Bodies and Souls
Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms is the sequel to 2005’s Kult: Heretic Kingdoms, an isometric singleplayer action RPG that, perhaps unjustifiably, passed over into obscurity. Set in a morally grey world of warring factions and religious fanaticism, Kult had you play a member of the Inquisition. At the very least, it seemed as though it told a story ahead of its time. Like its predecessor, Shadows is an Action RPG that attempts to do things differently.
Shadows is a game with more than a little soul – in fact, there are numerous souls involved. The principle character you’ll be playing is the Devourer, a powerful demon desperately summoned in a last ditch attempt to combat a powerful secret cabal that has itself been corrupted. You’re introduced into the world by a hooded wizard – voiced brilliantly by the English actor/Fourth Doctor Tom Baker. Gruff and sarcastic, the Devourer himself is an intriguing entity who carries much of the story well, but can only ever occupy the spirit realm.
This limitation quickly introduces a second character into the mix. Towards the beginning of the game you’re given a choice to resurrect a soul to carry out your bidding in the corporeal world. There are three characters, each with their own skills and abilities. Most importantly all three characters have personalities of their own, individual stories and believable motivations. There’s the daughter of fire, Evia. Kalig is a native of the desert town Thole, and a fierce barbarian whose quest to avenge himself and confront his traitorous son more often than not leads him to butt heads with the equally stout Devourer. Alternatively, you may choose Jasker, a roguish hunter. With him, conversations and exchanges over key quests take a more level-headed approach, as the two characters seem to have a mutual respect for one another. The symbiotic relationship between the Devourer and your chosen character is fascinating to see play out. Sometimes diverging ambitions will see the two characters lock horns, and situations like this only become more complex and frequent as you absorb additional souls and characters.
Combat and tradition
Your grand quest will take you through many a traditional Action RPG locale. There are spider-infested tunnels under the city, ancient tombs where the undead awake, and a sprawling desert with burrowing scorpions and quill-backed monstrosities. Each zone has a unique set of enemies in the spirit world too – but this is more of a novelty than a game-changer. You may often find yourself traversing zones twice in order to soak up as many experience points as possible, which can be a little dry, particularly in the spirit world where things are generally sparser.
The dual-worlds come into their own when you realise the complexity they lend to combat situations. The standard regime of clicking to kill things isn’t as responsive as other Action RPGs, and at times it’s downright clunky, but you’re always playing more than one character, and each with their own abilities. As mentioned, your party of souls quickly increases in size. It won’t be long before the Devourer has swallowed other souls: the feral Zaar with his twin scimitars and Klingon-like demeanour of ruthless honour, the somewhat more passive goblin trapper whose ghost story you unravel and soul you free in a haunted hotel, and the lumbering golem who has no choice but to follow you after you slay his master.
Great characters and interaction, more than one main character, interesting character-swap combat, unique, lots of schizophrenic roleplaying.
Combat a little unwieldy, spirit world unfortunately sparse, unresolved story/second “book” not released yet.