Shadwen is made by the esteemed folks over at Frozenbyte the team behind Trine 1-3. The Trine games, For those who do not know, are very good puzzle platforms with an emphasis on physics.They are also renowned for their beautifully crafted backgrounds and stunning environments. Their new game Shadwen takes inspiration from their previous work but is a new beast entirely. Shadwen is a physics based stealth game. This is a very odd combination due to the nature of stealth games. Stealth games tend to be based on reliable, logical behaviors to allow players to plan and execute ideas in a manner that makes sense. Physics in gaming are, well, unreliable at best. This idea is directly contrary to what makes stealth games fun; that plan and execute style found in Thief 2 and Dishonored. Did it work? Well…
Shadwen’s stealth is brutal. It takes about a second to be seen and shot. The AI works in a way were if you cross into their line of sight even for a second they shoot you dead with laser accurate crossbows that never miss. This amount of difficulty is offset by the time pausing mechanic Shadwen employs. When ever you take your hands off the keyboard time grinds to a halt. This is very handy for making precise jumps and using the grappling hook. However, it also slows down gameplay and makes actions choppy and disjointed looking.
Besides time slowing you have a very fun grappling hook. It can be attached to almost any wood surface making grappling around fun and fast. However this and incredibly loose movement controls due to the procedural animations makes Shadwen’s movement clunky and unpredictable.
The objective is to move a small girl from one end of a level to another this requires you to eliminate or distract all the guards in her path. The AI for her can be buggy but largely does her job. The more you kill the more this little girl comes to hate you. This is at odds with the one thing that Shadwen does well: Murder. Their are plenty of physics objects (including your self) to drop on enemies as well as an assortment of mostly unnecessary traps. For some reason you can control how long and how many times you stab a target even though it takes just the one to eliminate an enemy. Levels are challenging and employ a near Styx level of verticality which is used well with the grappling hook.
The very limited voice acting on display here is great! Guards mumble to each other in convincing British accents about cabbage and women while Shadwen speaks sharply and dangerously, every word a death threat. Overall outstanding sound especially when it comes to body on knife sounds.
The world that Shadwen takes place in is fascinating. There is talks of religion and dark spirits. Shadwen’s plot is very unclear. The only plot points you get are from the guard’s chatter and expositional dialogue over loading screens. I want to know more about Shadwen’s world and characters but it is delivered so slowly that I just barely kept myself engaged.
An incredibly mixed bag. Like the rest of the game The overall motif is consistent but you see a ridiculous amount of reused assets. There also seems to be a slight disproportion in scale with enemies towering above you, a full grown women and bails of hay taller than your shoulders. Frozenbyte has made good use of lighting which compliments the great environment textures bu illuminates the terrible character models. Seriously, Shadwen looks like an alien molded out of clay.
Shadwen is a really mixed bag. It feels unfinished and incomplete. The Grimm esque story is interesting but divulged so slowly that you will fall asleep before you finish it. Shadwen, although it has redeeming qualities is not worth the 16 bucks they are charging you for. Wait for a sale and have a wonderful day.
score: 4/10, Mediocre