Impressions: Shadows – Heretic Kingdoms

Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms is taking the formula for ARPG’s and trying something a bit different from the norm. That is a good thing in a world with a lot of games feeling like they are just another copy of the last game you played. It deffinitely takes a different approach to make your game stand out of the crowd in today’s world. Will the people over at Games Farm be able to pull it off… I’d like to think so.

When you first look at it, a few have said "Diablo clone". While it's unfair to compare a new game in Alpha/Beta to a pretty successful franchise... it's almost impossible not too.

When you first look at it, a few have said “Diablo clone”. While it’s unfair to compare a new game in Alpha/Beta to a pretty successful franchise… it’s almost impossible not too.

There are really two main things that stand out in Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms. The first being the concept of the game. Your main character is a demon who gains puppets that you can switch back and forth from. Being the demon puts you in the realm of shadows and let’s you access places that your humanoid counterparts cannot. Likewise, when you switch to a human, you can pull levers, break pots, and all sorts of regularly destructive things that we humans do in videogames. You gather souls from enemies you defeat no matter which form you’re in and you (currently) can use them to heal yourself (along with potions you find of course).

As you wonder about, you'll notice that gathering and equipping gear and leveling up happen much like they do in other ARPG's.

As you wonder about, you’ll notice that gathering/equipping gear and leveling up happen much like they do in most other ARPG’s.

The second thing that really stands out is the story, music and artwork. I don’t think anyone could deny that the game does look and sound gorgeous. Maybe you’re not a fan of the dark areas, but not every place can be filled with lollipops and rainbows. The story is also pretty interesting and does make me wonder where the rest of the game will take you and your demon’s new BFFs. From the limited glance you get at the two available characters in the beginning of the Alpha build, you can tell the the different characters you pick will have an effect on the narrative while the story is seems mainly driven by the mysterious “Hooded Man”.

While that stuff is cool, I have a fairly sizable gripe with Heretic Kingdoms. I really don’t appreciate the controls and the pacing setup by the two characters you get to play with. First up, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of holding down your mouse button to continuously attack. Clicking and reclicking on boxes/jars to break them is a waste of time. While I know that lifting your finger up and down to attack something comes off as lazy, but it just rubs me the wrong way here. Maybe some form of control+click could be implemented to continuously attack?

Peter Nagy (Head of Development) said in an interview that "Our main goal is to develop combat diversity, allow strategic planning and avoid a mindless hack’n’slash (or clickfest) – which I have to admit was the downside of the predecessor Kult: Heretic Kingdoms."

Peter Nagy (Head of Development) said in an interview that “Our main goal is to develop combat diversity, allow strategic planning and avoid a mindless hack’n’slash (or clickfest) – which I have to admit was the downside of the predecessor Kult: Heretic Kingdoms.”

Maybe the the above (in the caption… you did read that right?) was one of the reasons for this decision or they just haven’t implemented that “ability” yet in the game’s development. This is in context of the player being able to swap out one character for another with different weapons and abilities to make a fairly challenging fight quite a bit easier with different character choices. As it stands I find the combat to be sluggish. In terms of Kalig, the brutish barbarian, his two-handed attacks should be slow-ish, but they can be sped up with proper placement of your “level-up points” or whatever term they are using in the given skill tree. Jasker is a way different story. He’s a ranged fighter who doesn’t fight at range much. The enemies may start out at a distance, but close fast. Later in your levels you can put points into dodging and defense, but you never gain the ability to jump back or slow enemies so what’s the point of having this guy’s main weapon be a bow? Looking forward, that may be something they’re planning on adding later, but the skill trees seem pretty fleshed-out to me (even though they could still change it).

The "deficiencies" with Jasker could be changed with a single move or a party setup where you could set one NPC ally on "aggressive" or what have you. I don't think this will be a party based game like Dungeon Siege though.

The “deficiencies” with Jasker could be changed with a single move or a party setup where you could set one NPC ally on “aggressive” or what have you. I really don’t see this developing into a party based game like Dungeon Siege though. For all I know, Evia could suffer from the same issues as Jasker right now and I’m one of those “mages cast at range” people. Sure they can get into the middle at times, but that’s not the main place (Gandalf aside).

Deciding to develop an action RPG in a world where Diablo, Torchlight, and Path of Exile exist is a pretty daring feat. I read somewhere that a reviewer called out Shovel Knight for not being very ambitious for a developer to make. The same lame argument could be made for any new game in a genre already used before. ARPG’s and 2D side-scrollers may be “easier” to create than say an open-world epic fantasy game, but it all comes down to the game itself doesn’t it? No matter the genre, a good game always something a gamer likes to find and experience. I think it’s good that Games Farm is creating an ARPG. I really like them as a genre. Plus if it works out, the world will be better to have another great game to play!

good voice acting (so far), music, atmostphere, visuals, apparent character choices

While the game has great visuals, impressive voice acting (in as much as they’ve implemented so far), good music, great atmosphere and apparent character choices the controls kill it for me. Some would say that controls are only part of the game, but to them I say, it’s one of the few things that you have to deal with for the entirety of the game. It’s not something to take lightly. At Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms‘ current price it comes off as a tough sale even if this game has a lot of promise. If you’re really into ARPG’s you might have a difficult time over-looking them. If you’re casual ARPG player, this may not affect you at all. I would keep your eye on this and when people stop complaining about “sluggish” controls, it would make the price a lot easier to swallow. This isn’t a title to write off. You can see the work they are putting into this game and that is (once again) not something to be ignored.

Jonathan Amarelo Sig


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