Shadwen, unfortunately, has proved to be a messy bunch of ideas, unable to involve the player in its narrative context, which could be interesting, but has been developed too superficially. Same goes for the gameplay mechanics, made of concepts taken from other games and put together almost with no consistency.
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In the end, Shadwen is a game that I so badly wanted to love but even with all its quirks and interesting mechanics, I couldn’t get past its bland levels, disappointing story and odd gameplay hiccups. A shame, really, as it could’ve been something special. Instead it’s nothing more than average, at best. The interesting gameplay mechanics found in Shadwen do little to hide the fact that the game is pretty boring and has a story that hardly amounts to anything.
Shadwen makes a lot of smart decisions, and I’ll definitely miss its rewind system in other stealth games, but it never fully comes together as a whole. There’s just not enough enemy variety, and the 15-level campaign grows tiresome as the end nears. Throw in one of the most anticlimactic endings in recent memory, and a lot of the initial goodwill is used up. While far from perfect, there’s still enough ambition here for stealth fans to appreciate, but Shadwen isn’t Agent 47.
Shadwen is value-packed game that has a few hours of content in a more than reasonably priced package. The mechanics of rope swinging, grappling and zipping up, as well as chaining together the perfect kills while never being discovered or rarely touching the ground are entirely rewarding.
Shadwen is a decent game at best and mediocre at worst. While not bad, it fails to build upon the mechanics it presents. What you do in the third chapter is largely the same as the final chapter: grappling to higher platforms, killing guards, and moving crates to help Lily move forward. Nothing new is presented, and what is already there is never combined in clever ways. About midway through a new enemy type is introduced, one that can only be killed by falling crates or air kills, but even that fails to introduce a significant change to the pace of gameplay. I really like its solution to failing midway through a level, but even that mechanic can’t save an otherwise okay game.
At the end of the day, Shadwen is merely a passable effort, which is quite surprising considering Frozenbyte are the minds behind the immensely enjoyable Trine games. Although the central gameplay conceit is interesting enough, it’s unfortunately never fully realised and the myriad of glitches and AI issues hamper what, with a little more polish, could have been an enjoyable stealth/action romp.
Shadwen makes no bones about copying from other games. However, with the lack of compelling story-telling and gameplay, it fails to even accommodate interesting mechanics that other games handle better.
Coming from the developers of Trine I expected a little more quality from Shadwen, the uninteresting environments echo the bland characters and gameplay that evolves too slowly. A level editor and mod support will give it some longevity and you might find some enjoyment from making a purely non-violent run through the game. But even the extra items couldn’t spice it up enough for me to find Shadwen anything other than a passing curio.
The real essence of Shadwen‘s overall delivery — and as a result the enticement to keep playing — is how tactically-focused the stealth is.