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Shadow Of The Game (PC) Review

 
Shadow Of The Game Image
Shadow Of The Game Image
Shadow Of The Game Image

 
At a Glance...
 

Formats: PC
 
Genre:
 
Year:
 
Publisher:
 
Developer:
 
Final Score
5.5
5.5/ 10


User Rating
4 total ratings

 

We liked?


Starts off strong
Fantastic music
Range of characters

Not so much?


Puerile humour
Slapdash storyline
Randomness soon bores


Final Fiendish Findings?

Shadow Of The Game starts off strongly, and carried me along with its infectious depiction of MMO gameplay before tearing down the walls to reveal a stumbling and stuttering plot and tone that jars heavily to anyone who isn’t presumably off their tits on marijuana, and sadly lacks the actual gameplay to quite make up for it.

0
Posted October 28, 2012 by

 
Full Fiendish Findings...
 
 

I’m very much a black or white kind of guy. There are no shades of grey with me, I either love something and devote considerable chunks of my life to it, or I’ll leave it well enough alone. Which is why I’m struggle to write a review for Shadow Of The Game. At first it piqued my interest and engaged me in a world of gaming that I’ve otherwise previously ignored before it suddenly took a very violent left hand turn into farce and stupidity.

Shadow Of The Game covers two realities, the real world (hello!) and that of Online MMOs. You start off playing key characters in a large and prominent MMORPG developed by Gizzard Entertainment (so you can guess what they’re riffing on). Now this is a line of gaming that’s never really grabbed me. I enjoy my RPGs single player like Skyrim and never really dug the whole MMORPG thing. But what SotG does brilliantly well, at least initially, is focus on the fact that you are playing the players of the game, not the characters themselves.

As a result, the dialogue and exchanges are based on the real world conversations of people working together in one of the biggest guilds on the server, as they prepare for a final raid on the games ultimate boss. You aren’t anchored by the language of the fantasy world as you read through the dialogue which gives the whole thing a decent level of accessibility even to non-MMO fans. Some of the slang however did go a little over my head but it’s easily picked up.

Shadow Of The Game Image

Running parallel to this final assault are segments within the developer’s offices where the plucky intern and lead programmer spectate the guilds final mission and come to blows as the stability of the game servers comes under threat.

The first two chapters are engaging, to the point where it had me considering giving WoW a go. But by Chapter 3 the focus shifts heavily to the outside realm as the guild comes under threat from a traitor who steals the ultimate loot and attempts a coup of the guild. From here on the game shifts its focus to the real world, and this is more or less where things take a nosedive.

Fantasy and surreal humour bleed into your attempts to recover your character and stop the traitor from taking on leadership of the guild. However the humour swings more than it misses, sometimes leaning too heavily towards the immature and puerile side of the scale. During these segments the game spends a significant amount of time glorifying drug use. It’s such a sudden jump from the first two chapters that I’m almost convinced there were two very different people writing this game. Ultimately the real world focus becomes slightly too erratic to keep up with, there’s an odd focus on dancing that becomes tiring to watch, and the stream of absurdity soon renders you listless towards the plot progression.

There are frequent nods to both Twin Peaks and The Matrix, the former of which is slightly more prominent (parts of the game are set in The Black Lodge) that fit in quite well with the more unearthly moments. At one point the characters make reference to developing an entire game whilst stoned, and I can only assume that the underlying message here is that is exactly how this game came to be. As the storyline marches on you get the impression that the plot was being written as the game was being developed, what starts off as a strong premise is soon diluted by a cocktail of random occurrences and poor humour.

Shadow Of The Game Image

Some parts of the game can be a bore, and a little slow and sluggish in places. The gameplay itself isn’t particularly enthralling, in fact its often more a case of space buttoning your way through the dialogue. There are puzzles which are often easy enough to solve and some character control, but otherwise you are very much a passenger as the characters attempt to bring order to both guild and game. What was quite disappointing is that there is no form of gameplay combat, essentially you’ll repeat the combat selection options until you’ve picked the correct one which will then move the game forward. There’s no character XP or HP, no levelling up and no danger of dying. So the combat parts of the MMO game, whilst quite engrossing, are otherwise defunct of both danger and choice.

The lack of choice also impacts on the non-MMO parts of the game, solving any challenges or puzzles is easy to do because it’s essentially a binary choice of either performing the option that appears when you interact with an object, or simply leaving it be.

Shadow Of The Game Image

The graphics themselves are a pleasant hark back to the good old 16bit RPG days. Perfectly functional and filled with bright colours and incidental details.  There are strong elements and nods to Final Fantasy VII, especially with the menu screen with its accompanying music. It’s the music that actually comes through this game without any hint of caveat or consternation. The score provided by Alexander Bjoerk, with significant royalty free contributions from Kevin MacLeod is rock solid in the contexts that they are used in. Over-enthusiastic and heavily distorted guitar licks accompany combat, soaring orchestral moments fuse together the feel of things unravelling apart. Most characters in the game have a specific piece of music attributed to them. Sometimes the switches between one and the next are a little too abrupt, but almost all of the tracks are toe tappingly likeable and are one of the highlights of SotG.

Gameplay length certainly isn’t an issue, like any good old school RPG the running time is fairly lengthy, and the mission of your characters is suitably epic in scope, although those who are also of a non-MMORPG background may find it slightly banal. The storyline starts off incredibly strong  The cast of characters are eclectic and the game does a good job of switching focus frequently enough that you aren’t put off with progressing through the game even if some of the characters are deeply unlikeable.

Shadow Of The Game starts off strongly, and carried me along with its infectious depiction of MMO gameplay before tearing down the walls to reveal a stumbling and stuttering plot and tone that jars heavily to anyone who isn’t presumably off their tits on marijuana, and sadly lacks the actual gameplay to quite make up for it.


Adam

 
Playing games since I'd developed enough motor functions to hold a joystick. From Commodore 64 all the way through to the latest gen. Favourite games to play are FPS games and anything with a deep and compelling story and a world that draws you in. I also enjoy writing, film making and playing bass in whatever band will have me :)