Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Games You Want to Love But Can’t- Shadows of the Damned

"Shadows of the Damned” came so close to being an out-and-out underrated gem, and yet in the end it just wasn’t. It had all the right components; auteur director in the form of Suda 51, interesting and varied enemy design, and some solid and genuinely humourous (if unsubtle) writing. And, for the reasons I am about to go into, it just doesn’t quite work in the way I had hoped.

Okay, so first off, it contains some of my pet hates. I have mentioned this before, but there is no excuse for unskippable cutscenes. I honestly do not believe there is a decent argument for a game including them. Some games have great narratives, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I want to be forced to watch them every time I play the game. And if I want all the achievements in “Shadows of the Damned”, I’m going to have play through the game three times, since it doesn’t credit lower difficulty achievements when you beat the game on higher difficulties. Cheers Suda, you mad bastard.

You have to take your trousers off first, mate.

Another weird aspect of the achievements is that a lot of them rely on you being in certain chapters of the game, either to use certain weapons or collect certain power ups. Fair enough, but why not have a chapter select? Missed something in one of the final chapters of the game? Looks like you’re going to have to play through the whole thing again to get back there.

On this subject, “Shadows” has an achievement for maxing out your upgrades. Again, not a rarity these days, but at no point does it suggest you will have to grind off the few spots where there are unlimited enemies to give you a chance at being able to buy all the upgrades. Clarity is a big problem in this game.

Another major complaint I have of the game is the structure and length of it. I am very much a sucker for a well structured “Act” system when it comes to video games, and I often point to “Bayonetta” for an example of it being done very very well (In fact, I often point to “Bayonetta” for examples of things being done very very well). In “Bayonetta” we get missions with energy, drive, and excellent incremental difficulty. “Shadows” suggests that it is going to do this, and then…well, doesn’t. The side-scrolling sections, whilst fun, hint at other secondary gameplay styles that could have been, but aren’t.

This makes marginally more sense when playing the game.

Despite all these objections, I still recommend “Shadows of the Damned”. I’d rather have an imperfect gem than something generic but well-crafted.

Want to read about a game that has no issue with length? Click here.

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