Preview: Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms (PC)

coverShadows: Heretic Kingdoms
Developer: Games Farm
Publisher: bitComposer Games
Genre: Action RPG
Release Date: November 2014 (Book One) Now Available in Early Access

The next chapter in the Heretic Kingdoms series, a follow-up to Kult: Heretic Kingdoms (Heretic Kingdoms: The Inquisition in the U.S.), Shadows is looking to be a different style of game while still set in the same game world as Kult and using a similar mechanic but in a very different way. Kult dealt with the Inquisition hunting down a powerful artifact of the last Theocrat who ruled the lands while they continued to stamp out any religion left after taking that leader out. Shadows picks up after that where the world has no clear leader and is on the verge of all-out war and the people who on a council to take care of the problem have fallen to a new enemy that’s using them. That’s where you come in.

01You play the Devourer, a summoned demon who is forcibly tied to a fallen hero, one the Devourer, the player, gets to pick from three at the start. Each has different strengths that you can use and each will have different backstories and quests that spawn form their selection. Right now in Early Access you only can play two of the three. Choosing one of the fallen people gives you access to a proper corporeal form so you can interact with actual physical objects. The Devourer exists in a kind of separate plane that you can jump to get around different real-world obstacles, but it also has its fair share of problems with creatures looking to take out the Devourer as well as your chosen hero. The gameplay has it set up so you can change between the Devourer and any other members in your party including your chosen hero on the fly. Each has different skill sets, interacts with the world differently, and if you’re running low on souls, you can collect more to stock up and heal. The Devourer has earned his names as he eats the souls of those you kill, this includes when you’re in different forms. You use their energy to heal yourself up as you go.

Other than character swapping on the fly and changing between realms whenever you feel like it or to just get around obstacles, Shadows plays very much like any isometric action RPG you’ve played in the last few years. So if you’ve played Torchlight or Diablo III, this is probably going to be very familiar to you. They’re adding controller support but I hadn’t had a chance to play with it yet. You use a combination of mouse and keyboard to move around, attack and interact as well as fire off your skills. As you level up you get points to put into skills arranged in trees tied to different weapons. The ranged character I was playing had an option of bows, but if I picked one up that I didn’t have the skill points put into I couldn’t use the skills for that weapon.

02Now, being Early Access, not everything is completed and this includes the audio. There are some voiced parts already in the game and some pretty decent music to accompany your travels along with the combat, but some conversations are going to have only text dialogue, but most of them if they start with voiced lines will continue through that way. Visually it reminds me a lot of Darksiders as far as character design goes. They’ve just added in support for directx 11 as well which I was playing around with before I wrote this so you can see the different lighting and other visual effects looking a little more next gen than the directx 9 version which still looks pretty good. The areas are pretty well designed, well at least the ones I was able to get into and there is an area map that can help you figure out where you’re going. The Journal will help highlight the various quests for you unless you’ve opted to play in classic mode meaning that you’ll have to hunt around for what you’re looking for.

The game has a few difficulty settings as well. I played around a bit with Easy and Normal and found that was hard enough for my skills with the game. The play progression isn’t too bad, but they do occasionally spring harder fights on you when you least expect it. Dropping into Devourer’s realm from the real world will trigger a spawn of enemies that instantly attack you for example. Some times it’ll just be a chest or a broken urn that triggers a massive spawn of whatever is in the area to come pounding your way. As long as you keep up on your healing you’re usually ok. It’s when you trigger those and you’re half dead that it can get extremely dicey.

03Originally arranged in a six chapter structure, the game is now being broken up into 2 books with three chapters each. They’ve set it up so if you do grab it on Early Access you get both books included with your price but the second book won’t be out until early next year, a few months after the release of book one. This is all so they can provide the best experience with the game possible. On top of this bonus with getting both books at a discounted price, they’ve added into Early Access getting Kult for free when it hits Steam. It’s really added quite a bit to getting in on this one early if you were thinking about it, even if you’re just planning on waiting until release. From reading over the different q&a around the game on forums and official answers this is looking like it’s going to be a lengthy rpg if you plan on playing all three prospective initial heroes that you can pick from. Right now it’s about six hours or so for each of the two characters, so twelve hours before they even add more content. Each of them will run between twenty to thirty hours and granted some of that will be repeat content, but if you end up playing all three main characters you’ll get sixty to ninety hours out of the game and at the price they’ve got it set for Early Access, that’s a steal.

It is pretty easy to get sucked into the game even in its early alpha state. It has that draw of other action RPGs where you’re trying to find that next batch of loot you might be able to use buried in one of the nearby areas you haven’t gotten to along with exploring the areas to find every nook and cranny. The areas are a bit linear at first, but they’ve added enough and open it up after the first area to keep things interesting as you explore around in either plane of existence and they do vary up the enemies so you’re not always fighting the same batches of enemies over and over again. They’re definitely working hard on this and listening to feedback. They’ve added the controller support and adjusted the combat a bit so it does seem to flow a bit better. They’ve added new content to play around with and new voiceovers. All in about five weeks or so from their last update so work is proceeding on this one. While I was intrigued by this one just from reading up on it, now that I’ve got my hands on it a bit I’m really looking forward to seeing what they end up doing with it when release day rolls around.

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