Developed By: Abstraction Games
Published By: Abstraction Games
Release Date: April 10, 2019
Shadowgate is a title with a very deep history. It was originally released back on the Macintosh computers in the 80’s and is most known for appearing on the original Nintendo Entertainment System with a severe difficulty curve and early era conventions of which you see today. Now, it has returned in a remastered form and even with maintaining some archaic gameplay designs, is still an enjoyable experience.
The story sets you in a very unique medieval world of deep fantasy and there are many bits of lore scattered about its world. Your character is only a small cog in a very large and unfolding world building scenario that has been torn torn in chaos for centuries at this point. While your place in this world may feel small, you learn that you are the last descendent of a line of warrior king’s who is meant to take down the wizard king before he can summon the almighty behemoth.
When initially starting into the castle to defeat the evil wizard king the gameplay centers around a mechanic known as the ‘action wheel’. This action wheel itself constitutes all menus you’ll need to navigate and moving left and right you’ll be able to spin through items and spells. Using your left and right bumpers will allow you to swap back and forth through the various rings of the item wheel moving from your text inventory to your item inventory, and even to spells and actions. Shadowgate may be described as a point-and-click dungeon crawler, being able to navigate between those commands and find the necessary items and spells is something you’ll become very familiar with quickly.
My main critique stems from the learning curve of using the action/item wheel. Navigating back-and-forth between all your needs and cycling left and right with the scrolling menu is something you probably won’t be familiar with and it will take some time to use effectively. Sometimes there Arte just way too many actions necessary to just perform a simple action in Shadowgate and this is where the archaic gameplay goes against the next conventions this game tries to bring.
While Shadowgate, as previously mentioned, may be both a dungeon crawler and point-and-click adventure, you can definitely expect to have certain fantasy encounters while also needing to be very aware of your surroundings. Many items can be difficult to know when they can be interacted with, so being aware is crucial if you want to make it out alive.
Obviously, going further into the castle is more than just seeing dark labyrinths and taking out trolls, as you are an intruder in the dark wizards castle and you can expect to find hazardous pitfalls and obstacles around every corner. Each situation will have to be dealt with quickly and critically in order to make it to the next room. However, even if you do manage to solve the puzzles and triumph over enemies, you better keep a torch lit because the darkness is certainly your enemy in this evil living castle.
One of the major binding aspects of Shadowgate is should your torch burn out you’re going to die. Finding torches as you explore the castle is mandatory and since there are a finite number of torches available, this does act as a constant timer pushing you forward to the end. Should all of the torches in your inventory burn out you are greeted with a ‘Game Over’ screen. Scavenging for keys, spells, and texts, for unlocking lore items to be able to use in the puzzles, while constantly reaching for torches to keep the light on does keep the tension rather high.
Shadowgate has never looked better and the new animations really do justice to the whole experience. The cutscenes do a great job of conveying additionally how the story unfolds and each is gorgeously fully voiced which immerses you deeper into the story. It can come across as over-the-top with its almost Tolkien-like presentation, but if you enjoy high-fantasy you should love it. The sound design is chilling and fits the mood of the castle perfectly with lush crescendos and haunting reverberations leading to some unsettling situations.
Overall, Shadowgate is a really great experience, only if you’re ready for some really deep fantasy elements and old-school design. While the changes with the action wheel and beautiful hand-painted art design really bring the setting to life, the archaic design can be annoying and difficult to deal with. Not knowing what items you can interact with and some confusing puzzles dampen the experience, but if you can overlook some of these shortcomings this is an adventure you won’t soon forget.
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