Z2Live is a developer perhaps best known for its strategy and action titles, such as Nitro, MetalStorm, and Trade Nations, but Shadowslayer marks his first foray into action RPG territory, and for a first attempt at such game, it turns out to be largely successful. It combines a well-made world, a flexible and intuitive combat system, and world-building elements into a well-rounded package that has a lot to offer fans of classics like Secret of Mana, Golden Sun, and the Zelda series.
The story is fairly standard fantasy fodder, and chronicles the exploits of a humble but honorable hero, Tristan, as he rises to fulfill his destiny on an epic quest to defeat an evil foe who threatens the peace of the land. Along the way, he meets various eccentric characters, such as little Maia and the good salesman Julian, who set quests and tasks, while also providing help and advice on how best to proceed. The quests themselves are easily accessed via a map screen and are generally fairly straightforward in principle, forcing Tristan to venture into dark woods and uncharted valleys in search of treasure or to aid the lost and the misguided.
Of course, these areas are populated with a wide array of assorted creatures and villains, all of whom are eager to shed brave Tristan’s blood. As he is a great hero in the making, he has an ever-expanding repertoire of offensive and defensive moves, which vary depending on whether you choose to play as a wizard or a warrior. Movements and combat are elegantly simple and instinctive, requiring a single tap on the screen to make Tristan run to the required location or unleash his fury on an attacking monster. Offensive moves can be combined to increase their effectiveness, but require time to recharge, therefore requiring a certain degree of thought in their application, combined with judicious use of strategic withdrawal as enemies become more aggressive and intelligent. .
Apart from battles and quests, Tristan also has to take care of his ever-expanding village, building forges, town halls, bakeries, houses and other various structures to meet the needs of his people. There is a huge range of buildings to choose from and with careful management of resources new weapons and armor can be crafted and items bought and sold. The player is thus offered almost endless possibilities in the development of his city and it is extremely satisfying to see your humble village become a bustling fantasy metropolis. This aspect adds a lot to Shadowslayer’s appeal and could almost form the basis of a game in itself.
The game is presented in a 3D isometric view, both for combat and village building, with very nice graphics that show the detailed world in all its glory. Colors are vivid and vibrant where appropriate, as with our heroes and in the village, while forests and other environments are suitably gloomy and gloomy. The range of enemies is wide, and while there are a few stereotypical creatures in their ranks, the majority are quite quirky and are pleasantly evil in design, with good animation to boot.
If criticisms are to be made, they are usually quite minor. The quests themselves are a bit too simple and repetitive, requiring only one path to follow to completion, fighting monsters as they appear, and without any possibility of exploration, while the script is cliché and disturbed by a terrible dialogue, spoken by bland characters. The emphasis is on in-game purchases which may put some players off, but beyond these little hassles, there’s a lot to enjoy here. The story is certainly epic, the combat is fluid and fun, and the world really feels like it lives and breaths. Some replay value is offered by the choice of classes, Wizard and Warrior, and city building adds much needed depth and variety. While this is by no means a classic action RPG, it is a pretty laudable attempt and certainly worth venturing into the realm of the Shadowslayer, if not. that for a while.
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