Review: Shadow Warrior Is Delightfully Dumb But Deft
How does reboot a game from 1997? Don't ask Duke Nukem or Gearbox Software but the folks behind Shadow Warrior seem to have a good idea.
- Worth The Time?If you're up for some quick and dirty fun then this is worth a look.
- Things LovedGood fun; wielding a katana feels badass; the game never takes itself seriously; old school mechanics work well, good weapon variety.
- Things HatedClunky menu design; subpar visual quality; frequent loading and framerate drops; can get a bit tiresome before too long; not worth the money.
- RecommendationIt's got its issues. There's no escaping that. However, Shadow Warrior ignores all the turmoils of modern games and instead throws you into a simpler time that just happens to have kickass combat. It's not for everyone and not worth the price but there is a good amount of fun to be had year. especially for those who crave a nostalgic shooter or enjoyed The Darkness II.
- Name: Shadow Warrior
- Genre: Ninja Assassin
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: None
- Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One
- Developer: Wild Flying Pigs
- Publisher: Devolver Digital
- Price: R720
- Reviewed On: PS4
Shadow Warrior comes from the same era as Doom, Duke Nukem and Syndicate. The latter two have already had their severely disappointing reboots and id Software is working on a new Doom that promises to be something worthwhile. So what happened when someone took a game from 1997 about demons, incest and katana-wielding assassins? A pretty good game actually.
Shadow Warrior follows Lo Wang, an assassin who starts out the game trying to buy a rare katana for his employer. Wang is something of an Asian Deadpool – witty, self-referential, wise to tropes and mighty handy with a katana or firearm. It’s just a pity that it often falls flat or serves as merely filler noise. The humour is quite hit ‘n miss but when it finds the mark it can be pretty good. Right in the beginning for example, Wang will start cracking Legend of Zelda jokes while looting freshly laid corpses.
The game’s narrative looks as though it will be a vacuous excuse for dragging the hero through areas but it holds up rather decently, if predictably. It’s a very mythological tale and a rather Japanese one that may not agree with everyone.
One thing folks may agree upon though is that Shadow Warrior is not a pretty game. It looks good enough but in motion often looks like something that was made when the PS3 was but a fledgling console. It is a graphically underwhelming creature with too much bloom, dull textures and amorphous character models. Thus is made baffling by the presence of constant loading and framerate drops.
Where Shadow Warrior truly excels though is in its gameplay. It takes a very basic, stripped down approach to gameplay with a lot of old school mechanics and design choices. A fair amount feels as old school as it is and not necessarily in a good way. The heart of the game is in those mechanics that have been made with and old school mentality but modern sensibilities. The result is a combat system that feels rewarding, badass and fun.
Players have access to a variety of blades and guns, each with its own quirks and tricks. There’s also a giant purple dildo because Saints Row exists and cannot copyright a giant purple dildo. While Shadow Warrior brings some ideas to the table with its mythology-infused combat and upgrade system, it does borrow from other games too. Fortunately, it never feels like a straight copy-paste.
Guns are as simple as point and shoot in this game with a very arcadey feel to them, as one might finds in anything from the 90s. They work well enough but we’d recommend avoiding the use of guns purely because it then allows you to sample the games sword mechanics. Think Metal Gear Rising Revengeance’s cutting mechanics but faster, more intuitive and vastly more rewarding. That’s what wielding a katana in Shadow Warrior feels like. Make a sharp diagonal slash and an enemy might lose an arm. That doesn’t mean they’re not still coming after you though. You have to land a critical strike to down an enemy and mastering the katana is hugely satisfying. This will however, vary between levels. The higher up you go, the more control you have over your blades.
Speaking of enemies, they come in two flavours: human and demon. The humans are all more or less the same but the demons come in a few different shapes and sizes. You can also make enemies out of rabbits and eventually they’ll just have sex in front of you. They all behave and go down pretty much just as easily. Despite the wide dearth of weapons on hand, the enemies are all more or less the same to deal with (bosses excluded). This means that there is no real change in tact or even a need for change in weapon. One size fits all pretty much.
Fortunately, this lends itself to the design style of “attack first, ask questions later.” It’s not meant to be a cover shooter where you have time to think. It’s a fast-paced action game with one hell of hook – no cover shooting whatsoever. The game wants to keep you constantly on the move with combat being both satisfying and a rather refreshing.
In fact, Shadow Warrior on the whole is something of a breath of fresh air. It cares not about peas, it’s a game designed to be fun and by golly, it manages to be good fun. Is the fun enough to overlook its issues? No. Is it enough to warrant that price? No. Is it worth at least trying out? Most definitely.
Players can upgrade Wang and his abilities through a slow and clunky upgrade menu which provides either weapon upgrades, skills or Ki abilities. The upgrade system is reminiscent of The Darkness II but a little deeper and possibly a little less necessary. In fact, if you enjoyed The Drakness II then Shadow Warrior may delight you too.
Its need to be so strictly old school is both a boon and a blight on Shadow Warrior. On the one hand, it manages to modernise old mechanics or at least preserve them very well. On the other, it’s a singleplayer game with minimal replay value and not a hugely long campaign for the price of a more complete game. One simply cannot pay that much for something worth only a few hours of entertainment at most.
It’s not trying to be anything profound, nor is it trying to set any benchmarks. Shadow Warrior is simply out here to show people a good time and it mostly succeeds at that. It has clearly been made with some amount of passion and knowledge of what fun is to normal people. Not to mention bringing all that fun while still making old school mechanics feel exciting and relevant. It’s certainly not easy.