Shadwen Review

By MunchMagic1986,
Frozenbyte, the developer behind the hit Trine Series, is back with a new stealth-based title called Shadwen, and it is completely unlike anything they have done so far. Shadwen follows the tale of the titular character Shadwen as she embarks on an assassination mission against the King, with an unlikely companion in the form of Lily, a young orphaned girl whom Shadwen rescues from a guard. As you work your way through the game's 15 levels, Lily will tag along with you as you guide her through the guard-ridden areas by distracting them or killing them, whichever one takes your fancy. It is a simple stealth game concept; however, if Lily sees you commit murder or comes across the body of a dead guard, then her trust in you will diminish.

Shadwen

That is all there is in the way of a story, bar some dialogue during the loading screens. The game's levels are all set in medieval times, although you wouldn't realise it if there were not loading screens with dialogue that split them up. Sadly, most of the levels are copy and paste efforts from the previous level, all packed with the same barrels, crates and haystacks that you can use to sneak around the guards, distract them, or kill them. Haystacks allow you to hide dead bodies and are also what Lily uses to progress from one point to the next. There are various ledges, roofs and most things wooden onto which you can grapple and navigate the levels from above. Unfortunately, the repetitiveness does not stop with the level designs; in fact, it gets even more repetitive with the enemies themselves. Two. That is the number of different guards that you will face -- a regular guard and a guard with a shield, the latter of which cannot be killed by stabbing, but only from a height or by pushing a crate onto him. This can be excused since they are not so much enemies as they are obstacles in Lily's path, giving the game a slight puzzle element.

The core element of the gameplay is not the stealth itself but more its control over time, something that is both a positive and a negative for the game. There are two main components to this. The first is the ability to rewind time as much as you like and as far back as you like. While this is quite enjoyable to try out and allows you to try a different strategy straight away if you make a mistake, its unlimited use also affords zero difficulty to the game. Even when there are tricky areas with several guards, most of the challenge disappears with this ability. The second time ability is that whenever you are not moving, time stops completely, so if you are waiting for a guard to pass then you need to hold down cn_R1 to allow time to flow. While it is fun being able to jump from a roof before stopping in mid-air to line up your grappling hook, or stopping in between guards to work out a way to sneak past, it is also becomes annoying and and starts to feel like you are lagging.

If only all problems could be solved by rewindingIf only all problems could be solved by rewinding

The A.I, both of the enemy and of Lily, is not the greatest. The enemies are too easy to outwit and tend not to notice when Lily is standing directly in front of them. It makes you wonder why she bothers to hide as she appears to be invisible to them. Lily, on the other hand, has a habit of running up to just a short distance prior to the next hiding spot before deciding to run back to the previous one, something that requires you to re-distract the guards. Hitting cn_T can manually tell her where to go, but she rarely listens to that. With the combination of the hapless guards and a misbehaving child, most of the time you can just sit back and let Lily run through the level herself, allowing you to just meet her at the end.

Underneath the stealth and time control lies a crafting system to which you are introduced when you first take control of Shadwen. Using random bits 'n' bobs picked up in loot crates hidden throughout the levels, you can put together contraptions that can assist you in distracting guards and even killing them, such as a sticky bomb or poison darts. You can find some great items to help you along your way, only there is nothing that tells you which item is which or what they even do. There is a good chance that you could kill a guard on a no-kill playthrough as a result, which won't really matter since you can just turn back time as much as you want.

Crafting SystemCrafting System

Another thing that was noticeable (or not, as we experienced) was that there were various lighting bugs that made things stand out less. Sometimes it was too dark to see what you were doing and even pumping the brightness setting up to max often didn't do anything, requiring you to fiddle about with the gauge until it decided to click into place. Even once the brightness setting is working, the lighting will occasionally flicker in and out. This is all assuming you can get to the settings menu, of course. On neither the main menu nor the pause menu is there an indicator showing you which option you are selecting. The selected option is highlighted, but to even see this you need to have your face right up against the TV and really focus your eyes to see it because the letter colouring is almost the exact same colour when it is highlighted.

After all that, trophy-wise there isn't much exciting going on, unless you like easy trophies, that is. The game requires players to both beat the game while killing everyone and to beat the game without killing anyone after the first level, requiring two playthroughs. There are also four different endings to the game, although all of these can be obtained in one playthrough by rewinding to the final guard before confronting the king. This should be a quick and easy platinum for all you trophy hunters out there.

Summary

Overall, Shadwen is quite generic and repetitive with some poor A.I and level designs. Unlimited rewinding of time removes most of the challenge, of which there isn't much anyway. Replay value is limited to two playthroughs, kill and no kill. Despite its many issues and repetitiveness, it's enjoyable and the stealth gameplay is solid enough. It is easy to find yourself quite engrossed at times while finding ways to split up a group of guards and take them out one by one without Lily seeing you. This game had potential, but in its current state it feels under-developed and rushed out of the door.
3 / 5
Shadwen
Positives
  • Time control adds some uniqueness
  • Slight puzzle element to the stealth
  • Killing is fun
Negatives
  • No real story
  • Time control removes any challenge
  • Repetitive levels and enemies
  • Visual bugs
Ethics
Jordan played the game for around 12 hours, earning all 48 of the game's trophies, including the Platinum. A copy of this title was provided by the developer, Frozenbyte, for the purpose of this review.