Shadwen is a stealth-action game where the only rule is to remain unseen. Stay hidden - or the ruthless guards will kill you on sight!
You play Shadwen as an assassin on a quest to kill the king, but along the way she encounters a little girl, Lily. Lily follows Shadwen on her adventure throughout the kingdom, and you have to make the moral decision along the way of whether to murder enemy guard’s right in front of this poor little girl’s eyes or find another way around.
The main game play in Shadwen is quite simply, remain hidden from enemy guards. If you get caught or detected, you will fail. The game’s rewind time mechanic allows you to rectify any mistakes you make really easily and you will make a lot of them. Accidently knock over some glass bottles and alert the guard? Just rewind time and be more careful next time! The game also offers a unique element where if your character is not moving time freezes. This took me a while to get used to as it can be a little disorienting when you are used to the world just carrying on around you when you are idol, but you soon get used to it and are able to use it to your full advantage. It allows you to plot your next movement precisely without worry of being caught, it also makes clambering up buildings and scaffolding much easier as you can pause time and carefully aim where your next grapple hook is going to land.
Speaking of the grapple hook, this will also be a key piece of equipment throughout the game. You can use it to grab onto objects in the environment to cause a distraction for the guards. You can pull crates, shelves, pretty much anything which can be moved around with your hook. This will allow you to slip past guards unnoticed and without brutally killing them. You can even make deaths of guards look like it was an accident, maybe by pulling a box down on their heads, and whilst this does count as you killing them, the guards won’t instantly become alert of any suspicious activity. You will also be able to create traps and decoys too, these more or less will also kill the guard, but in much more interesting ways than just stabbing them in the back, with items such as poison traps and spiked devices.
The aim on each level is to create path safe for the young girl Lily to pass through unharmed. The game right down to its core is essentially a long escort quests, but don’t worry – Lily’s AI is absolutely stellar. She will remain hidden in shadows, boxes and haystacks and not cause you any unwarranted hassle. You can more or less forget about her right up until you reach the end of the level and have to backtrack to clear a path for her. She won’t just walk out in front of guards, or make any noise which you wouldn’t normally expect. I was really impressed with how well Lily reacted to every situation thrown at her such as guards unexpectedly changing their patrol path. Lily will stop where she is going and immediately find somewhere to hide. This is how escort quests should be done!
Shadwen looks absolutely stunning. The game is ran using the developers own game engine, which doesn’t have a published name yet, but it is safe to say they have a real asset on their hands. The almost photo realistic environments and character models are something special to gawk at. Lighting and shadow is used perfectly to not only create a dark atmosphere but also to enhance the gameplay elements of stealth and deception. Character animations throughout are fluid and realistic too. You can really get fully immersed in this game’s world as it will suck you in with its beautiful art style. The game’s voice acting is spot on as well; between levels you will get some dialogue between Shadwen and Lily, and throughout game play you also get to listen out for guards chattering between themselves too. The sound effects play a key part in the game, guards really pay attention to any sounds and will investigate. Anything you bump into, move or interact with will cause a sound, so you really need to pay attention to what is around you at any time.
At the start of the game you have three levels of difficulty. The easy mode will remove most of the game’s challenging aspect and allow you to ghost past a lot of the levels with much ease. This will add a cone of sight on all enemies making it easy for you to see what they can see. If you want the full experience of stealth you really need to be playing on the medium option. You can change the difficulty of levels on the fly which is always nice to see in any game.
Whilst there is about six hours of content on offer in Shadwen, I don’t really see there being any real replay value on show. You could possibly get a second run throughout of it, as depending on how many guards you kill throughout the story, will affect the way Lily thinks about Shadwen during and at the end of the game. This is the sort of game which would really benefit from seeing some sort of daily challenge mode included, or an extra game mode that we saw in the likes of Dishonored with its time trails.
I was impressed with how well the game ran, I was able to get a steady 60 FPS with all the graphical settings turned up to max. The only grip I had with the game was you cannot change the graphic settings whilst in game, you have to quit back to desktop to change anything but a minor issue none the less. I played using a keyboard and mouse but full controller support is available.
Shadwen is a game that caught my attention right away from its gorgeous graphics and interesting game play. The core game play mechanics remain absolutely key to the game’s success and any stealth and action fans will definitely need to be checking Shadwen out. This is definitely coming close to Frozenbyte’s best game that they have released.