type world with lasers and light sabers. If only I had the talent…
A major part of all ARPGs is loot. In SHK they’ve taken it to an extreme level where destroying crates, barrels and urns is a chore and something that’s done constantly. I feel that I’m spending an equivalent amount of time taking down a mob as I am picking up the loot that follows. This would be more acceptable if the loot was meaningful, but instead, you get the usual junk for crafting and purging. In 2 hours I didn’t find any items that were above common.
Skills are a whole other story. I’m just scratching the surface of what appears to be a complex system that incorporates other characters than your main hero. That’s not entirely new in the genre, but its implementation is. Skills in ARPGs have 2 main components: the way they look and the actual effects they cause. In SHK the visual effects are pretty smooth and the way the other characters round out your 4-party team is a fresh take. You can configure gear and talents for your party members. SHK is really a tween of games like Divinity and Diablo. I’m only a few hours into the game at this point, but for a fan of both genre, it’s hard to not enjoy skill and party management in SHK.
I’ll have more info about SHK in the coming weeks, provided I can get through it before The Witcher 3 releases. Let us know your thoughts!